About Cizhou Kiln
▼ About Cizhou kiln
As the treasure of the traditional Chinese porcelain kiln, Cizhou kiln was the largest folk kiln system in the ancient northern China. Cizhou Kiln was a famous by the saying “Jingdezhen (a porcelain production place in Jiangxi province) in the South, Pengcheng (where Cizhou Kiln was located) in the North”. The kiln site was found in Pengcheng Town area of Fengfeng Mining District and Guantai Town of Ci county, Handan City, Hebei Province. Ci country was called Cizhou in ancient China, hence the name Cizhou Kiln. The shapes and patterns of Cizhou porcelains were popular then and had a wide range of influence. Therefore, Cizhou porcelains were imitated in quantity. And a enormous Cizhou kiln system was formed with Guantai Town of Handan City as the center.
Cishan Neolithic Period Site was located at 20km north of Pengcheng, Cizhou area. It had began to burn potteries as early as 7500 years ago, and plenty of brown sandy potteries and red potteries were unearthed there. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences named it “Cishan Culture”, thus confirming the historical position of the area as the birthplace of ancient potteries.
The pottery-firing techniques were mature during the period of the Western and Eastern Dynasties as well as the Southern and Northern Dynasties. The celadon and white engobe porcelain were burned at that time, completing the leap from pottery to porcelain. This is the initial stage for the transition of Cizhou kiln from glazed pottery to white engobe porcelain.
In Song Dynasty, Cizhou kiln entered palm days. Cizhou porcelain was the model of northern folk porcelains in the Song Dynasty. Cizhou kiln aimed at practical, aesthetic and economic, whether in shape or in decoration. In the long-term practice of pottery-firing and porcelain-firing, Cizhou kiln developed its unique style and feature (white engobe technique). Unified shape and special decoration technique formed the style of Cizhou porcelains, which showed the local characteristics, national styles and features of the age.
In the Yuan Dynasty, Cizhou kiln in Pengcheng area ushered in another spring of porcelain-firing. In addition to inheriting the traditional varieties of the Song and Jin Dynasties, the production scale was expanded and the production of large objects was also increased. The products tended to be heavy, large and round. Patterns were mainly cloud-dragon, cloud-wind, cloud-swallow, fish and seaweed, etc.
Cizhou kiln of Pengcheng still had a considerable yield in the Ming Dynasty, and the official kiln was set up in Pengcheng. The “Official Jar Factory”, a warehouse to store official wine jar, was set up in the southern gate of Pengcheng to prepare for transporting to the capital by boat. Thereafter, Pengcheng became the porcelain capital of northern area as the center of Cizhou kiln.
In the early Qing Dynasty, Cizhou kiln of Pengcheng entered another period of prosperity, with larger kiln type and yield, more kilns and varieties. During this period, domestic porcelains had covered folk market.
Cizhou kiln’s decoration technique was mainly under-glaze painting, that is painting decorative pattern on the porcelain body with a brush dipped in glaze. The decorative pattern themes during this period were flexible, with a sense of special beauty and distinct features of the age. Most of them were from folk life, based on the plant, animal and human story in the nature, vivid and friendly, with a sense of humor, which reflected the traditional aesthetic ideas of the people at that time.
The picture layout was simple and vivid with the combination of Chinese freehand brush work skills and design change features. Meanwhile, Cizhou porcelain absorbed the advantages of other similar arts to enrich its own decoration. Especially, gold and silver ware, lacquer ware and embroidery craft had an impact on the painting of Cizhou porcelain.
The flower patterns were fluent and smooth. Flowers on the porcelain surface were full and vivid, representing the folk artistic style at that time. As for animal patterns, character patterns and common playing children patterns, they were fresh, vivid, focusing on the description of expression. For instance, the circus, bearbaiting, fishing boy, chasing ducks in pond, playing Cuju, all of them were with bold style and rich folk life.
Cizhou kiln also inscribed poems with random writing styles on the porcelain body for decoration. The decoration style was originated from Changsha kiln in the Tang Dynasty and Cizhou kiln made further development and improvement. The poems were inscribed on various porcelain pillows with folk vernacular language. It not only increased cultural ambience, but also had auspicious meaning. So this kind of porcelain was popular among the people.
The creative craftsmen of Cizhou kiln created more than 30 kinds of porcelain decoration skills during the Song, Jin and Yuan Dynasties, such as “white incised decoration”, “rust colored decoration”, “pearl-like decoration”, “brownish white decoration”, “white glaze engraved decoration”, “black glaze engraved”.
The most outstanding features of Cizhou kiln were simple and rough, the large utensils were robust and majestic, while the small utensils were exquisite. For example, plates, bowls and dishes focused on the following aspects, including the flexible in practical use, physical proportion, moderate weight, neat lines, pursuing the perfect harmony of shape and decoration.
▼ Shape Arts
In the Song Dynasty, the output of porcelain was very large, and its shapes were also very rich. It mainly produced folk domestic porcelain, as well as a small amount of stationery, toys, entertainment goods and various porcelain statues.
Common shapes: all kinds of plates, bowls, small cups, cup holders, vases (Yuhuchun vase, plum vase, flower-shaped edge vase, wire edge vase, melon vase, multi-tube vase), pots, jars, washers, basins, tanks, tea basins, writing brush washers, furnaces, champignons, lamps, hampers, bronze-like utensils, etc. Among them, porcelain pillows were the most representative pieces.
The porcelain pillows appeared firstly in the Sui Dynasty, they were originally used as burial objects. Doctors in the Tang Dynasty usually used them as wrist pillows, so they were small and light. In the Song Dynasty, porcelain pillows were produced in a large scale and they became larger. People realized their physical properties of relieving heat and then began to use porcelain pillow as ideal summer bedding for reducing internal heat and prolong life. The practical porcelain pillows had many novel shapes and varieties, such as rectangle, hexagon, octagon, round waist shape, flower petal shape, heart shape, tiger shape and human shape.
▼ Artistic Value
Cizhou kiln has abundant glaze colors, such as white glaze, black glaze, brown glaze and green glaze, among them, white glaze is the most famous.
Cizhou kiln is famous for its white glaze black-colored porcelain. The sharp contrast between black and white makes the design conspicuous. With the use of engraving, incising, carving and filling to draw pictures on the porcelain surface, showing a kind of attractive artistic charm. It create the new channel of the decorating method of the Chinese porcelain, and laid the foundation of the development of Jingdezhen blue and white painted porcelain after the Song Dynasty.
In the decoration, it mainly used the method of black and white contract. The most popular skills were incised decoration and engraved decoration. The creative decoration of drawing black patterns on the white glaze changed the decoration style of “celadon in South and white in North” before the Song Dynasty, setting a precedent for painting ceramics decoration of white-ground and black-colored glaze. It also created the rules of various decoration patterns. Based on colored glaze, Cizhou porcelain created the earliest over-glaze decoration in the world—“red and green glaze” in the Song Dynasty, that is adding glaze on the fired white porcelain and firing it for the second time, which established the important position of Cizhou porcelain in the world ceramics history.