China has one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations—despite invasions and occasional foreign rule. A country as vast as China with so long-lasting a civilization has a complex social and visual history, within which pottery and porcelain play a major role.
The function and status of ceramics in China varied from dynasty to dynasty, so they may be utilitarian, burial, trade-collectors', or even ritual objects, according to their quality and the era in which they were made. The ceramics fall into three broad types—earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain—for vessels, architectural items such as roof tiles, and modeled objects and figures. In addition, there was an important group of sculptures made for religious use, the majority of which were produced in earthenware.
The earliest ceramics were fired to earthenware temperatures, but as early as the fifteenth century B.C., high-temperature stonewares were being made with glazed surfaces. During the Six Dynasties period (AD 265-589), kilns in north China were producing high-fired ceramics of good quality. Whitewares produced in Hebei and Henan provinces from the seventh to the tenth centuries evolved into the highly prized porcelains of the Song dynasty (AD. 960-1279), long regarded as one of the high points in the history of China's ceramic industry. The tradition of religious sculpture extends over most historical periods but is less clearly delineated than that of stonewares or porcelains, for it embraces the old custom of earthenware burial ceramics with later religious images and architectural ornament. Ceramic products also include lead-glazed tomb models of the Han dynasty, three-color lead-glazed vessels and figures of the Tang dynasty, and Ming three-color temple ornaments, in which the motifs were outlined in a raised trail of slip—as well as the many burial ceramics produced in imitation of vessels made in materials of higher intrinsic value.
Trade between the West and the settled and prosperous Chinese dynasties introduced new forms and different technologies. One of the most far-reaching examples is the impact of the fine ninth-century AD. Chinese porcelain wares imported into the Arab world. So admired were these pieces that they encouraged the development of earthenware made in imitation of porcelain and instigated research into the method of their manufacture. From the Middle East the Chinese acquired a blue pigment—a purified form of cobalt oxide unobtainable at that time in China—that contained only a low level of manganese. Cobalt ores found in China have a high manganese content, which produces a more muted blue-gray color. In the seventeenth century, the trading activities of the Dutch East India Company resulted in vast quantities of decorated Chinese porcelain being brought to Europe, which stimulated and influenced the work of a wide variety of wares, notably Delft. The Chinese themselves adapted many specific vessel forms from the West, such as bottles with long spouts, and designed a range of decorative patterns especially for the European market.
Just as painted designs on Greek pots may seem today to be purely decorative, whereas in fact they were carefully and precisely worked out so that at the time, their meaning was clear, so it is with Chinese pots. To twentieth-century eyes, Chinese pottery may appear merely decorative, yet to the Chinese the form of each object and its adornment had meaning and significance. The dragon represented the emperor, and the phoenix, the empress; the pomegranate indicated fertility, and a pair of fish, happiness; mandarin ducks stood for wedded bliss; the pine tree, peach, and crane are emblems of long life; and fish leaping from waves indicated success in the civil service examinations. Only when European decorative themes were introduced did these meanings become obscured or even lost.
From early times pots were used in both religious and secular contexts. The imperial court commissioned work and in the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1279-1368) an imperial ceramic factory was established at Jingdezhen. Pots played an important part in some religious ceremonies. Long and often lyrical descriptions of the different types of ware exist that assist in classifying pots, although these sometimes confuse an already large and complicated picture.
尽管中国曾饱受入侵，偶尔丧失主权受制于外国，她仍然拥有世界上最源远流长的文明。像中国一个拥有悠久文明的大国，而陶瓷在其复杂的社会历史以及视觉历史中扮演了极为重要的角色。 在中国，每一个朝代陶瓷的功能和地位都是不同的，所以，根据它们的质量和制作年代的不同，可以是实用器物、陪葬品、贸易收藏品，甚至是礼器。对于容器、瓦片等建筑材料、模仿的物体或人物，陶瓷广义上被分为3大类：陶器、炻器和瓷器。另外，瓷器中还有很重要的一类就是宗教用途的雕塑，它们多数是陶质的。 尽管最早的陶瓷是在制陶的温度下烧制的，但是早在公元前15世纪，就已经出现了上釉的高温炻器。六朝时期（公元265-589年），中国北方就有窑炉在烧制优质的高温瓷器。从7世纪到10世纪，河北以及河南省产的白瓷逐渐演变成为享有盛名的宋瓷（公元960-1279年）——长久以来被认为是中国陶瓷业历史中的巅峰时期之一。宗教雕塑的传统在大部分历史时期中都有延续，但是没有炻器和瓷器质地的雕塑描绘的那么清晰，有一种古老的习俗，就是将刻着新的宗教形象和建筑装饰的陶器作为陪葬品。瓷制品还包括汉朝的铅釉随葬陶俑，唐朝的三彩铅釉器皿和人物，明朝的以泥釉凸纹展现轮廓的三彩寺庙装饰物以及很多用来仿制贵重器皿的陪葬瓷器。 西方国家和繁荣稳定的历代中国朝代之间的贸易促使双方互相引入了新的形式和不同的技术。有一个意义最为深远的例子，公元9世纪精美中国瓷器出口到阿拉伯世界，带来巨大的影响。阿拉伯人对这些瓷器赞不绝口，于是他们鼓励制陶来仿制瓷器，并激励人们研究制作方法。中国人从中东获得了一种蓝色颜料——一种纯化的氧化钴，当时在中国并未出现，其中只含有少量的锰。中国境内发现的钴矿石含有大量的会产生暗蓝灰色的锰元素。17世纪，大量中国装饰类瓷器通过荷兰东印度公司的交易活动流入欧洲，这刺激和影响了广泛多样的瓷器的生产，特别是代尔夫特。中国人自己改良了很多种来自西方的特殊器皿，比如长嘴的瓶子，并专门为欧洲市场设计了一系列装饰性图案。 就像希腊的陶器上所绘的图案，今天看来也许纯粹是为了装饰，然而事实上在当时它们都是人们精心烧制而成的，它们的意义在当时非常明确，中国的瓷器也是如此。以20世纪的眼光来看，中国制造的陶瓷也许仅仅是装饰品，但是对于中国人来说每个物件的形状及它的装饰都有寓意非凡，影响深远。龙代表皇帝，凤代表皇后；石榴意味着多子，双鱼意味着幸福；鸳鸯寓意着婚姻幸福美满；松树、桃树以及鹤都是长寿的象征；鱼跃出水面意味着科举考试会高中。但是欧洲的装饰主题被引进后，这些寓意就变得不再那么流行甚至丢失了。 陶瓷器皿在很早期就已用于宗教和日常生活中。朝廷分派了制作工作，并于元朝（公元1279-1368年）在景德镇设立了一座官窑。陶瓷器皿在一些宗教仪式上也有着重要的地位。现存的关于不同类型的陶瓷器具很多长篇且抒情的描述可以帮助我们对其进行分类，尽管这些描述有时候会使得一幅大而复杂的画面显得凌乱。 代尔夫特陶器(荷兰产,通常是青色、白色)