About Ding Kiln
▼ About Ding Kiln
Ding Kiln is one of the five famous kilns in Song Dynasty, together with Ru, Jun, Guan, Ge, known as “the five famous kilns” in Song Dynasty. The main producing area was in Jianci village of Quyang city, Henan province. It was named “Ding Kiln” because the area was under the jurisdiction of Dingzhou during Tang and Song Dynasty. It was folk kiln at the beginning, then it began to fire porcelains for royal court in the late Northern Song. It even replaced the status of white porcelain from Xing kiln, which was in fashion in Tang Dynasty. For its characteristics of “white as jade, as thin as paper, such as chime sound”, Ding porcelain became “the best porcelain in the world”.
The beginning year to fire Ding porcelain can be dated back to Northern and Southern Dynasties, the latest to Xuande period of Ming Dynasty. From Northern and Southern Dynasties to the early Tang Dynasty, the main product of Ding kiln was northern celadon, mainly with yellow glaze and coarse grey body. In the middle of Tang Dynasty, Ding kiln began to fire coarse white porcelain, decorating with engobe. The mature period of Ding kiln was from the late Tang Dynasty to the early Song Dynasty, the body bone was pure white and fine, robust, with plenty of shapes. The firing atmosphere was mainly reduction flame and the glaze color was greenish white. The skill of incised decoration appeared in the middle of Song Dynasty, and Ding kiln developed in an all-around way during this period, hence became one of the five famous kilns in Song Dynasty. To improve production efficiency, the skill of upside down firing emerged and was employed on a large scale. Fired with oxidizing flame, the glaze color was yellowish white. The black glaze porcelain, caramel porcelain and glaze porcelain were produced at that time, and they were called “black Ding”, “purple Ding” and “green Ding” respectively in literatures. Until Jin Dynasty, the porcelain quality declined for lack of high-quality porcelain clay. From Yuan Dynasty to the early Ming Dynasty, Ding kiln went downhill, the fine white porcelains disappeared, most of the products were coarse porcelains.
The production pattern of “southern blue and northern white” was formed in Tang Dynasty. The production center of mature white porcelain in the northern area was transferred from Xing kiln to Ding kiln, whose stable production technology without coating engobe laid the foundation for decorative porcelains including bluish white porcelain and blue and white porcelain. The invention of upside down firing skill improved the production efficiency of porcelains greatly. The high artistic achievement of Ding kiln reflected the technique exchange among kilns in Tang and Song Dynasties, moreover, a enormous Ding kiln system was formed and it became the largest white porcelain system in the history of China. The firing duration of Ding kiln is the longest among the five famous kilns. The Ding porcelains in different historical periods mirror the change of people’s aesthetic ideas as well as the national fusion in northern China or even the cultural exchange between China and other countries.
▼ Shape Arts
Ding kiln was a white porcelain kiln subsequent to Xing kiln. Bowls were the main porcelain shape in Tang Dynasty, while bowls, plates, bottles, dishes, boxes and pillows were mainly produced in Song Dynasty, the wares for Buddhist worship were also produced, such as kalasa and porcelain conch, with thin and light body, hard texture, pure white color, not absolute transparent. Ding porcelain adopted upside down firing skill, the mouth edge was without glaze, named “Dazzling mouth”, which is one of the features of Ding porcelains.
Ding porcelains are deeply affected by people for its rich decorative patterns. Decorative techniques mainly include white glaze printing, white glaze engraving and white glaze incising, other techniques are white glaze carving and gold color painting. The printing skill mainly focuses on flowers and plants, including lotus, chrysanthemum, tawny daylily and peony, there are also animal designs such as mandarin duck, dragon and phoenix, lion and so on. The white glaze printing Ding porcelains with rigorous pictures simple but elegant symmetry are always regarded as treasures of ceramics art. In the early Song Dynasty, the engraving, picture composition and patterns were simple of Ding porcelains, most with overlapped lotus petals, therefore, the decoration had the beauty of bas relief. In the middle and late Song Dynasty, the engraving decoration skill reached the acme of perfection with its unique style. Use comb-shaped tools with single tooth or double teeth to carve images composed by irregularly main and subordinate lines, and the images are vivid and natural, with a strong sense of three-dimensional. The decoration theme are mainly flowers and fruits, lotus, birds, clouds and dragons.
Small porcelain pillows were popular in Song and Jing Dynasties, including the most simple rectangle pillows, animal-shaped pillows (eg. Tiger-shaped pillows), Ruyi pillows with the meaning of good luck and happiness. Among which, infant-shaped pillows were the most. Infant patterns were fashion in Song Dynasty. There are many works with the patterns of infant or playing children among the porcelains handed down from Song Dynasty, such as northern blue porcelain system, Jingdezhen shadowy blue porcelains, Cizhou porcelains with complex techniques as well as Ding porcelain system.
Ding kiln was folk kiln at the beginning, but it fired porcelains for royal court in the late Northern Song Dynasty, hence it had a great influence and was imitated. The imitation porcelains included “Earth Ding”, “New Ding”, “Southern Ding”, “Northern Ding” and “Pink Ding”.
▼ Artistic Value
Ding porcelains have an extreme high collection status in the world. They are regarded as art treasures of ancient China and collected in National Museum of Asian Art in Paris, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, etc. In Japan, a purple glaze gilded bowl from Ding kiln of Song Dynasty was collected in Tokyo National Museum as rare treasure.
Ding porcelain has its unique style. It was selected to fire porcelains for royal court in Song Dynasty for its superior quality, simple and elegant color, graceful decoration. Therefore, the value of Ding porcelain soared and it became fashionable for a time.