Chinese Porcelain - For two centuries, China was the West's only source of porcelain. Even after factories such as Meissen and Sevres discovered the secret, the bulk of all porcelain sold in Europe was Chinese.


Click Here

Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Decorative Arts > Ceramics > Chinese Porcelain

Chinese Motifs

Chinese Porcelain

Chinese Dynasties

Identifying Chinese Porcelain

Chinese & Japanese Porcelain

Chinese Snuff Bottles

Japanese Porcelain

Japanese Era Names

Japanese Netsuke

Ceramics Terminology

Ceramics from around the World

Ceramics Reading List

See our selected porcelain items in our shop

1950s Tableware
Art Deco Coffee Sets
Art Deco European Figurines
Art Pottery
Wedgwood Black Basalte or Basalt
Biedermeier porcelain and ceramics
Victorian Breakfast China
Breakfast China
Repairing Broken China
Fixing Broken China
Chamber Pots
Character Jugs
Cheese Dishes
Identifying China
Chinese Porcelain
Cow Creamers
Cream Jugs
Wedgewood Cream Ware (creamware)
Danish China - Royal Copenhagen Factory
Danish Table China - Royal Copenhagen Factory
Derby Figures
Dinner Service
Doulton Figures
English Majolica ceramics
English porcelain and ceramics
Conta and Boehme Fairings
French Sevres Porcelain
French Porcelain
Goss Ware ceramics
Jugendstil Pottery
Mantelpiece Garnitures
Martin Brothers Pottery
Mason's Ironstone
Victorian Meat Plates
Mending Broken China
Noritake China
Oriental Porcelain
Wedgwood Pearlware
Pot Pourri vases and jars
Identifying Pottery
Pottery Marks
Collecting Salt and Pepper Shakers
Satsuma Pottery
Sevres Porcelain
Staffordshire Figures
Wade Whimsies
Collecting Wall Plates
Wedgewood Jasper Ware
West Country Art Pottery
Willow Pattern China
Worchester Porcelain


Chinese Porcelain


  For two centuries, China was the West's only source of porcelain. Even after factories such as Meissen and Sevres discovered the secret, the bulk of all porcelain sold in Europe was Chinese.

  Portuguese ships first brought Chinese porcelain to Europe in the 16th century. It came as a revelation to Europeans accustomed to thick pottery dishes and heavy silver, pewter or wood platters. Its whiteness, translucency and delicacy enchanted wealthy westerners.

  Although a few European factories finally discovered how to make porcelain of their own the 18th century, trade in Chinese pieces, already brisk, continued to grow, reaching a peak between 1760 and 1780. By this time the English had taken over from the Portuguese as China's main trading partners.

  China was in an internal turmoil from 1644 when the Ming dynasty collapsed, and the porcelain industry was hard-pressed until the Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty reorganised the Imperial factories in 1683.

  At first the factories at Jingdezhen turned out pieces decorated in underglaze blue. The design was painted on a dried porcelain body that had not yet been kiln hardened.

  The blue of the Kangxi period was rich and vibrant, and the glaze very smooth and clear, but the European market looked for more. Chinese decorators began making polychrome (many-coloured) porcelain. By 1720, the demand for polychrome porcelain had outstripped that for blue and white.

  The earliest polychrome wares used hard enamel colours in which green had a leading part; they're known as famille verte (green family) porcelain. The painting was done over or under the glaze. Famille verte ware is invariably highly coloured and ornate, and may be decorated with stylized patterns, flowers, birds, insects, fish, butterflies or scenes from Chinese fiction or history.

  Famille rose (pink family), a much softer palette of colours, became popular in the 1730s. As well as the traditional designs, many were created specifically for the western market, with the oriental decorators reproducing portraits of famous Europeans, Biblical and classical scenes and unfamiliar animals with varying degrees of success.

  Designs could be commissioned to order, and it was commonplace among 18th-century aristocrats to order, through the East India Company, services decorated with their family coat of arms. These might take three years to deliver from the time the order was made.

  The delicate beauty of Chinese porcelain captivated refined European taste from the very start. Once the oriental potters had mastered the decorative techniques that enabled them to replicate the exquisitely colourful look of Chinese painting, and applied them to subjects which appealed to western ideas of the exotic, the continuing success of their export wares was assured.


  The rarest pieces of early Chinese export porcelain sell for thousands, but common items can be relatively inexpensive. Look for them at auctions, at house sales - most substantial houses will have a piece or two at least tucked away somewhere - and with specialist dealers. You never known when a piece of old porcelain might turn up at less formal sales, such as car boots or jumbles; old plates are much of a muchness to many people and, if you know what to look for, you may pick up a bargain.

  With all blue and white china, it's til quality of He blue that mainly determines value. Any hint of impurities - a reddish blush or a grey tone are the most common - will bring down the price a great deal.

  Famille verte pieces command higher prices than similar articles in famille rose or blue and white, while famille rose prices tend to vary according to the amount of colours used. A piece featuring a coat of arms generally attracts a premium.

  Dating pieces can be a problem. Experts do it by 'feel', a combination of a number of characteristics. Some pieces can be roughly dated by their marks, which usually give the current Emperor's name. However, in 1677 the then Emperor decreed his name must never appear on pottery, as to break it would desecrate him. The names of earlier emperors were used instead, mainly for decorative effect, with no intent to deceive. Some Chinese jars and vases from the 19th century bear reign marks as early as the 1400s.


  Blue and white pieces should be in reasonable condition, while a slight deterioration in polychrome pieces is acceptable. Overglaze painted decoration on plates and dishes may have suffered scratching and fading as the result of many years of use, and gilding is particularly susceptible to rubbing.

  Hairline cracks halve or quarter the price of a piece, which will also be drastically reduced by chips and repairs. Unobtrusive damage - a chip on a large vase which could be turned to face the wall, for instance - is acceptable, providing the price is lower.

 Read articles and references:
Good standards are Marks & Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William Chaffers).


French - Porcelain Designs

Porcelain Designs
Buy This Art Print At

Chinese Export Porcelain, Standard Patterns and Forms, 1780-1880: Standard Patterns and Forms by Herbert

Chinese Export Porcelain in the 19th Century: The Canton Famille Rose Porcelains by John Quentin Feller

Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics
by Margaret Medley

Mounted Oriental Porcelain in the J. Paul Getty Museum
by Gillian Wilson

For the Imperial Court: Qing Porcelain from the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art
by Rosemary Scott

Spode's Willow Pattern
by Robert Copeland

Special Exhibition of Ch'Ing Dynasty Enameled Porcelain of Imperial Ateliers / Written in English & Chinese

The Copeland Collection : Chinese and Japanese Ceramic Figures
by William Sargent

The Helen D. Ling Collection of Chinese Ceramics
by Jason Kuo

Chinese Ceramics: Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911
by Rose Kerr

Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain Around the World
by John Carswell

Antique Trader's Pottery & Porcelain Ceramics Price Guide
by Kyle Husfloen

Collectors Encyclopedia of Nippon Poreclain: Identification & Values
by Joan Van Patten

Collector's Encyclopedia of Flow Blue China: Values Updated 2000 (Second Series)
by Mary Frank Gaston

Restaurant China: Identification & Value Guide for Restaurant, Airline, Ship & Railroad Dinnerware
by Barbara Conroy


Marks & Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain
by Wm. Chaffers