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BRONZES                                                                                                                                  back to top
Chaplet     Small pieces of bronze placed between the core and the outer mould to keep the two separate and stable, and to allow the molten bronze to flow between the two. Also called spacers.
Core     A central plug of clay around which the sections of the moulds were assembled. Molten bronze was poured into the space between the two. Cores were needed to ensure that the vessels were hollow and thin-walled.
Inlay     Inlay was introduced in the Eastern Zhou period (6th century B.C.). The design was generally engraved on the vessel after casting and thin gold or silver sheets keyed into the engraved lines. A few early examples have cast-on inlays in copper. Precious stones such as turquoise and malachite were also used. The patterns of the inlay reflected painted patterns on wood and lacquer.
Leiwen     Angular spirals employed as a background to zoomorphic motifs on bronzes cast in the late Shang and early Western Zhou periods.
Long     The Chinese term for a dragon. In the oracle bone graph the creature is shown with a long snaky body and a large head with a bottle horn. Such creatures appear among Shang bronze ornament.
Mould     Outer pottery sections made from a model of the bronze vessel; the model was then shared down to form a core. The mould sections are held together by tenon and mortice joints.
Shi ji     An historical text written by the court archivist Sima Qian (c. 145-86 BC) recording events of his own day and of previous dynasties, including those of the Shang and Zhou.
Shi jing     The Book of Odes compiled in the latter half of the Western Zhou period.
Shu jing     The Book of Documents, a compilation of speeches and accounts of historical events purporting to describe the Shang and early Zhou periods. The genuine sections were probably written during the middle or latter half of the Western Zhou.
Shou wen     A dictionary compiled about A.D. 100.
Taotie     A term first used in a text of the Eastern Zhou to describe the varieties of monster face. We do not know how such designs were described in the periods in which they were current.
CALLIGRAPHY                                                                                                                         back to top
Jiaguwen     Script on Shang oracle bones (14th-11th centuries B.C.)
Zhuanshu     Seal script (11th-3rd centuries B.C.)
Lishu     Clerical script (2nd century B.C. - 2nd century A.D.)
Caoshu     Draft or cursive script
Xingshu     Running script
Kaishu     Standard script
Tiba     Colophon
Bei     Inscriptions engraved on stone stele
Tie     Autographs on paper
Fatie     Model calligraphies
Taben     Rubbing
Wenfang sibao     Four Treasures of the Writing Studio
Bi     Brush
Mo     Ink
Zhi     Paper
Yan     Ink-stone
Ceramics                                                                                                                                  back to top
Anhua     The term may be translated as " secret decoration" or " hidden decoration". It is applied either as finely incised lines, or painted on using thin slip lines. This type of decoration is often difficult to see unless the porcelain surface on which it appears is held in an oblique light or it is seen by transmitted light. Anhua decoration appears most often on porcelains of the early Ming period, particular on thinly potted white wares and on the interior surface of vessels having underglaze painted decoration on the exterior. It is also seen in minor bands on some late Ming wares, and was sometimes applied to fine 18th century porcelains.
Baidunzi     China stone, which is one of the mineral ingredients of porcelain. The Chinese term literally means "little white bricks". This refers to the form in which the material was delivered to the potters after processing.
Biscuit     The body of ceramics that have been fired without glaze are described as biscuit. In some cases the whole vessel is unglazed, in others certain areas have been reserved was painted with wax before the object was dipped into the vat of glaze. The glaze mixture did not adhere to the wax, but the wax burned off during firing leaving an unglazed area. Unglazed, sprig-moulded, decorative appliqués were also placed on top of the glaze on wares such as Longquan celadons, so that when fired these biscuit decorations contrasted with the glaze.
Blanc-de-Chine     See Dehua
Celadon     This is a western term applied to certain groups of high-fired wares with green glazes, which owe their colour to the reduction during firing of a small amount of iron-oxide in the glaze composition. Such glazes appeared in China at least as early as the Han period, but reached their apogee in the Song and Yuan dynasties. Celadon wares were made in China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. The term celadon may derive from a corruption of the name of Sultan Saladin, who in AD 1171 sent a gift of such wares to the Sultan of Damascus, or may come from a 17th century pastoral romance by D' Urfe, entitled L' Astree, in which a shepherd named Celadon appears wearing a grey-green costume.
Ceramics     Objects made from fired clay, whether glazed or unglazed.
Crackle/Crazing     These two terms are both used to denote crakes in the glaze due to the glaze contracting more than the body. Various circumstances during firing, cooling and burial can cause these cracks, and they may also be encouraged by certain compositional changes. Glaze cracks may occur accidentally, but were also deliberately produced at some kilns. Although in correct usage crackle is deliberate and crazing is accidental, the terms are not used systematically in the literature.
Dehua     Fine white porcelain with an almost colourless glaze, which was produced at kilns in the Dehua area of Fujian province. The best known wares are white figures and vessels, however blue and white wares and enamelled porcelains were also produced.
