anhua Chinese term which refers to decoration which is faintly incised on the body of the procelain ware before glazing. Picture
armorial porcelain Porcelain decorated with coat-of-arms of owner. In the 16th century some Europeans ordered custom made porcelains from Jingdezhen decorated with coat-of-arm and insignias.  The earliest know example was that ordered by the Portuguese King Manuel I. It became a very popular form of decoration during the 17th and 18th century and mainly painted using famille rose enamels. Picture
blanc de Chine Ivory colour chinese porcelain first produced in Dehua kiln in Fujian Province in the Ming Dynasty. Picture
Bo gu design Bo gu design consisted of decoration of archaic vessels commonly termed objects of antiquity and was popular during the Qing dynasty. 


body Mixture of material that forms porcelain.  Also call "paste".
cartouche A scroll-edged panel. Picture
Canton ware Chinese export porcelain characterised by design of flower and figure panels, gilded and with green-scrolled ground.  Also called Rose Medallion. 
Celadon Refer to Chinese Greenware ("qingci") with varying tone of green which is derived from glaze colour with a small percentage of iron oxide when fired under reduction atmosphere.  It will become yellowish to brownish color if fired under oxidising atmosphere.  Strictly speaking, it is also a class of celadon.
Chai kiln A famous ware allegedly produced for Chai Rong, Emperor Zhizong of Zhou during the 5 Dynasties.  So far, the kiln site has not been found.   Chai ware was said to be 'blue as the sky, glossy as a mirror and thin as paper and ring like a chime when struck'.  Some ceramics experts have variously suggested ying qing wares and northern Dynasty yaozhou which have a bluish tine as the legendary chai ware.  However, their arguments have not been accepted widely.
Changsha ware Tang wares produced in Tongguan kiln in present day Wazhaping in Changsha of Hunan province.   It was famous for the underglaze (in-glaze) iron-brown and copper green decorations consisting of wide ranging motifs including human subject, bird, plants, animals, calligraphy, landscape and fishes.  It was the first time in the chinese ceramics history that underglaze decorations was produced on a wide scale.  Changsha ware was also a famous  export item during the Tang dynasty and  could be found in Southeast Asia, west Asia and all the way to Middle East.

For more information, please read: Changsha ware

Chilin Refer to kylin
China Refer to porcelain from China but loosely used as substitute for porcelain now
Cizhou ware A famous Song/yuan ware that was produced by many kilns in Henan, Hebei, Shanxi and Jizhou in Jiangxi.  The most representative product was underglaze iron-black/brown decoration on milky white glaze.  The Cizhou kiln complex also produced many wares using interesting curved, incised and sgraffiato techniques.  Some of the cizhou kilns in Henan and Shanxi were also pioneers in producing overglazed enamelled red, green and yellow decoration.

For more informaiton, please read: Cizhou ware

Cobalt blue Pigment made from cobalt oxide which produce the underglaze blue-and-white colour decoration. 
comb pattern Lines form by the teeth of comb-like tool. 
cong An archaic form of vessel used initially for ritual purposes.  In the Chinese culture, the earth is considered as square and heaven round.  The cong is symbolic of heaven and earth as it has a round mouth and square body. Picture
Diaper pattern Repeated pattern, usually geometric form such as diamond-shape.
Ding ware or Ting ware Ivory white glaze porcelainous ware produced in ancient Dingzhou (in today's Ding County in Hebei)  during the Northern Song to Yuan Period.  It is famous for the impressed decoration which is sharp and clear.  The most often quoted characteristics is the tear marks on the glaze. This is actually some accumulation of glaze caused during the glazing process.

