28 Oct 2019

Ming Chenghua Chinese Porcelain are thinner than its counterparts. Here’s Why.

Because of the peace and prosperity during the Emperor Chenghua's reign, manufacturing of ceramics had a revival after the stagnation in the three former reigns.Chenghua Chinese Porcelain feel different from its Ming counterparts.

Blue-and-white plate with the design of dragons, Chenghua period (1465-1487). Diameter of mouth 30.6cm; diameter of bottom 22.6cm; height 6.2cm. Collected by Jingdezhen Ceramics Archaeology Research Institute.

The blue-and-white ceramics in Chenghua period mainly use blue cobalt and therefore have elegant color, which is different from the bright colors in Yongle and Xuande periods, signifying the style change in the royal kilns.

In this era, the processes for clashing color was enhanced, and many new designs were originated.

For example, we see the unique mother hen and baby chicken designs. This famous mother hen and baby chicken cup was sold off to Liu Yiqian for an auction record of US$36 Million.

This period boasts of many small-sized vessels, including cups, plates and jars, which was something not seen in the previous eras.

The Appearance of Chenghua Ceramics

At first sight, Chenghua ceramics appear to be much thiner and with more refined materials.

Indeed,  collectors and connoisseurs alike have revered the Chenghua (1465-1487) reign of greater refinement of raw materials and better preparation.

Clashing-color cup with the design of butterflies among flowers, Chenghua period (1465-1487). Diameter of mouth 9.1cm; diameter of bottom 3.3cm; height 4.9cm. Collected by Jingdezhen Ceramics Archaeology Research Institute.

Because the refinement process causes low iron impurity, it resulted in a whiter body material.

According to studies, there was also a slight adjustment to the composition of the materials used for their ceramics.

The proportion of clay (kaolin) to baidunzi (china stone) was increased so there would be more alumina and less calcia to produce a white white body.

This body could be fired at a slightly higher temperature than previous porcelains and was thus more vitrified. In other words, it more closely resembled glass production.

Blue and White Bowl with the Design of the Eight Dragons and Phoenixes, Chenghua period (1465 - 1487)

By reducing the amount of flux in the glaze, it became improved. It allowed the porcelain to mature at a higher temperature, enabling more of the residual batch material to be dissolved into the glaze.

This produces a smooth glossy glaze with minute bubbles evenly distributed.

This gives the glaze its much admired unctuous jade like texture, while the tiny bubbles produce a soft appearance without masking or distorting any decorating beneath. A reduction in the amount of iron in the glaze resulted in a cleaner, clearer glaze.

The persistence of colour texture and style of painting of the cobalt blue is another feature of the Chenghua style.

The Ming Dynasty Chenghua wares are very similar to Kangxi period porcelain save being slightly sturdier and a bit more 'tooled' as to make the pieces truly perfect.

In other words, with Chenghua pieces it appears that a lot of work has been put into them to make their beauty to appear effortless.

It is truly a beauty to behold and to feel and touch the masterpieces of the Chenghua Era.

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