Longquan Celadon History

Celadon production had a long history at Longquan and affiliated sites, but it was not until the Five Dynasties (五代 907-960) and Northern Song (北宋 960-1127) period that production of scale truly began. Five Dynasty wares revealed a variety of shapes and carved finishes with the characteristic "Yuezhou" (岳州) glaze. In the Northern Song period, the Dayao (大窯) kiln site alone composed wares at twenty-three separate kilns. The era of greatest ceramic production was not until the Southern Song 南宋 (1127-1279), Yuan (元 1271-1368) and Ming (明 1368-1644) periods.

five dynasty

Longquan celadons thus were an essential part of China's export economy for over five-hundred years. According to local gazetteer entries two celebrated ceramicists and brothers, Zhang Shengyi (章生一) and Zhang Shenger (章生二), worked at the main Dayao kilns The Longquan Prefecture Gazetteer (龍泉省志) perceived that their celadon reached jade-like perfection.

jade like celadon

Thus began the Ming period tradition of dividing the best Longquan wares into the Elder Brother and Younger Brother categories. Elder Brother ware was thought to be the Geyao (哥窯) crackle glaze ware cherished by collectors during history. Recently this confusion has occurred to fix itself with excavations of the Hangzhou (杭州) official ware kilns and others.

Southern Song Period

Southern Song celadons display the greatest variety of shapes and glaze colors. Japanese tea masters and specialists have treasured examples with a decidedly bluish glaze which they have termed "kinutaseiji" (砧青磁). Chinese collectors have perhaps enjoyed a greater variety of Longquan ware and devised a special vocabulary to describe them such as meizi ching or “plum green” celadon.

After the Southern Song era, Lonquan celadon encountered an expansion of production with a lessening of quality. However, even the stoutly potted celadons of the Ming period have had their imitators at Jingdezhen (景徳鎮) and in Japan. Scholarly appreciation of Longquan celadon experienced great improvement with the discovery of a sunken trade vessel in Sinan County off the Korean coast in 1976. It was discovered that the finely finished Southern Song style celadon was manufactured well into the Mongol or Yuan period.

yuan celadon

Firing technology of longquan celadon

The city of Longquan in the coastal Chinese province of Zhejian is recognised for its celadon pottery and the traditional firing technology that imparts its distinctive glaze. Compounded from violet-golden clay and a mixture of burnt feldspar, limestone, quartz and plant ash, the glaze is prepared from methods that have often been handed down for generations by teachers or within families.

longquan city

The glaze is applied to a fired stoneware vessel, which is then fired again in a repeated cycle of six steps of heating and cooling where exact temperatures matter a great deal: either over- or under-firing will spoil the effect. Accomplished celadon artists carefully control each stage with a thermometer and by observing the color of the flame, which reaches temperatures as high as 1310º C.

longquan celadon

The definitive result may take either of two styles: ‘elder brother’ celadon has a black finish with a crackle effect, while the ‘younger brother’ variety has a thick, lavender-grey and plum-green finish. With its underlying jade-like green color, celadon fired by the family-oriented businesses of Longquan is prized as masterwork-quality art that can additionally serve as household ware. It is a noble symbol of the cultural heritage of the craftspeople, their city, and the nation.

It's now a specific attribute of the Chinese traditions. Discover below the traditional firing technology of longquan celadon, a beautiful tradition from china.

Cart