For more information, please read : Ding ware

doucai Chinese term which means contrasting or contending colours.  Characterised by motif outlined in underglaze blue and completed with wash of overglaze enamels. First produced during the Ming Chenghua Period. Picture
enamels Colours used for overglaze drawing drawing on porcelain.  Made from glass paste pigmented with metallic oxide.  
fahua Chinese porcelain produced in the Ming dynasty decorated with glazes of different colours separated by raised lines. Picture
famille rose Literally means pink family. First produced during the late Kangxi period in which the predominant colours are opaque enamel pinks and carmines. The pink is obtained by adding a minute amount of colloidal gold to a lead oxide-potassia-silica base.   The best famille rose pieces were produced during the Qing Yongzheng period. Picture
famille noire Class of famille-verte porcelain with a black ground.  The black effect is achieved by first applying a coat of cobalt. This is covered by a second coating of copper-green lead-based enamel.  Picture
famille verte It is essentially a type of wu cai developed during the Ming Dynasty.  Literally famille verte means green family as the use of overglaze green enamel occupied an important place in the overall colour scheme.  The term famille verte was first used for enamelled chinese porcelain of Kangxi period.  During the Kangxi period, important new enamels created were cobalt black and blue.  

Other enamels which produced color such as iron-red, blue ,yellow and aubergine are also part of the wu cai /famille verte palette.  

feldspar Ingredient found in petuntse which fuses  and vitrfies at 1450 to about 2600 degree centigrade. 
flux Substance that promotes fusion and lowers the melting point of substances.  Glaze fluxes enable glaze to vitrify at a relatively lower temperature.  Fluxes in pigments enable the colouring mineral oxides to adhere to the body in a low-firing temperature.
garniture  Set of 3,5 or 7 cylindrical and baluster-shape jars and vases to decorate a mantelpiece.
gilding Application of gold to overglaze design especially common on imari ware. Picture
glaze A form of glass-like material applied over the body of ceramics ware which becomes smooth, hard and translucent after firing.  With the addition of  colorant, coloured glaze is produced for eg. with iron oxide, celdon color glaze is produced.
greenware Another term for celadon ware
ground base Background colour, usually refering to monochrome.
guanyao Chinese ware made for the Song Imperial palace.  There are the Northern and Southern Song Guanyao. Usually the glaze is cracked and color tone ranges from grey, yellowish to bluish green.  The most famous Northern Song Guan ware identified is ru ware.  During the Southern Song period, two imperial kilns were built, ie Xiuneisi and  Jiaotanxi.

For more information, please read: Song guanware

hard paste Another term for true porcelain which consists of kaolin and petuntse.
heaped and piled effect Accidental effect on Yuan and early Ming blue and white porcelain resulting from cobalt high with iron oxide which accumulated at certain spots on the underglaze painting. 

For more information, please read: Yuan porcelain

Imari Japanese porcelain produced at Arita and shipped from the port town of Imari in the late 17th and 18th century.  Characterised by an underglaze blue and overglaze iron-red and gilding. Picture
Jizhou ware Jizhou kiln is situated in Yonghe (永和)in Ji'an (吉安)in Jiangxi province.  During the Southern Song period, Jizhou kiln developed a distinctive decorative technique which involved sprinkling a lighter glaze over a darker base glaze to produce the so called the tortoise shell and tiger fur effects.  They may have a dry mouldy mottled quality or could be more transparent and glossy if fired at a higher temperature.  There were many other varieties of  mottled effect.

For more information, please read : Jizhou ware

Jian kiln Famous kiln in Jianyan in Fujian which made black glaze temmoku tea bowls.  Jian kiln is famous for the temmoku bowls with hares' fur and oil spots effects.  The temmoku bowls with marks such as jinzhan and gongyu on the outer base were  made for imperial palace   use.
Jun ware The Jun kiln used iron and copper oxides to fire an opacified bluish glaze with red or purplish splashes.  Vessels included flower pots, washers, dishes, censor, bowls, zun and etc.  Some of the flower pots/stands  have number (1-10) carved on their base.  It has been established that the number is an indication of the size.  Some vessels also have inscription such as fenghua (奉华) and sheng fu (省符). The Imperial Jun kilns at Baguadong (八卦洞)and Juntai (钧台)were located in Yu county(禹县) in Henan. 

