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Memories of Yuan Dynasty Blue and White Porcelain
    2009-03-26 15:50:53     CRIENGLISH.com

China has a long history of porcelain making. Blue and white porcelain, or Qinghuaci, is perhaps the most famous of all Chinese porcelain and is known for its simplicity and elegance. Those made during the Yuan Dynasty about 700 year ago, is regarded as the best and the most precious of its kind.

On March 20th, an exhibition of Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain opened in the Capital Museum. He Fei went along to have a look.

An Old Man Observes the Exhibit Carefully [photo: chinasecurities.com.cn]

Entering the exhibition hall of the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain, you may feel that you are stepping into an ancient Chinese ink painting decorated with patterns and scenes found on this famous porcelain.

Jointly hosted by the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau, the Capital Museum and the Beijing Art Museum, the exhibition is also being supported by many local museums. It is structured into three parts: "Brilliant Work C the Influence of the Hans: Continuity in Traditional Aesthetics of Central China", "Influences from Foreign Lands: Exotic Flavours in Blue and White Porcelain" and "Fresh Wind from the Northern Desert: Reflections of the Nomadic Culture."

Yao An is vice president of the Capital Museum. 

"We all know that the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain is the most precious and best example of ceramic production. It shares a priceless value as an art form. 73 pieces of precious blue and white porcelain from 25 museums and institutions are now on display. In addition, the National Museum of Iran has also presented its rare collection: six pieces of Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain for visitors to enjoy."

The porcelain displayed in the Capital Museum covers a wide range of subjects: social customs, landscapes, animals, plants, legendary tales and abstract designs. Some shapes and patterns the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain used reflected a new artistic trend, highlighting the profoundness of traditional Chinese culture.

Yao An proudly introduces the exhibits. 

"This is 'Si Ai Mei Ping,' or Mei-vase, decorated in blue-and-white with scenes of the four cherishes. The four cherishes are: orchid, chrysanthemum, lotus and Mei, which are four flowers beloved by four famous literary figures in ancient China. This shows Chinese people's pursuit of beautiful things."

The ancient civilization of the Central Plains endows the blue and white porcelain with the centuries-old charm and an extensive and intense traditional culture. Influenced by the culture of the people of the north, the Yuan Dynasty's blue and white porcelain demonstrates some aspects of the nomadic culture. 

"The Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain is very exquisite, but you can also feel lofty sentiments from it. Here are two similar pots, both of which are decorated with the pattern of a phoenix. The beaks of the phoenixes form the mouth of the pots. One was unearthed in Beijing while the other was found in northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which is thousands of miles away from here. This proved to be the perfect combination of the Central Plains and nomadic cultures, which was very popular back then."

The Yuan Dynasty ruled a vast range of territory. Extensive exchange with foreign countries led to the integration of different cultures, which made the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain especially charismatic. Yao An explains by showing one of the exhibits from Iran. 

Visitors Appreciate Yuan Dynasty Blue and White Porcelain Plates from Iran [photo: chinasecurities.com.cn]

"This looks very different from our collections. To adapt to the social and life customs of Islamic regions and the habits of nomadic people, large porcelain utensils with explicit Islamic artistic style were produced. These were warmly welcomed and well received by Islamic people and widely circulated at home. While foreign influences give the blue and white porcelain an air of exoticness characterized with thick color and more complicated patterns."

The simplicity and elegance of the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain has attracted many visitors. Mr. Wu is one of them. 

"The number of Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain preserved today is limited but every one is of high quality and artistic value. Actually, I read about the exhibition in the newspaper and decided to pay a visit last week. But I waited till Monday to come, afraid it would be very crowded here on the weekend because Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain is famous."

Ms. Liao from Southeast Fujian Province is on a tour to Beijing and came to the exhibition just by chance. 

"A visit to the capital museum was included in my travel plans. It is a happy surprise that I could enjoy this exhibition. Every Chinese person knows about the Yuan Dynasty blue and white porcelain but few people have a chance to see it personally. I've been amazed walking around the exhibits. They are so delicate. It is hard to imagine how the craftsmen made these in ancient times."

Lively, colourful and vivid, the blue and white porcelain developed its unique style among all the porcelain works created during the Yuan Dynasty. Sketched on fired unglazed pottery, coloured with cobalt material and painted under glaze, the imagination of different cultures created gorgeous artistic works. The glaze of blue and white porcelain is transparent and the blue designs on a white body make it appear elegant, fresh and full of vigour, even to this day.

After three months in Beijing's Capital Museum, the exhibition will continue on a nationwide tour.

For Beyond Beijing, I'm He Fei.



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