Doucai     This style of decoration was developed at the Jingdezhen kilns in the 15th century. The designs have underglaze blue outlines, and overglaze enamel colours were applied within the outlines. The term doucai can perhaps best be translated as "justaposed colours" or "abutted colours". Few porcelains decorated in doucai style were produced in the 16th and 17th centuries, but this type of decoration was revived in the 18th century.
Earthenware     Often referred to as "pottery". The clays used for earthenware usually have a relatively low upper limit for the temperature at which they can be successfully fired, and earthenwares are fired between 800°C-1100°C. Earthenware bodies appear in a wide range of colours, and after firing still have a porosity of more than 5%. They are permeable, but can be made impermeable by glazing. The most common glaze used on earthenwares in China is a lead-fluxed glaze.
Enamel     In ceramics terms an enamel is a glass or glaze-like substance, which is applied either to a fired ceramic body or on top of a fired glaze. In either case, after the application of the enamel the ceramic object is fired a second time at a lower temperature than the initial biscuit or glaze firing. Overglaze enamels seem first to have been used in China in the Jin period (1115-1279) at the Cizhou kilns. Certain combinations of underglaze blue and enamels, and certain palettes of enamel colours on Chinese porcelain have recognised names. The best knowns are doucai, wucai, famille verte (wucai or yingcai) and famille rose (fencai)
Famille noire     This is a variant of the famille verte palette in which black is the ground colour. In the case of Kangxi (1662-1722) famille noire, the black enamel is always covered with a transparent pale green enamel.
Famille rose     This overglaze enamel palette was developed in the late Kangxi and early Yongzheng (1723-35) periods. It is characterised by the use of an opaque white enamel, an opaque yellow enamel, an opaque yellow enamel and a pink enamel derived from colloidal gold, which gives the palette its name. The Chinese name for this palette is fencai (powder colours)
Famille verte     This palette, which became popular in the Kangxi period, usually includes only overglaze enamels, but prior to the development latter case it is known in China as wucai (five colours), while the completely overglaze palette is sometimes referred to as yingcai (hard exception of the red and black enamels. Gold is also frequently included in the decoration.
Glaze     A glaze is a glass-like coating applied to the surface of a ceramic body. On low-fired wares it may serve to make them impermeable, while on high-fired wares it is decorative. The finely ground materials of the glaze composition are usually applied to the body in suspension in water. The ceramic object may be dipped into a vat of glaze, the glaze vessel through a tube with gauze over the end.
Kaolin (Gaolingtu)     China clay, a white-burning clay used in the manufacture of porcelain.
Kraak porselein     A type of porcelain made in China in the 16th and 17th centuries for export, mainly to Europe. The name kraak is Dutch and may come from the Dutch word meaning to break or from the Dutch and may come from the Dutch name for a carrack- a type of cargo vessel. A Portuguese ship of this type, the Santa Catarina, was captured by the Dutch in 1603/4, and its large cargo of Chinese porcelain was sold in Amsterdam for huge sums of money. Several European Royal households purchased items from the sale.
Lead glazes     Glazes in which lead oxide is the main fluxing agent (i.e. included in order to reduce the melting point of the glaze). Lead glazes mature at relatively low temperatures and produce glazes with good bright colours using colorants such as oxides of iron and copper.
Lingzhi     Sacred fungus (polyporous lucidus), which is associated with Daoism and symbolic of longevity.
Oxidizing atmosphere     An atmosphere is the kiln during firing when a maximum amount of oxygen is allowed into the kiln.
Paste     A term sometimes applied to clay bodies.
Petuntse     See Baidunzi.
Porcelain     Vitrified, translucent ceramics, which have been fired at a temperature of at least 1 280'C. Most accepted definitions of this term also require that the body material is white when fired. In China the glaze and body are usually fired together and form a thick body/glaze layer, which makes the material very strong. Usually the primary components of a Chinese porcelain body are China clay and China stone.
Pottery     Low-firing ceramics. The term is usually confined to earthenware. Porcellanous stoneware High-firing ceramic that has most of the characteristics of porcelain, but fails to meet all the criteria, such as translucency or whiteness.
Qingbai     Porcelain first made at the Jingdezhen kilns in the Song period, which has a transparent, glassy, bluish toned glaze. The Chinese name may be translated as "blue-white". The decoration on qingbai porcelains was applied by carving, incising or moulding. Imitations of Jingdezhen qingbai porcelains were made at numerous kilns in south China.
Reducing atmosphere     An atmosphere in the kiln during firing, in which the amount of oxygen entering the kiln is severely restricted. If there is insufficient oxygen in the kiln, one of the products of the combustion of fuels is carbon monoxide. At high temperatures carbon monoxide will combine with oxygen from oxides in ceramic materials. When these oxides have some of their oxygen taken by the carbon monoxide (which becomes carbon dioxide in the process), then they are said to have been reduced. This process is essential in order to produce some glaze colours, most notably the greens and blues of celadon glazes.
