How to Identify Chinese Pottery Marks

Chinese Pottery, Chinese Vase -

How to Identify Chinese Pottery Marks

How to date Chinese pottery?

Reign marks on the item represent the dynasty and the emperor for which an item was made, and it was used on all ceramics made for the emperor. However, do not rely on the rule mark to determine the age of a piece. Marks were often copied. From the Ming dynasty, mostly blue and white pottery was produced at the kilns Jingdezhen in southern China. Chinese porcelain, over a specific time, usually shows some contractions of glaze. If there is nothing all over the bottom or body, check carefully; when Chinese porcelain is identified, the shape is the first thing that catches the eye. The mark and clear round hole in the base indicate mid of 20th century. The modern mark of pottery studio/home was created on March 9, 2018.

How to identify Chinese pottery?

Chinese pottery identification is a very specialized set of skills. Several factors are considered experts. They begin with the item shape and end mark on the item. It can be a little challenging to differentiate a real piece of Chinese porcelain from a fake one. Since each era and dynasty brought its type of porcelain, there is no single way to collect the value of Chinese porcelain against modern counterfeiting. Here are few steps on how to identify an antique Chinese vase:

  • Vase shape
  • Colour used for vase decoration
  • Design and decoration
  • Vase base and foot
  • Glaze
  • Porcelain
  • Ageing signs
  • Porcelain Mark

How to read Chinese pottery marks?

According to the ancient tradition of writing and reading Chinese, the bottom marks of porcelain are usually read from top to bottom and from right to left. Mark position depends on the piece on which it is decorated, and the markings of porcelain are usually found on the bottom.  Horizontally written marks are read from right to left. These reign marks on Chinese ceramics consist of four or six characters and are written vertically in columns in two different styles, Kaishu or regular script, and zhuanshu, seal-form script. They all follow a predefined format: The first two characters refer to the dynasty. Da Ming, ‘Great Ming’ means the piece belongs to the Ming Dynasty and Da Qing. The other two characters refer to emperors’ names during whose reign this piece was made, and the third combination of the two characters read nian zhi, which means made for.

E.g. the Chinese pottery mark Da Ming Xuandi Nian Zhi means, built in the Great Ming Dynasty during Emperor Xuande.

How to identify Chinese pottery marks?

Plenty of experience and knowledge of porcelain and its history is required to identify the genuine mark. If you are trying to buy a collection item, it is suggested to evaluate by an expert.

One of the common porcelain marks found on ceramics is the reign mark known as the Jinian mark. Such ancient pottery marks exist as the inscribed marks on antique pottery in Qin and the Han dynasty. There are also marks of ceramics from the three Kingdoms (third century). However, they are all relatively rare. The genuine item marking did not end until the Ming Dynasty. Some Chinese antiquities pottery markings have dates on the Chinese 60-year cyclic calendar, but they are rare. The dates of the cyclic calendar began to appear in the second half of the 19th century on Qianjiang-style historical porcelain. But they aren’t exact; they seem to be a part of the signatures of porcelain artists.

Ancient porcelain often not shows the title of the emperor reign. Pictorial marks were famous in the Kangxi reign; double circles and symbols were frequent. The majority of porcelain markings consist of handwritten characters.

How to tell Chinese from Japanese pottery?

Japanese vases usually had a simpler rim, red or brown, although blue and green were also famous. In addition, the interior of a Japanese vase is usually bumpier and rough, while the colors used are often dark blues and greens or yellow and grey.

Some standard features that may appear on a Japanese vase include sun and moon, lotus flowers, people living in kimonos or paper fans, daruma dolls, cherry blossoms, butterflies, cranes, plums, gourds, and any koi fish. Antique vases with marks on the vase bottom are more valuable and can get you more money. The signature or marking can be painted, inked, or engraved on the vase.

Chinese pottery is usually thinner, lighter and more precise with white or bright colors. With natural earth color palette, Japanese pottery is deeper and more organic. Japan doesn’t have a high amount of natural white clay high in Kaolin, while China has a high amount. White porcelain can be formed into very thin and delicate shapes and pots and can still be fired at 1250 to 1300 degrees Celsius without cracks or warp. The Chinese had developed this high fire kiln and similar fire techniques and glazes earlier than Japan that did not use much for their rough and soft clay bodies.

How to tell if Chinese pottery is valuable?

To check if Chinese pottery is valuable, find the mark on the pottery bottom. The marks on the bottom of the pottery may indicate the company name that made the pottery and the Chinese potter name. If the pottery has the name of the company and the potter's name, it can be much more valuable than if it has only the name of the company. Marks on the pottery bottom can be painted, inked, or engraved on the bottom. To check Chinese pottery value, there are many factors to consider:

  • Period
  • Age
  • Artist
  • Decoration
  • Shape
  • Palette
  • What Kiln

Why is Chinese pottery blue and white?

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, blue-and-white wares were produced in China. From China, underglaze blue was introduced to Europe. During the Tang Dynasty, blue colors' importance was raised in the history of Chinese ceramics. The distinctive color in the blue glazed ceramic and porcelain came from cobalt ore imported from Persia, a rare ingredient used only in limited quantities. Blue and white ware cover a variety of white pottery decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment.  Decorations are usually made by hand, initially through brush painting, but nowadays by stencilling or transfer printing, although other application methods have been used.