Every year thousands of people visit London for Asian Art in London, an event which brings together leading Asian art dealers, auction houses, museums and societies for a 10-day celebration of Asian art. This year Hakkasan Mayfair is partnering with Lyon & Turnbull to host an exhibition showcasing some of the finest Chinese pottery and porcelain from the 10th century through to the 19th century, alongside Japanese and Chinese carved coral, ivory and cloisonné enamel, Singaporean ink paintings by the famous artist Chen Wen Hsi, and a carved rhinoceros horn ritual libation cup.
Chinese ceramic ware is one of the most significant forms of Chinese art. It is also one of the oldest, dating as far back as the Neolithic era in 6,000 BC. While ceramics have always been valued in the Far East for their utility and affordability, the Chinese developed a sense of aesthetic and artistic appreciation for ceramic ware as an art form from very early on.
The most primitive form of Chinese ceramics discovered is known as ‘Stone Age’, consisting of simple pottery most likely used for everyday tasks, alongside clay pitchers and sculptures.
Porcelain was invented perhaps as early as the 7th or 8th century AD. There are two recognised ways of classifying Chinese porcelain. The first is by distinguishing the difference between the methods of creating the porcelain, of which there are two: high-fired (ci) and low-fired (táo). The second is based on location, and is divided into two areas of China: Northern and Southern. Present-day China comprises two geologically different land masses, meaning a vast difference in the raw materials available for making the ceramics.
Porcelain is now so identified with China that it is still referred to as ‘china’ in everyday English language. In fact, it is one of the earliest forms of artworks to be introduced to the Western world through the Silk Road.
The materials used to create Chinese ceramic ware have evolved throughout time, from bricks and tiles to the sophisticated porcelain produced in the later years for the imperial court, the domestic market, or for export. Technological innovations and the differing use of regional materials mean that Chinese ceramics are visually diverse, from the celadon (like jade) and black porcelain wares of the Han Dynasty to the blue and white (Qinghua Ci) intricately painted porcelain developed in the Yuan Dynasty.
In terms of their continued development, artistic refinement and technical innovation, the Chinese can claim the longest and most influential ceramic tradition in the world.