The TT Tsui collection of Chinese ceramics

Introduction | History | Burial Rites and Mingqi | Spiritual Beliefs | Ceramics


China and Ceramics

Ming Dynasty Head of an official 14th–17th century, limestone, Gift to the National Collection of Asian Art from Dr TT Tsui LLD JP, of the Tsui Art Foundation, HK, through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation 1995

Qing Dynasty Balustre vase 1662–1722 porcelain, underglaze blue decoration - Gift to the National Collection of Asian Art from Dr TT Tsui LLD JP, of the Tsui Art Foundation, HK, through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation 1995 more detail


The Neolithic Period
c.10000 to 1500 BC | more information
During the early Neolithic period vessels were made using the coil technique where ropes of clay are circled on top of each other, pressed together and the surface smoothed over. To obtain the elegant shape, two halves were made then joined together while the clay was still damp. A mix of fine clay and natural pigments was painted onto the vessels and the entire surface was gently burnished to shine the surface. This is the earliest form of glazing.


Han Dynasty
206 BC to 220 AD | more information
During the Han dynasty the use of low-fired lead glazes was perfected. They were particularly popular for funerary wares as low temperature firing was ideal for large scale production. The most common colours were dark green, amber and a dark brown. The glazes were visually appealing, being warm in colour, smooth and glistening. While most funerary wares were low-fired earthenware, vast quantities of stoneware were made for domestic use as the vessels were non-porous and durable.


Three Kingdoms – Six Dynasties
220 to 589 | more information
A major development was the discovery of celadon glaze. Fine ash or ash mixed with clay was painted onto the vessel and after firing it turned pale green.

Tang Dynasty
618 to 907 | more information
During the Tang dynasty ceramic production for funerary wares was a major industry. Most funerary wares were unglazed and painted after firing with the glazing saved for more prestigious tomb figures. The sancai or 'three-colour' glaze technique is characteristic of Tang Dynasty pottery, and was used almost exclusively on funerary ceramics. The lead glaze was painted or splashed onto the surface and allowed to drip. The term 'three-colour' probably refers to the most common application of amber, cream and green though blue and black was also used. Sometimes only one or two colours were applied in the sancai manner, referring to the method of splashing glaze onto the form.


Song Dynasty
960 to 1279 | more information
Over the centuries, the celadon glaze technique was refined, culminating in the superb celadon wares made in the region of Longquan in the southern province of Zhejiang during the 12th and 13th centuries. By varying the chemical composition of the glazes, controlling kiln temperatures and altering the base colour of the porcelain from white to shades of grey, translucent glazes in a colour range from dark green-grey to pale egg blue were produced.


Qing Dynasty
1644 to 1911 | more information
The most famous ceramic advancement made by the Chinese potters was the technique for making porcelain, the most durable and delicate of all ceramics. Porcelain clay is very fine and contains kaolin. The earliest known porcelain kilns date from the 7th–8th centuries in north China. Following the Mongol invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries large scale porcelain manufacture was established in southern China where it was taken to the Western world by traders. Chinese porcelain rapidly became a highly prized trading commodity.