Folk kilns in Henan also produced Jun wares but the number of Song/Jin wares excavated were few.  The best Jun from the folk kiln were produced at Liu Jiamen (刘家门窑)。

During the Yuan period, Jun ware grew in popularity in Northern China. The number of kilns making Jun wares was enormous covering Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia .  The vessels consisted of mainly bowl, plates and with small number of jars, censers and vases.  Interestingly, no Jun wares was excavated in region south of the Yangzi river. They were essentially made for use domestically in Northern China. Yuan Jun vessels are typically heavily potted and have unglazed footring and base.

kakiemon Japanese porcelain decorated usually in the famille verte style by the Kakiemon family in Arita.  One distinguishing characteristic of Kakiemon is the milky-white body with an almost completely colorless glaze as contrasted with  the blue cast on other Arita products.  Picture
kaolin A white clay which is mixed  with petuntse to form true porcelain
kendi Derived from sanskrit word "kundika".  Vessel used to contain water for drinking and cleansing.  It has a globular form with a vertical neck and short spout. On chinese ceramics, it first appeared on white and celadon wares during the Tang Dynasty.
kiln Facilities for firing ceramics.  It consisted of a firing chamber, fire-box and chimney.  There are many types of kilns , the most famous being the dragon kiln used commonly in Southern China..  The structure is built along the hill slope and consisted of the fire-box at the lower end, the tunnel  (which could range from length of 30 -200 metres) and flues at the tail end to channel away the smoke.  There are fire-holes along the tunnel wall for side stoking.  The source o f fuel for heat  is wood. 

The bun shaped kiln (also termed man tou kiln in chinese) was commonly used in Northern China.  The dome shaped structure at the front consisted of the combustion chamber and the firing chamber and the chimney at the end.   The source of fuel for heating is coal.  The firing capacity is much smaller than that of the dragon kiln.

kiln furnitures Refers to items such as saggars, tube props, spurs, ring-setters and etc which are used to support and protect the porcelain wares from staining, glaze adhesion and damage during firing.  The saggars also enable more pieces to be stacked in the kiln for each firing.
kinrande Japanese term for group of porcelain with gold decoration popular during the Ming Jiajing and Wanli reigns. 
kraak ware Dutch term for Chinese blue and white  porcelain exported to Europe.   Named after the Portuguese merchant ship called a carrack captured by the Dutch in 1604 and which carried such type of blue and white  porcelain.  This class of porcelain is characterised by a central theme on the inside bottom of bowl or plate together with panels of medallions on the sidewalls.


kylin Also spelled Chilin.  An auspicious  mythical beast with dragon-like head.
lead powder Used in ceramics production as a flux to lower the melting temperature of glaze.  The firing temperature for lead glaze is between 700 to 900 degrees centigrade. The earliest form of lead-glaze wares were the green and brown colour glazed wares produced during the Han Dynasty.  Also used together with enamels for over-glazed decorations on ceramics which is fired a lower-temperature to adhere the enamels to the glazed body.
Li Ling underglaze polychrome  porcelain Liling in Hunan produced an innovative underglaze polychrome decoration during the beginning of 20th century.  
longquan celadon Famous greenware produced by the Lonquan kilns in Zhejiang during the Song, Yuan and Ming period.  During the Northern Song period, its products was influenced by Yue wares. During the late Southern Song period, it produced the famous powdered green and meziqing (plum-green) glaze which involved multi-layer of glaze application.  They are treasured for their pleasing silky and jade like texture.

For more information, please read: Longquan celadon

throwing The shaping of porcelain on the wheel.
lute To seal with fluid clay slip.
Mandarin pattern Enamelled Chinese ware from the 18th to late 19th century with human figures bordered by diaper patterns.
meiping Baluster-shaped vase with high shoulders and a short neck which first appeared during Song Dynasty.  "mei" means prunus in Chinese and "ping" is vase.  It is widely thought to be made to hold a single spray of prunus.  In actual fact, during Song Dynasty, meiping was a vessel used to hold wine.
Mi se Yue ware Greenware first produced during the Tang Dynasty and continued to be produced till Early Northern Song period. The term mi se appeared in poems and many terms were used to describe the colour of the ware.  In 1987, 13 greenwares were excavated from the base of the pagoda in Famen Temple and a list of the items indicated that they were mi se porcelain.  The meaning of the term mi se is still not clear.  Based on the excavated pieces, the colour are generally greenish in colour but there are some with  greenish yellow glaze.  The quality of the pieces are consistently superb.

