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The first specimens of Chinese porcelain date back approximately to 4000 B.C. whereas, the white ware, high fired type of pottery associated with the Tang Dynasty goes back to somewhere around 500 B.C.  Chinese porcelain of the high-fired kind is called Tzu, where as the low-fired kind is called Tao. Chinese porcelain has been categorised in two major groups,  "Chinese taste" and "Export"

Broadly speaking, Chinese taste type of porcelain is all that was made mainly for the Asian markets; this can further be divided into two categories. The first is Imperial kiln/ware or Guan yau, which as the name suggests, was made for the Chinese Emperors and their families. The first exclusive kiln set up to manufacture porcelain only for the Chinese royalty was set up in Jingdezhen during the Yuan dynasty. From that time onwards and into the Ming and Qing dynasty periods, Porcelain for the emperors and their households were made in this separate kiln. Jingdezhen became a hub for Chinese Imperial porcelain during the Yuan and Ming dynasties and can still boast of  a flourishing porcelain industry.

The other type of Chinese taste porcelain or the Min yao or people’s ware is most of the Chinese porcelain that we see today. It consists of household articles made for the Asian lifestyle. Not very much of evolution has taken place in this type of Porcelain.

Chinese taste porcelain, both of the Imperial ware and People’s ware kind has another distinguishing feature called the base marks. These base marks are rarely present on the export porcelain articles. Antique pieces of porcelain, made in the Imperial kiln, not only have base marks but also Period marks or nian hao. These period marks make it easy to discern which period, a particular piece of Chinese Imperial porcelain belongs to. Skilled artists, who probably spent their entire lives painting one specific mark, put these base marks on porcelain objects.

Chinese export porcelain on the other hand, is porcelain made for use outside China. This has also got categorized into the porcelain for the Western markets, specifically for Europe and United Sates of America, the Oriental porcelain, which is meant for the Near East and India, and the porcelain for Japan. All of these three categories of Export porcelain rarely comes with base marks, whereas the porcelain made for South East Asia mostly comes with base marks.

Trade in Chinese porcelain started with the Dutch in the middle of the 17th century. Soon Chinese porcelain started becoming more and more popular and highly priced in Europe especially those antique pieces belonging to the Ming dynasty. The Ming dynasty period  was known as the Golden Era in China and produced some of the finest works of art  like during the Renaissance period in Europe. Towards the 18th century, exports in Chinese porcelain spread widely across Portugal, Spain, England, France, Sweden, Germany, Norway and other parts of Europe as well as further within Asia too.

Porcelain trade took on the form of a near revolution in the way it not only spread but also created new varieties and forms of exquisite porcelain from different parts of the world due to the cultural exchange brought about by trade. Not only did Chinese porcelain become very popular in Europe, it also inspired European ceramists to incorporate and merge Chinese styles with their own. The result was a rich cultural exchange of art styles between the East and the West. This exchange enriched both forms of ceramics. While Chinese manufacturing and skill had great impact on the European Ceramic industry, the Chinese ceramic world was also enriched by the various art styles with increased contact with Europe. Although Europe achieved considerable success at making its own porcelain, Chinese porcelain still continued to be extremely popular.   

Trade in Chinese Porcelain played a very important role in popularising this industry globally; creating a higher associated value proposition, thus giving it the exclusivity it is associated with.

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