Introduction to collecting antique Chinese porcelain and
ceramics. This site also contains useful information and tips for collecting Chinese antiques in
Establishing a collection of Chinese porcelain requires not
only antiques related knowledge, it makes it also necessary to
learn a lot of peripheral things as, for example, the ability
to recognize fakes. This is especially true with Chinese
porcelain. This site provides basic information on genuine and
fake antiques from China. It shall enable the prospective
collector to make more informed decisions in view to Chinese
Actually, the better we understand the issues
involved the more we realize how much more knowledge antique Chinese porcelain requires. Experienced collectors of Chinese
ceramics are often specialized on the ceramics produced during a few dynasties. Due to the vast space and time in which Chinese ceramics were produced, there is no expert who knows all about Chinese porcelain.
These pages provide tips and information to the beginning collector of antique Chinese porcelain.
They also give collectors some information regarding the identification of Chinese characters found in antique porcelain marks.
Authenticity problems associated with porcelain and pottery from China
require the attention of both, the new and the experienced collector.
Some light will be shed on Chinese commercial practices as compared to
western purchasing attitudes, and why fakes are proliferating.
First things first:
What do we define as 'antique' Chinese porcelain?
Our definition of antique Chinese porcelain follows to some extent customary practice here,
where we live:
(1) An antique must show porcelain age signs.
(2) It must originate either in the early republic, Qing or
Ming dynasties, or earlier.
The question is what is considered "early republic" period? We
usually consider anything made after the Qing dynasty
(1644-1911) during the 1910s or 20s as early republic, thus for
us it ends 1930. Anything produced later is qualified as
This site concerns itself mainly with hand-painted antique
Printed porcelain or transfer ware is not included.
Difference between antique Chinese porcelain and other ceramics
It can be a bit difficult to understand the difference between
porcelain and other wares in the case of Chinese ceramics. This is especially the case in the
land and language where porcelain was first produced. Frequently all types of glazed ceramics are called
"porcelain" in Chinese.
The Chinese language and culture originally differentiates between porcelain and earthenware only. Stoneware, for example, is a concept that was originally unknown in China; there is not even a proper Chinese term for this.
Click here to see a definition.
Don't try identifying antique Chinese porcelain via the mark! If you
are new to Chinese antiques and are here to identify some
items via their marks, then do yourself a favor and read the
page first. Marks on antique Chinese porcelain served a completely
different purpose than the marks of Europe. They were not used
as trademarks or logos which would allow identification of the
Therefore, it is generally futile to try identifying the age or
source of your item via the mark. This is only possible with
non-antique Chinese porcelain made later in the 20th
Range of this
The content on this site concerns only antique porcelain. The information you find here is neither related to vintage nor more
recent Chinese porcelain.
All information relates to antiques from imperial times up to the early republic (up to around 1930). This is also valid for marks, etc. The site
follows the Chinese habit of classifying antique porcelain according to
the type or style of the decoration -- as the last dynasty
ended the old porcelain decoration methods continued to be used
for a considerable time. Antique Chinese porcelain made during the early republic period
frequently shows similar traits as that made during imperial
times. This is the main reason that early republic items often are classified as antiques.
Age and dating
The western method of dating antique Chinese porcelain by centuries has
advantages, but also some disadvantages. Therefore, periods or eras mentioned in this site for age/dating follow mostly the
imperial or reign year method. The single periods are given in the
tables of the Ming and Qing emperors. (Please see menu on the left. )
Overview of the development of Chinese Porcelain as it was influenced by China's economy and the trends of overseas markets.
During the Song, Yuan and early Ming dynasties (10th - 16th centuries) much if not most of porcelain production was export oriented. Domestically used porcelain was basically the same as those exported. Only from the 16th century porcelain designed specifically for overseas markets did appear. In the Qing dynasty this went a step further - some Chinese porcelain was exclusively made for export and was not used in China itself.
No time to read all the information on this site? Read the important details in PDF format. All content is reduced to the bare essentials for your convenience.
For any unknown terms, please refer to the Glossaries of antique Chinese porcelain terms.