For more information, please read: Yue ware

moon-flask Disc-shaped vase with short neck and a handle on  each  the side of the body.
mullite A form of crystal formed in porcelain body during high firing.  They form ingredient which gives strength to the porcelain and usually compared to as the bone component.
over-glaze Decoration painted on a glazed porcelain which has been fired..  To ensure the decoration adhere on the glaze,  upon completion of the painting, it is fired at a lower temperature.
peach-bloom Glazed developed during the Kangxi period using copper oxide as the colorant in the glaze and is applied on the body by blowing.  It has a very low successful firing red as it involves very sophisticated control of kiln atmosphere to achieve the desire effect.  The typical peach-bloom is soft pinkish red that darkens in some parts and pales . Often a bright moss green, either in patches or in small specks appears on the glaze.
petuntse Porcelain wares can be made with materials consisting of  two main ingredients,  kaolin and petuntse which when fire to about 1280 degree centigrades and higher becomes hard, vitirified, translucent and usually white.
porcelain stone A rock with quartz, sericite (hydromica) and small amount of kaolinite and feldspars.  Commonly found in Southern Chinas.  It contains all the necessary ingredients to make porcelain wares.  In fact, the early Chinese porcelain wares of South China were made from porcelain stone.   Subsequently the potters also added kaolin which strengthen the porcelain and reduced warping during firing.
powder blue Monochrome  blue which appears speckled.
proto-porcelain Primitive form of porcelainous ware with green glaze which was first produced in the Shang Dynasty.  According to the Chinese ceramics experts,  proto-porcelains evolved to true porcelain by the Eastern Han Dynasty.  

For more information, please read: Proto-porcelain

Qianjiang porcelain A type of fencai enamelled wares produced during the late Qing to Republican period.  The main difference is how the black enamel is applied as compared with tradiitional fencai ware.  Forr fencai, the black cobalt outline is first applied and then covered with a layer of a transparent lead-based substance so that it would adhere to the glaze after firing.  Whereas for Qianjiang painting, the lead is mixed with cobalt and applied directly to the glazed surface.  Due to the difference with application technique, fencai black is glossy while that on Qianjiang is pale black in colour.

The qianjiang porcelain is now valued for its excellent painting which were painted by potters who are skilled in chinese traditional painting and calligraphy.  They are similar to ink painting on paper in terms of technique and composition.

For more information, please read: Qianjiang Porcelain


qingbai Refer to yingqing


rose medallion Refer to Canton ware
Ruyao or Ru ware Chinese imperial Song ware made in Ru kiln which is situated at Baofeng County in Henan.  The ware is characterised by its sky-blue crackled glaze, ash-gray body and fine sesame shaped spur mark on the outer base.

For more information, please read Guanware

Ruyi Heart-shaped design used as a border. 
Saggar Container made of refractory material to contain ceramics in the kiln to protect it from ash and direct flame. Termed xia obo in chinese.   It was first used in 'Xiangyin kiln in Hunan during the Sui Dynasty.
sang de boeuf French word which means ox-blood; a brilliant-red glaze developed during the Kangxi period  using copper oxide as the colorant.  In Chinese, it is called Langyao red. The glaze tends to be thicker, redder and glassier than the xianhong pieces of the same period.  It has a whitish rim where the glaze run down during firing.  The chinese aptly called it "lampwick" effect." Another characteristics is the numerous fine crackles on the glaze. 
sgraffito Decorative design drawn by incising through the slip to reveal differently colour body beneath.  A popular method used by the Cizhou potter.
sherds Fragments of porcelain found in kilnsites.

To find out more about sherds of some famous kilns, please read: Famous kilns sherds

shu-fu ware Chinese white glaze porcelain produced during the Yuan Dynasty. The glaze is opaque with a greyish white colour tone.  As there were many pieces with the moulded word "shu fu" meaning privy council, it is commonly termed shu-fu ware.  Also termed luan bai glaze. 

For more information, please read: Shufu ware

slip Liquid or diluted clay.
sprigging Attaching of low-relief moulded ornaments on the body of porcelain with slip
spur Referring to the stilts  (usually 3 to 4 but could be more)  on a ring or flat pads.  The vessel is placed on top of the stilted ring or flat pads during firing.   After firing the glaze of the vessel will adhered to the tip of the stilts.  The stilts are knock off.  Hence, you will find spur marks on the base of the vessels.  

Instead of the stilts, the support could also be in the form clay strips or small clay balls.  

