Ming Dynasty Porcelain
Ming vases are well known internationally for their sophisticated design and simple, yet beautiful decorations. They originate from 15th century China, when the country was ruled by the powerful Ming dynasty and are made from the finest porcelain.
Ming Dynasty Porcelain
Ming porcelain is highly prized around the world and it is easily recognized as one of China’s symbols. During the Ming dynasty, ceramic technique evolved quickly and kilns were able to develop a more refined type of porcelain. During the reign of Xuande, one of the biggest innovations was the preparation of cobalt, the element that gives Ming vases the beautiful blue nuances. Enamelled decoration was also perfected during the reign of Emperor Chenghua.
Another technique that appeared during the Ming dynasty is known as cloisonné and was borrowed from the Near Est. This technique meant that the forms of a vase were first made from bronze or copper, thus creating compartments (cloisons in French) which were then filled with a mixture of glass paste and different oxides, like the cobalt we mentioned before. The metal oxides fusion with the porcelain material and create beautiful enamels that decorated Ming vases.
This was a complicated process that required several fillings as the enamel shrunk. But artisans quickly found a solution and they devised a hybrid of porcelain and cloisonné called Duh, after the place in which it was first created.
These innovations made Ming dynasty porcelain famous around the world as China started exporting these beautiful vases to other countries. Now, they are sought by collectors everywhere because of their beauty and value.
Probably, the most famous Ming vases are those made from blue-and-white porcelain, a distinct style that flourished during the 15th and 16th centuries. The blue color was achieved by using cobalt oxide, a technique developed during this time period. The images can be drawn by hand, by stenciling or by transfer-printing.
Blue became a popular color in Ming dynasty art (and is still used by porcelain manufacturers in China and Japan) because at the time, it was the strongest color that could resist the high heat required to create porcelain.
Ming vases feature a blend of different cultures: Chinese, Islamic and later on, European. The vase patterns often borrow elements from other cultures and soon, Ming dynasty porcelain became famous all around the world. This caused a big boom in the Chinese porcelain industry as the demand for Chinese pottery greatly increased, especially because of Europeans who started collecting the beautiful Ming dynasty pottery.
Common patterns included lyrical verses, different sceneries and images of birds, animals, insects or plants.
But apart from the well known blue-and-white models, there are many other types of Ming vases just as beautiful.
Blanc de Chine, as the name suggests, is a white Ming porcelain that was and is still use to manufacture pottery. It was first made at Dehua in the Fujian province and shortly became very popular in Europe where it first copied at Meissen and from there in other parts of Europe too.
Blanc de Chine is famous among other types of Ming porcelain for its perfect blend of glaze and body, giving it a milk-like texture, from which its original name came: “ivory white” and “milk white”.
Ming dynasty art featured even more styles, but blue-and-white and blank de Chine are the best well known. A French classification puts Ming vases into different “families” according to their color patters. Ming Dynasty porcelain can be colored green, black, red and yellow.
Ming Dynasty Ceramics
Ming dynasty ceramics were developed mainly in the Southern part of the country in royal kilns. One of the best known provinces for its high-quality porcelain is Jingdezhen. Here, the materials required to make Chinese ceramics were abundant as the province was rich in petuntse (china stone) and kaolin (china clay) and the many forests provided much needed wood to keep the heat up.
Ming dynasty art was not oblivious to its neighbors, but instead borrowed important techniques and art motifs. The Islamic influences are notable in Ming ceramics as there are many Ming vases that feature Islamic-inspired images such as the Arabic script and lyrical verses. Blue-and-white Ming vases and the cloisonné enamelware techniques have also been influenced by Islamic art.
Ming Dynasty Pottery
Ming dynasty pottery features some of the most unique ceramic art in history. Highly praised, Ming vases, tea and wine cups as well as plates and other types of pottery developed during this amazing period: the 15th and 16th centuries.
Here are some of the most famous types of Chinese pottery:
Sancai or three-colors. This type of pottery ware was mainly used in ceremonial burial and featured three main colors: green, white and yellow. Although these are the best known patterns, the number of colors used is not always limited to three. These Ming vases and jars were decorated with flower motifs using turquoise, red and green colors. The lines were bolded to imitate the metal strips used in cloisonné.
Sincai originated in the North and were made from kaolins and fire clays, fired at lower temperature that contemporaneous ware. Some of the most used burial wares feature camels and horses and were cast in sections which were then connected using clay slip.
Chenghua pottery. Developed during the reign of Chenghua, this style of Ming dynasty porcelain was often used to decorate small wine cups with chicken motifs. These “chicken cups” as they were nicknamed were highly appreciated by Chinese scholars and later on, by collectors.
Wucai (Five-colors). Unlike the more modest Sincai style, Wucai wares are bold, vivid and colorful , and feature floral and intricate patterns. Images of fish and dragons often appear on these Ming vases. The use of red and orange shades is also notable.
