China has one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations despite many invasions and periods of foreign rule. All three types of ceramic ware have been produced in China: Earthenware, Stoneware and Porcelain, with the Chinese credited with the earliest stoneware and porcelain. Their earliest pottery, dating to 8000 BCE was earthenware as in other parts of the world. One of the most noteworthy of the early Chinese pottery traditions can be found in the Yellow River valley area known as Gansu, and this pottery dates from 3000-1500 BCE. It is formed from a reddish brown clay, and shows several characteristics in common with Neolithic pottery from the Middle East: it is all coil built and polychrome slip painted with geometric designs in a palette of red, black and brown. Here a bold design of spirals terminating in hands flows around this globular vessel. The handles were placed for the insertion of a rope for carrying, making this a pot for water transportation and storage. These pots were often used as burial urns as well. The forms of Chinese pottery as strong and aesthetically pleasing, as author Michael Sullivan commented, "The forms of Chinese art are . . . in the widest and deepest sense harmonious. . . . we can appreciate them because we feel their rhythms all around in nature, and instinctively respond to them."


GANSU ware vessel, Neolithic

China, 3000 BCE, 8.5" height


Curriculum directory index