Some Song dynasty and Yuan dynasty kilns were especially famous for their ceramics. Mostly, until a few years ago it was generally accepted that these comprised the five kilns, Ding, Ru, Guan, Jun and Ge.
Their dating or exact period of activity was mostly assumed to include the Song dynasty, based mainly on literary reference texts originating in the Ming dynasty and later.
However, as of now only the first three kiln wares are proven to be from that period; that is based on their presence in excavated tombs of the Song dynasty.
Ceramics are usually found as burial items in tombs, indicating that they can be from the period of that tomb. No Jun or Ge wares were discovered in excavated graves of the Song dynasty.
The lack of excavated Jun and Ge wares in tombs of that period means that the conventional dating of these is uncertain; they are now thought to have existed at the earliest in the Yuan dynasty. But that is not quite sure either as of now. There is also a possibility that some of the wares have been made for the common people early on, but these people might have been less likely to use them for burial wares; that is, the better quality ones found in later tombs were not made until much later. As of now dating of Jun wares is still an open book, and further research is needed.
Two of these kilns mentioned above(Ding and Jun) belong also to the eight great kiln systems of the Yuan/Song period.
Song and some Yuan ceramics belong to the so-called "ancient" type of ceramics (see here). The Yuan dynasty was actually the dynasty when the classic kilns were being slowly replaced by the emerging Jingdezhen and its new type of wares, which became dominant in the Ming dynasty.
Due to the vast numbers of different kilns in existence, collectors of more ancient wares should know about and try to collect items of the better known kilns of this period (Song/Yuan). It should be noted, though, that some of the five famous kilns are so rare that it is virtually impossible to find genuine items from these nowadays, especially the Ru and Guan wares. There is a better chance with items from the rest of the "eight great kilns".
The Five Famous Kilns
Most renowned for their wares were: Ding, Ru, Guan and Jun, Ge kilns
The "Guan" kiln was established in the capital area and was the first kiln that was established for producing porcelain exclusively for the imperial court. The others did produce wares both for the common people and the imperial court, whereas the latter usually were of higher quality. They were provided to the palace in the form of 'tribute', meaning that no remuneration would have been obtained for these.
Among the above "Guan" and "Ge" kilns are known for the crazed or crackled glazes that feature as their main decoration. "Ge" wares generally had crackling of a smaller size than Guan wares, however, the latter is said to also have produced wares with smaller crackles. As of know (2021), based on the scientific results of archealogic excavations of kiln sites it is thought that the Ge kiln produced on the same site as the Guan kiln, but later. Currently it is not sure yet if the so-called Ge wares were actually produced by Guan kiln itself, or if it was a separate kiln. It is also not known for sure when the Ge wares were fired. There is a possibility that the were made in the Yuan dynasty.
The eight great kiln systems represent the largest production systems at the time.
Kiln / Best known for:
Among these kilns, today Longquan kiln is probably the best known kiln of that period. It produced mainly celadon wares in a wide range of greenish/bluish color tones.
All of the above are regarded as mainstream kilns of the Song and/or Yuan dynasties, and their ceramics provide the best collecting value for items of this period.
Porcelain pillows of the Song dynasty