Ruyi     The name in Chinese provides a homophone for "everything as you wish". Ruyi sceptres often have a leaf or stylised cloud-shaped head. This form, when applied to other decorative objects is described as a ruyi.
Saggar     A fireclay box in which ceramic objects are fired to protect them from kiln debris and from direct contact with the flames or smoke in the kiln. Saggars help to ensure that an even temperature is maintained around the objects and facilitate stacking.
Sancai     The term literally means "three colours" and refers to a lead-glazed palette popular during the Tang period. The three basic colours were green, cream and amber, but blue and black were also used. This palette was revived in later periods.
Sgraffiato     A decorative technique that includes incising through or cutting away one layer to reveal another of a different colour and/or texture. The technique was applied in a number of variant forms to Cizhou stonewares, on which one layer of slip was usually cut to reveal the body material or another slip beneath.
Shufu     Porcelain with rather matt, opaque bluish-white glaze, produced at Jingdezhen in the Yuan dynasty. Moulded decoration appears on the interior of most vessels. Some vessels have the characters shu and fu moulded on their interior. It is believed that these vessels were made for a Yuan government department called the Shumiyuan. Shufu vessels were also exported.
Slip     Fluid mixture of clay and water, usually white but sometimes coloured. Slips can be applied to the surface of clay objects to provide an even surface or desirable colour. They can also be used to paint decoration in the same colour as the ground (see anhua) or in a contrasting colour, as on Cizhou wares.
Stoneware     An impermeable ceramic, which is harder and stronger than earthenware. Stonewares are usually fired at between 1200° and 1300°C. The body material is of various colours and when fired stonewares are not translucent. In China the body and glaze of stonewares are usually fired at the same temperature and form an integrated body-glaze layer.
Transitional porcelain     Porcelains made at Jingdezhen during a period, which spans the end of the Ming dynasty and the beginning of the Qing dynasty. The dates for Transitional porcelains are usually taken as the end of the Ming Wanli Emperor's reign (AD 1619), when the imperial kilns were no longer active, to AD 1683, when official wares were once again made for the court, following the rebuilding of the Qing imperial kilns on the orders of the Kangxi Emperor.
Yingqing     Literal translation "shadow blue". See Qingbai.
Wucai     The wucai style of decoration combines underglaze blue and overglaze enamels. The name translates as "five colours" - blue, red, yellow, green and black, although other colours were also used. In this style of decoration underglaze blue was used for discrete areas of the design, rather than as outlines (as in the doucai style). Wucai was at its most popular in the 1 6th and 1 7th centuries, but was seen less frequently in succeeding periods.
FURNITURE                                                                                                                               back to top
Huanghuali     The principal hardwood used for furniture from the mid Ming until the first part of the Qing. Now almost extinct it is native to some parts of southern China, the colour ranges from golden yellow to an orange/red.
Zitan     The densest, most expensive and most prised of all woods, imported mainly from Indochina it's colour is a dark brown/purple, occasionally with brilliant golden flecks.
Jichimu     Known as "chicken wing wood" it has a dramatic grain, which often has an alternating brown and grey-feathered pattern.
Jumu     A type of elm, this softer wood was widely used to make furniture in both provincial and more sophisticated styles in both the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Nanmu     Highly prized for its light even colour and resistance to shrinkage, Nanmu (Cedar) was often used in conjunction with other woods.
Hongmu     A term often used to describe hardwoods especially those used today.
Yu     Used for nephrite, jadeite and some other hardstones.
Cong     Jade ceremonial object of square section with cylindrical hole, of varying height; symbol of earth.
Bi     Flat disc with central hole, for ceremonial use; symbol of heaven.
Gui     Ceremonial tablet
Huang     Semi-circular jade
PAINTING                                                                                                                                 back to top
Pomo     Ink wash 'broken' by darker ink
Baimiao     Outline drawing
Wenrenhua     Literati painting
Feibai     Flying white: strokes where the hairs of the brush separate and leave white spaces
Cun     'Wrinkles': different types of brush stroke
Pimacun     Hemp-fibre strokes
Yudiancun     Rain-drop strokes
Fupicun     Axe-cut strokes
Shanshui     Landscape (literally "mountains and water")
Renwuhua     Figure painting
Huaniaohua     Bird and flower painting
Gongbihua     Realistic painting
Shoujuan     Handscroll
Lizhou     Hanging scroll
Ceye     Album leaves
Shanmian     Fan
Bihua     Wall painting
Juanben     Work on silk
Zhiben     Work on paper
Ling     Imperial tumulus
Shendao     Spirit way along the axis of the tumulus leading from the gateway to the tomb
Muzhiming     Funerary epitaph
Mingqi     Funerary objects placed in the tomb
Taoyong     Pottery figurine
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