Chinese Character Writing

(problematic marks and writing on porcelain)

Chinese character writing in marks, websites and other resources

Careful when consulting resources like websites, etc. regarding Chinese writing or characters... when trying to find out about marks or writing on porcelain.

Wrong Transliteration

First make sure that the writer/owner/publisher is capable to read his own (Chinese) writing. There are websites out there that show Chinese characters, without their owner being able to read them. For example, in some cases it may be found that the meaning of Chinese terms explained in English is not in accordance to the meaning of the 'Chinese' character(s), which are given too. Unfortunately, much of this is completely wrong. The type of error can only be explained as follows.

Many Chinese characters are read or pronounced the same. Usually a Chinese speaker knows from context which one is meant. For inputting characters in a computer the Pinyin method of transliteration is used. If a character's reading (pronunciation) is input, a list is shown from which the correct character is selected for final input into the document. If someone has no deeper knowledge of Chinese, he simply is unable to input the correct character(s) because many words are read the same despite different characters.
In a case like that described above the transliteration may be completely unrelated to the original meaning of the Chinese.

Insufficient Knowledge of Characters in Use

This one is a little more specific to porcelain, or rather porcelain marks.

Like other languages, Chinese has sometimes variations in writing. Only that in this case the character strokes or habitual writing of some people resulted in character variations that may still be valid.

In addition, there are characters that were written with minor difference during earlier eras. Some characters may be written in a different manner, depending whether the item was made for the palace or for the common people.

This is frequently not even known by native Chinese speakers. This requires some specialist knowledge of historical facts related to porcelain manufacturing in ancient China.


Seemingly wrong characters in marks

  • A mark may appear to be wrong, while in reality it is just a variation of the same character, or another character with the same meaning.
  • Some characters were written slightly different in earlier times.
  • Characters may differ depending on the kiln.

There is the very rare case where a character, or its strokes, are wrong, a simple writing error - these error happened in China the same way as they did elsewhere.


Always verify first if something seems to be wrong; do not rely on unverified resources for information.