Sumali blue It is an imported cobalt used for decoration of Yuan and early Ming blue and white.  Also called 'su bo ni qing' or 'su bo ni blue' in Chinese.  It contains high iron oxide and low manganese and produced a brilliant and rich blue colour and showed charactertisic 'heaped and piled' effect due to the higher iron oxide.

For more information, please read: Yuan Porcelain

Swatow ware Export porcelain wares painted with underglaze lue and white and overglaze enamelled decoration and commonly found in Southeast Asia.  The characteristics usually associated with swatow wares is the sand grits on the outer base and footring.    The kilns which produced such wares were located in Zhangzhou in Fujian.

For more information, please read : Zhangzhou ware

Symbolism  Many of the motifs on chinese ceramics were meant to convey an auspicious symbolical meaning. 

Some are easy to understand once we know the quality traditionally attached to the object. For example,  the pomegranate represents fertility as it has many seeds and peach for longevity.

Another category is the rebus design which utilised the similarity of the pronunciation for the object and and another character/word to convey the meaning.  For example, the bat is used  as the chinese pronunciation for both bat and happiness is fu.

For more information, please read: Symbolism on Chinese Ceramics.

tea-dust glaze Specked dark brown glaze of greenish hue very much like ground tea leaf.  First seen on Yaozhou  wares during Tang Dynasty.  The most successful and famous ones are those made during the Yongzheng and Qianlong period.  The colorant is the 6 to 10 percent iron oxide in the glaze.
temmoku Japanese term for black glaze ware.  Widely thought to be black glaze tea bowls  made in Jian Kiln in Fujian. They were brought back to Japan by Monks who studied in the temples at Tianmu Mountain in Zhejiang province.  They were greatly appreciated by the tea-ceremony masters and termed temmoku.  Another theory was that the black glaze wares were first discovered at the Tianmu mountain at Jianan in Fujian.  Hence, originated the term temmoku. . The famous temmoku wares are those type with hare-fur glaze and oil-spot glaze.  From Jizhou kiln, there are the famous leaf and paper-cut temmoku. 
throwing The shaping of porcelain on the wheel.
thermoluminescence (TL) dating When a crystalline substance is exposed to radiation, electron displacement will take place within its crystal lattice as a way of storing the energy from the radiation.  The energy can be released as a form of light when such a substance is heated.  This light emission is called thermoluminescence (TL).   An ancient piece of porcelain is exposed to radiation over a period of time and more energy is stored the older it is.  During TL testing, the porcelain sample is heated to release the energy. The more intense the energy, the older is the age.
Transitional ware Refer to porcelains produced at Jingdezhen between  the the last year of Wanli 1620 A.D to 1683 A.D, the 22nd year of the Kangxi reign.
tureen Deep covered soup or vegetable dish.
underglaze Coloured decoration applied to the biscuit which is then cover with glaze and fired.
Wuchai It is the term used for a form of overglaze enamelled ware of the Ming Dynasty.   The earliest know examples were found in the Xuande period.  Although termed wu cai (meaning 5 colour), usually only 3 colours ie red, green and yellow were used for the decoration.  The use of more enamles was popular during the Jiajing and Wanli period.  In many pieces, part of the decoration was in underglaze blue and termed 'qinghua wu cai' literally meaning blue and 5 colour decoration.


vitrify To become glass-like.
Yaozhou ware Famous Northern China celadon ware produced during the Song/Jin period in Tongchuan in Shanxi.  Yaozhou ware produced a distinctive curved motif which is fluent and strong.

For more information, please read: Yaozhou ware

yingqing Chinese term which means shadow or misty blue.  Also refers to as Qingbai in Chinese.  It is a form of glaze with a tinge of blue developed during the Northen Song Period in Jingdezhen.  Due to its popularity, it was also made in many kilns at many provinces such as Anhui  and Fujian.

For more information, pleas read: Qingbai ware

Yue ware Chinese greenware produced in area within the ancient state of Yue (in Zhejiang Province)  from Eastern Han to  Song Dynasty Period. 

For more information, please read: Yue ware

Yuxi blue and white Blue and white wares produced in Yuxi in Yunnan during the late Yuan to Ming period.

For more information, please read: Yunnan blue and white