Yixing Ware. A list of the most important Ming dynasty pottery could not be completed without a cup of tea, or better yet, without a teapot. As Chinese scholars developed a taste for tea, proper Ming pottery appeared to fill the need. Yixing wares do not feature colorful Ming dynasty art, but they are famous for their nice precise shape and simple designs.
Ming Dynasty Vase
A Ming dynasty vase is highly praised in today’s market. Purchasing an authentic one could cost from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Collectors everywhere compete with each other to get the best prices and most importantly, the best wares.
Because of the high demand for Ming dynasty porcelain, many industrial produced fakes started to appear. Those who sell fraudulent Ming vases rely on the poor knowledge of their victims and on the “attractive prices” they offer.
Knowing how to recognize a unique Ming dynasty vase is now an important skill that every collector must poses. A good understanding of Chinese culture along with a solid knowledge of technical details is needed in order to become an expert.
Those who do not have the time and the resources to devote years of their lives learning about Ming dynasty art and pottery, can follow some simple instructions that will help them distinguish a fake Ming vase from an authentic one:
- Translucent and not opaque. True Ming porcelain made in the 18th century has one important quality: it is translucent and not opaque. Many people forget about this important easy to verify property of Ming vases.
- Look at the motifs. Ming dynasty vases will usually have some specific motifs, meaning that on them, you can see certain patterns and images. A most common image is that of a dragon. Flowers and fish are also well known and used images.
- Study the mark on the vase. Ming dynasty porcelain was strictly controlled to ensure maximum quality. The best porcelain was reserved for the nobility and featured an “imperial mark”. The mark was the name of the Emperor during whose reign the Ming vase was manufactured and they were written using Chinese characters. If you see something like “made in China” on your “Ming vase”, it is probably a fake and not worth your money.
Ming Dynasty Art
Ming dynasty art is responsible for most of the beautiful porcelain vases we have today. Although it is mainly known for the ceramics it decorated, Ming dynasty art was developed in other fields as well such as painting and architecture.
But of course, it excelled in ceramics. Ming dynasty art is easily recognized, even by outsiders and armatures, thanks to its repeated use of some unique motifs, such as the dragon and the lotus flower. The colors are also important. If someone sees a blue and white vase, he/she will instantly associate it with Chinese art.
Ming dynasty art can be defined by finesse. The patterns were carefully drawn on the porcelain, most often by hand. Major artists contributed to Ming ceramic artwork and before the European caught a taste for it, Ming porcelain was already famous among Chinese countrymen scholars, nobles and merchants who collected the wares themselves.
Ming dynasty art used mainly four colors and their shades to create beautiful drawings on porcelain: blue, green, red and white.
Ming Vase Price
Nothing is more beautiful than a Ming vase adorning your coffee table in your living room. If you want to buy a Ming vase or other type of Chinese ceramics, you have plenty of options. There are many markets that specialize in Ming porcelain. However, as we have already pointed before, you need to know some basics about Ming dynasty porcelain to distinguish a fake from a genuine vase.
Ming vase prices can vary greatly, but in most access you should expect to pay a few hundred dollars. One of the biggest online markets for Ming vases is on Ebay, where you can find many models put up for auction.
You can determine the price of a Ming vase by looking it at its mark and then searching for more information online. If you cannot recognize the symbols (which are written in Chinese), consult a web catalogue or visit your local library for one. Look through the pictures until you can identify your vase.
After you know what type of vase you have, research its history. See where and how many were made. A Ming vase price can be very high for older wares. If you have an original Ming vase, you can sell it for a few thousand dollars.
Buying a Ming vase online can be a bit risky as it is easier to pass something fake as real just by showing some photos. We do not want to discourage you, in case you see a great deal, but it is important to be cautious. Here are some simple guidelines for purchasing a Ming vase online:
- Ask for many pictures showing important details. You should be able to clearly see every inch of the Ming vase you want to buy. Ask the seller to provide detailed pictures of the vase’s mark. The picture should be high quality and not blurred.
- Make sure you only buy things that you can easily return. See if the seller agrees to give you a refund in case you are not happy with the product. This will make shopping for antique Ming porcelain a lot safer as you will not lose money if you buy something fake.
- Be well informed. Always know what to buy! The strongest advantage a collector has is his/her knowledge about the product. Make sure you visit different auction websites to read about the history of the vase you intend to buy. Also, you should spend time learning to recognize different patterns used in Ming dynasty art.
If you have decided to buy a Ming vase, being well informed is essential. And doing research about these beautiful vases is rewarding in itself as you will come across some of the most beautiful ceramics ever created. Ming vase prices will probably go up in the future as they become rarer, so if you have one at home, you may try to sell it or just keep it for your own pleasure.