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Chinese Monochrome Glazes

The birth of the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) brought a new Imperial rule warranting requirements for the use of monochrome ceramics. This not only resulted in the resurgence of many previously popular colours but also the creation of a much wider variety of new and striking colours.

I have decided to compile a list of popular glaze colours used in creating monochrome wares to help place in contrast the wonderful variety of Chinese glazes in existence. However, this does not identify the entire range as there are many slight variations as well as several rare exceptions.

Blanc-de-Chine glaze: 

Blanc-de-chine is a  French expression used to describe fine white porcelain wares covered in a transparent glaze. Also known as dehua, after the kilns in the Dehua area of the Fujian province in China. They were predominantly produced for export to Europe and the Americas from the 15th to 18th centuries and are usually found in the form of figures and vessels. Blanc-de-chine wares are usually vibrant white in tone with a distinctive thick, glassy glaze. Although predominantly pure white, blanc-de-chine can sometimes be tinged with a light grey or pink.

Cobalt blue glaze: 

Cobalt blue was first developed during the Yuan dynasty (1271 - 1368 AD) using cobalt salts of aluminium oxide fired at a high temperature. During the 15th century, the finest cobalt blue glazed wares produced contained Mohammedan blue oxide imported from the Near East giving them a beautifully rich and intense tone. However, due to the rise in popular demand during the late Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD), the Chinese decided to start using native ores to produce cobalt blue glazes. This change resulted in the wares being visually duller in appearance due to the level of manganese contained.

Pale turquoise glaze:

This more unusual form of blue was created with the addition of copper in the firing process.

Celadon glaze: 

The word celadon is a western term used to describe a particular group of high fired pale green glazed wares. The colour is achieved with the reduction during firing of a small amount of iron-oxide in the glaze composition. Read our earlier blog for more information regarding celadon wares.

Apple green glaze: 

This distinctive deep and rich emerald green coloured glaze was introduced during the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1912 AD) and is created from through the introduction of iron oxide applied over a white or greyish crackled glaze.

Imperial yellow glaze: 

This colour was first introduced during the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) with the best examples dating to the later Kangxi period (1662 - 1722 AD). This distinctive dark yellow was derived from iron with a small addition of antimony and was widely used as monochrome porcelain decoration.

Citrus yellow glaze: 

This more unusual striking bright yellow glaze was derived from antimony. 

Sang-de-boeuf glaze:

Sang-de-boeuf is a French expression used to describe a particular type of red glaze applied to Chinese ceramic wares. The term sang-de-boeuf  translates as 'ox blood' and is known to the Chinese as 'lang yao hong'. Although this colour was first achieved during the Ming dynasty, it wasn't until the Kangxi (1662 - 1722) and later Qianlong (1736 - 1795) Emperor’s reign period that the colouring technique was truly mastered. Read our earlier blog for more information on sang-de-boeuf ceramics.

Pink glazes: 

First developed in the 18th century Yongzheng period (1722 - 1735 AD), the colours range from a deep ruby tone through to a variety of pale pinks.

Lime green glaze: 

A mixture of copper and antimony. Should not to be confused with high fired 'Lime glazes' involving lead oxide being the main agent to produce celadon glazes.

As well as the glazes documented above, other notable monochrome glaze colours are worth mentioning such as coral-red, teadust, cafe-au-lait, powder-blue, jun, purple often referred to as aubergine and black.

If you have any Chinese ceramics that you would like to sell, then please contact Robin Newcombe, Asian art specialist at Grand Auctions, Folkestone, Kent.