China, Gansu or Qinghai Province:
Neolithic period about 3rd-2nd millennium B.C.E.
Earthenware painted with red and black slips
H. 15 5/8 in. D. 13 ¾ in.
Ceramics have been produced in China for more than eight thousand years.
The range of objects has been enormous: architectural, burial, utilitarian,
luxury, trade, and ceremonial. The Chinese ceramic objects preserved today
amount to only a small portion of the huge numbers produced. However,
shards (fragments of ceramics) survive in large numbers and contribute
to the our knowledge of the past.
earliest Chinese ceramics may date from around 10,000 B.C.E., but scholars
can trace a continuous development only from the date of the earliest
known pottery kilns, the 6th or 5th millennia B.C.E.
Neolithic cultures, characterized by permanent settlements and a life
style based on agriculture, developed along the two main rivers of China,
the Yellow River, in the north, and the Yangzi, in the south, by about
5000 B.C.E. Millet was farmed in the north, while rice was cultivated
in the south. Although mostly tools of chipped or shaped stones, or of
carved bones or tusks, were made, several of these cultures also created
ritual and decorative carvings of jade. The difficulty in carving and
polishing this hard mineral attests to an advanced technological level,
while the complicated imagery shows a developed interest in artistic representation.
Human figures, animals, stylized plants, and abstract geometric designs
are found in both pottery and jade.
the beginning of China's historic age (the 16th century B.C.E.), a series
of distinguishable cultures followed, or coexisted with, each other. Distinctive
ceramics are associated with most of these civilizations.
to look at this work
This jar has a narrow base, a flared out middle, and a rather long
and narrow neck. There are two lugs at the neck and two at the middle.
The upper portion is painted while the lower remains bare. A band of lozenge
shapes is around the middle of the jar. Above this is a large-scale, meandering
scroll design of red and black fringed bands centered on four roundels.
The neck is painted with triangles at its base and a net-like design of
intersecting lines at the top. It is possible that these motifs possessed
meaning, but we do not know what it was.
While Neolithic ceramics were utilitarian objects, it is assumed that
painted ceramics, like this jar, may also have been used as ritual objects
or to show the high status of their owner. The two small lugs at the top
of the neck may have secured a cover while the two larger lugs on either
side may have served to carry or tip the jar. Perhaps the lower half was
left unpainted because the jar was meant to be partially buried in the
this object was made
This jar was made from earthenware, a coarse and grainy clay, using the
coil method. The body was smoothed by hand or by beating with a paddle
on the outside against a pad on the inside of the pot. The design was
painted on the surface using black and red pigment made from iron oxide.
Firing was done in simple kilns dug into the ground at a temperature between
800 and 1050 degrees Celsius. The final step was to burnish the surface.