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Chinese Pottery

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Submitted By sumsumbum
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Throughout Chinese history there were eight dynasties, including three before the famous six, along with those, and within the eight dynasties many kinds of ceramic arts were developed. All of the dynasties are equally important, to each culture’s time they learned new ways to build, glaze, fire and perfect ceramics and porcelain. The first couple of dynasties always shape the forthcoming dynasties into greatness. The Neolithic era, the Bronze Age, and the Han era were the foundations, the beginnings of the famous crisp blue and satin white porcelain, and the gorgeous ceramic pottery of what ceramics you see in China today. In the Neolithic period, the invention of pottery or ceramics around 5000-2200 B.C., the idea grew and changed exponentially throughout the course of history. The Neolithic dynasty had many trial and errors; after all they were the first to discover ceramics. Most or almost all of the pottery that came out of the Neolithic dynasty was not glazed, considering that glazing wasn’t really discovered yet. The regions with the most influence of pottery were the cultures of Ta-ti-wan, Pan-Po, Miao-ti-kou, and Lung shan.
The pottery from the Neolithic era was almost always hand built; with reds, grays, and black wares, always complimented the craftsmanship of the ceramic pottery. Since the discovery of glaze wasn’t quite established yet, the normal design for a ceramic piece of this time was carving, painting or having plain black pottery. The photo above is a vessel designed to store food or water. With all the intricate designs and details indicates it was a very special prized possession, normally jars like these are found in burial grounds.
Some of the oldest kilns started out used for cooking, light, warmth and protection. Once the discovery of ceramic pottery began the kiln served another purpose. Although the actual date of the discovery of the firing process isn’t known, the best assumption of when it had happened was 10,000 years ago, roughly. The oldest kilns were very simple; basically a shallow pit in the ground. The pottery was stacked loosely, and then combustible materials were placed around the pottery and above. The main requirements to have a successful fired batch needed were insulation, a loading area, fuel, and oxygen. When the ceramics were done, they were cleaned from the ash and residue left on them. This way of firing made the pottery very porous and fragile, and the cause of that was because of the low temperatures, (1000-1200 Fahrenheit). With such low temperatures, the glazing process was nowhere near possible, and the discovery wasn’t until much later. Although this was an easy low cost method of firing pottery, the disadvantages were more than the advantages considering that there were low temperature limitations, and the pottery itself was very fragile, also many of the pieces broke during the firing process because of the poor insulation and erratic nature of the firing. The pit kiln also loses a lot of its heat considering the heat is on the top instead of the bottom. The early potters did try putting the energy source at the bottom, but since the logs holding the pottery was wood it fell, breaking all of the ceramics, resulting to having to put the heat source on top.
The beehive kiln was a huge step up from the pit kiln in ways of firing and technology. The huge contrasts from the pit kiln to the beehive kiln are that the pit kiln was in the ground compared to the beehive kiln that is above ground. The heat source for the Beehive kiln is underneath the chamber, while the pit kiln had the heat source on the top. With this method the pottery was able to get more retention of heat while with the pit kiln it was hit and miss. This design had a new addition, a flue and a damper; these controlled the oxygen ventilation; without ventilation the kiln will not fire correctly. The damper regulates the size of the hole at the top of the kiln. Fire needs oxygen to survive, so the oxygenated air enters the bottom of the kiln at the firebox, thus fueling the fire to continue the firing process of ceramics.
The next big invention in China around 500 A.D. that seemed to work stupendously was the Climbing Kiln, also referred to a stepped kiln or hillside kiln. This kiln is a more modified version of the beehive kiln but with more space capacity to hold more pieces of ceramics, and with the popularity of ceramics, pottery making was a primary activity, this helped fired copious amounts of pottery. The chambers are connected so the heat can move from the first chamber all the way up to the last one. They way the heat passes through the chambers is by rising up the chamber one, then travels down to the opening to chamber two, as the chamber one is fired to the full potential of heat, the kiln master starts to stack firewood in the firebox, with this method, the process continues from chamber one. Repeats the same path, rising with heat falling, refueling and entering chamber three, and the process continues till all of the chambers reach the finally fired temperature.
The climbing kiln reached new highs with ceramic history by reaching high temperatures than any other kiln in the past. Between the increased thickness of the walls (necessary to reinforce these large chambers), the recycling of wasted heat, the multiple fireboxes all combined together creating the highest temperatures to historical date for the time period.
The climbing type of kiln several disadvantages occurred with the design. The climbing kiln required large amounts of pottery in order to work and for a individual potter this was a very difficult task to achieve which makes it better for community potters since they all make ceramics compared to one potter. This method increased the volume of pottery in China exponentially.…...

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