Porcelain Exhibition Like Trip Through Time
The Maritime Silk Road originated in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and was a vital trade route between ancient China, Europe, Africa and other Asian countries. Merchandise and ideas were exchanged via this maritime route over the centuries. In addition to silk, porcelain was also a common good used for trade. Therefore, some historians also consider the route as the “Maritime Porcelain Road.”
Zhejiang Province’s maritime trade dates back about 2,000 years. Celadon porcelain made in Zhejiang spread across the world. Chinese porcelain was the most advanced at the time and it deeply influenced the industry in other countries.
An ongoing exhibition at Wulin Pavilion of Zhejiang Museum showcases the province’s history of porcelain trade through October 18. This exhibition also embraces selected ceramics from museums in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macau. According to historical evidence, maritime trade in the country originated in the Pearl River Delta.
All of the exhibits have been categorized according to dynasty. The first part is the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), which features Yue kiln ceramics and tricolored glazed pottery.
Early in the dynasty, official departments were established in Guangzhou to deal with maritime trade. Hotels and mosques were built to cater to expatriates involved in the silk and porcelain trade. At its peak, there were more than 100,000 foreigners living in Guangzhou.
Yue kilns in Shaoxing, Shangyu and Yuyao of Zhejiang flourished during the Tang Dynasty, when a new style evolved that was characterized by exquisite glaze and simple designs without any patterns.
Yue kiln ceramics were popular in other countries, which is seen by such antiques being discovered in the Philippines, Japan and Iraq. Tricolored glazed pottery was also popular at this time. Colorful minerals were used in making these ceramics, which in return made them feature three colors — white, green and yellow. Gong County of Henan Province, Neiqiu of Heibei Province and Tongchuan of Shaanxi Province were the production centers for this style. The pieces representing this style at the exhibition were made in Gong County.
Water vessels known as kundika are also worth exploring at the exhibit. In Buddhism they were used by Avalokitesvara to sprinkle holy water.
The porcelain industry continued to develop during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) since the central government launched a series of policies to encourage people to do business with other countries. Hangzhou was named an open port at the time and taxation on maritime trade became a part of government revenue thereafter.
During this dynasty, a group of kilns popped up including Longquan, Cizhou, Jizhou and Yaozhou. Porcelain from these kilns are also displayed in the pavilion.
Longquan kiln’s style of ceramics soon spread to other countries. Thailand, South Korea and Japan imitated this style for a long time. Dozens of Japanese pieces made in this style are part of the exhibition.
Cizhou kiln porcelain originated in Handan of Hebei. It featured white glaze and black patterns. They were exported to the Middle East on a large scale in the Song Dynasty.
Yaozhou kiln porcelain is characterized by green glazed patterns while Jizhou kiln typically features black glazed ceramics. The latter style was popular in Japan and South Korea.
The highlight of the displayed Song ceramics is the antiques discovered on a sunken ship found miles off the coast of Guangdong in 1987. The ship had intended to sail for the Middle East, but sank shortly after departing. It was transporting a large load of porcelain. It was not until 2007 that archeologists began salvage work on the ship. To date, more than 4,000 pieces of porcelain from the Cizhou, Longquan and Jingdezhen kilns have been recovered. Salvage work is still ongoing so they may recover even more ceramics.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), noted mariner Zheng He commanded seven expeditionary voyages to the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia. He gave porcelain as a gift to the leaders of other countries.
Date: Through October 18, 9am- 4:30pm, (closed on Mondays) Address: No. 29, West Lake Cultural Square
In Jiande, there is an ancient town that has experienced thousands of years of wind and rain. It has a beautiful name called Meicheng (Plum Blossom Town). Meicheng was the state town of the then Yanzhou and is now the county town of Jiande. It has a history of 1700 years.