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Chinese Porcelain

Porcelain, also known as 'fine china', with its delicate texture, pleasing color, and refined sculpture, was one of the earliest art forms to be introduced to the west through the Silk Road. Porcelain is simply a specialized and refined form of pottery, composed of extremely white clay that is fired at a very high temperature. It was the Chinese, however, that first discovered the secret to its production-centuries before the Europeans-and "china" quickly became a synonym for porcelain. The earliest porcelain yet discovered was made of kaolin during the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC), and possessed the smoothness and imperviousness common to hard enamel products, though pottery was still commonly used by much of the populace.

However, the first piece of true porcelain was probably not produced until the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The art of porcelain production was mastered by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and it was during this time that the first pieces of "china" began to be exported to Japan and Europe. These pieces were highly valuable, and were praised by the likes of Marco Polo and Francis Bacon. Porcelain is the hardest of all ceramic products, and though this gives it many practical applications in science and electronics, it is primarily known as the best material available for fine vases, figurines and other decorations. The blue and white

porcelain called Qinghua Ci was developed during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and flowered during the subsequent Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. This style is what many people think of when they talk about Chinese porcelain, as it is the most famous and prolific of the mainstream of porcelain production. Firstly, the basic body was painted with natural cobalt, which would turn blue after being heated in the kiln. The blue flowers and other patterns thus produced were set off by a white glaze and covered by another level of clear glaze; the resulting porcelain was widely welcomed amongst both refined and popular tastes due to the beauty and charm of the finished product.

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