The Wares of the Ming Dynasty

By R. L. Hobson | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The early periods of Chinese Ceramic history have received of late some of the attention which they deserve. The initial volume of this series was devoted to them; and the present book, the first monograph on Ming wares, is not only a natural sequel to the Early Ceramic Wares of China, but a necessary prelude to the study of the more familiar porcelains of the recent Manchu dynasty.

Europe has been acquainted with Ming porcelain since the fifteenth century. It came to us at first in a slender and uncertain stream, which steadily increased in volume until, in the last years of the dynasty, it almost reached the dimensions of a flood. The wares which arrived in this fashion were mainly strong and somewhat roughly finished articles, suitable for the export trade of the time. It is only of recent years that we have come to know the choicer Ming porcelains, which were made for the Imperial court and the more exacting home markets of China; and though examples of these high-class wares, made in the earlier reigns, are still very scarce, the material as a whole is ample enough to justify a separate book on Ming.

In the sixteenth century the output of the great porcelain centre of Ching-tê Chên was already enormous; and even after the lapse of three hundred and odd years there is no lack of specimens to meet the demands of collectors of all calibres. The Imperial Ming and the splendid three- colour vases are naturally rare and proportionately expensive. This has been called the Ming for millionaires. But there is also Ming" for the million." The blue and white and enamelled ware, which formed the staple of the export trade, and even Imperial wares of the later reigns, are still within reach of modest means, while their bold designs and decorative character will commend them to persons of refined taste.

The purpose of this book is to explain and illustrate as many varieties of Ming as possible. The text is based primarily on information obtained from Chinese sources and the occasional notes made by Europeans who visited China in the Ming period. To this must be added the deductions which can be made from the study of well-authenticated specimens, and, of course, the valuable work enshrined in the books which are mentioned in the bibliography. The first twelve chapters are occupied almost

-vii-

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