A Landmark in the History of Chinese Ceramics: The Invention of Blue-and-white Porcelain in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 A.D.)
By Weidong Li, Xiaoke Lu, Hongjie Luo, Xinmin Sun, Lanhua Liu, Zhiwen Zhao and Musen Guo
STAR: Science & Technology of Archaeological Research, Vol.3 (2017)
Abstract: This study investigates the origin and development of Tang blue-and-white porcelain. Test samples consist of excavated shards of blue-and-white porcelain, white porcelain, Tang tricolor pottery, and blue-on-white pottery from the Tang strata of the Baihe and the Huangye kiln sites. The chemical compositions, firing temperatures, and physical properties were studied scientifically, and multivariate statistical analysis was applied to analyze the compositional data. The results show that Tang blue-and-white porcelain developed from a mature manufacturing technology of white porcelain in the late Tang. Moreover, the type of cobalt pigment used is similar to that used for blue-on-white pottery. This study contributes to our understanding of the invention of Tang blue-and-white porcelain.
Statement of significance: In recent years, several shards of blue-and-white porcelain have been found in the late Tang strata of the Huangye and the Baihe kiln sites in Gongyi district of Henan Province. Notably, these are the only pieces of blue-and-white wares of the Tang dynasty that have been excavated at a kiln site. For the very first time, with data analysis of the chemical compositions and comparisons among pottery and porcelain throughout distinct time periods of the Tang Dynasty, this study explicates the invention of Tang blue-and-white porcelain from a scientific standpoint. Derived from Tang tricolor pottery, blue-on-white pottery and, especially, white porcelain production, raw materials and firing techniques lay the groundwork for the emergence of blue-and-white wares. The invention of Tang blue-and-white porcelain marks a crucial milestone in the developmental history of ancient Chinese ceramics.
Top Image: Jar with Blue Splashes, China, Tang dynasty, 700-750 AD – Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University. Photo by Daderot / Wikimedia Commons