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Chinese Pottery Essay

The earliest Chinese pottery of which we have any records is the Neolithic ware from the river plains and loess highlands of north and north-west China. It was made between 5000 and 2000 B.C. and contains bowls, jars, pots and beakers of low-fires earthenware. This pots were not turned on a wheel but were buildt up by what is known as the Coil Method. That is, a long sausage of clay was wound carefully up into a coil shape and this coil was smoothed and patted by hand into the shape of a pot.

During the T’ang Dynasty China became the greatest and most widespread empire in the world . T’ang pottery is powerful and lively with sweeping sinuous curves while its decoration is often made up of flamboyant shapes and contrasting colours.

The first hundred and thirty years of the T’ang Dynasty made up one of the most glorious periods of Chinese history. During this time the dynasty was blessed with three rulers of supreme ability: Li Shih-Min, known as the Emperor T’ang Tai Tsung, the real founder of the dynasty, who is often spoken of as the greatest of all Chinese emperors; the Empress Wu fought her way to the throne with bloodthirsty ruthlessness and yet brought twenty years of peace and prosperity to the empire; and the lastly T’ang Ming Huang who brought the empire to the peak of its prosperity and cultural splendour, and then, alas, in the foolishness of his old age saw the whole splendid fabric torn to shades.

During these hundred and thirty years not only did agriculture prosper, especially in the rice-growing lands of central and southern China, but arts and handicrafts were flourishing. Szechnan Province produced gold and silverwares and fine brocades, while porcelain of the highest quality was made in several centres.

Plate I

Silver wine globet. T’and Dynasty. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

During the t’ang Dynasty the Chinese were brought into close contact with the civilizations of India. The Middle East and central Asia, and their art forms were influenced and greatly enriched by these contacts. From the Sassanid empire, in what is now Persia, came a form of finely wrought metalwork which made use of delicately incised designs of flowers, animals and curving lines. This silver piece is good example of the Chinese adaption of the Sassanian style.

Plate II

Horse in glazed pottery. Grave figure. T’ang Dynasty. British Museum, London.

Plate III

T’ang Dynasty. British Museum, London.

This plate was found at Tunhaung, and is probably a tenth-century copy of an earlier T’ang original. Kuan Yin originated in India as a male god named Avolokitesvara, and early pictures such as this one show the god wearing moustache; but in the course of time the Chinese came to think of Kuan Yin as a goddess.

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