Longhuan Celadon: A stunning Chinese pottery style which mimics the colors of jade

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Marija Georgievska
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Longquan Celadon is a type of Chinese pottery which is one of the best in the country. It was produced mainly in the Zhejiang province, and the green items were made for everyday use. The celadon is believed to be a mix of the essences of the moon and the sun which made it very important in Chinese culture.

It is considered to be the most beautiful resource that was given to them from the mountains from which they can make items that also have a spiritual significance. Many people use them at the time of meditation and link their merged colors with the mortal and the spiritual worlds. The plates, vases, and vessels look like shiny green jades and have been made as an imitation of bronze pottery.

The best craftsmen in the Zhejiang province worked in the famous Longquan kilns which produce objects made of celadon for almost 1800 years. The perfect glazed and glossy green color was created in the Song Dynasty, and later it became a traditional ware also used during the Yuan Dynasty.

Experts say that this pottery originates from the Yue wares dating back to 220 B.C. It was the period of the Three Kingdoms and centuries later celadon porcelain from this time was found in tombs near the province.

Longhuan Celadon ware from the 13th century.

Vessels have been found that have different shades of color, from blue-green to olive green. These ancient ceramics were high-fired and had different colors because of the conditions of firing and the mixture of the glaze. When the technique evolved in the Song dynasty, the court ordered the kilns to produce rare items with high quality which could be exported overseas.

A celadon vase from the Yuan period. Author: ReijiYamashina. CC BY-SA 3.0

They were bought mostly by the elite and became very popular. The production of the celadon ware for everyday use started during the Yuan dynasty, and the items were sold at decent prices. More than 350 kilns were active at that period making wares for exportation. Many pieces were exported to Japan, and one of the finest was found in the tomb of the military leader Kanazawa Sada-Aki in the Shomyoji Temple in Yokohama.

An item decorated with lotus petals. Author: Ashley Van Haeften. CC BY 2.0

There are still some celadon items such as incense burners from the 13th century in the collection of the temple. The most common decoration was the lotus which was carved on the exterior. Other motifs were inspired by animals, mythological creatures, and various flowers. On some of the items, there are simple carvings of dragons, fish, and phoenixes.

Celadon urns decorated with dragons, birds, and dogs. Author: Johnbod. CC BY-SA 4.0

At the beginning of the 14th century, during the Kamakura period, many new styles and shapes of celadon wares were made at the Longhuan kilns which started to produce pieces in enormous sizes. These large items were mostly done for the rulers in East and West Asia.

A plate decorated with fish from the 14th century. Author: Valerie McGlinchey. CC BY-SA 2.0 uk

Large vases and plates were made that served as interior decorations of their homes. The most important pieces made in Japan in the same period were known as Old Seto which had the color of a dead leaf. In the 20th century, archaeologists from the country tried to restore many of the Longhuan kilns which were destroyed during the Japanese occupation.

A vase from the 13th century.

From 1945 to 1947 more than 300 kilns were discovered near the province filled with vases, vessels, and plates which are the most significant contribution for rebuilding celadon production. Many of the kilns in Longhuan have not been not found, and some of the skills for making this ware are lost for good. Some existing formulas helped current artisans to pass on some part of the technique successfully. Today, incredible copies have been made in China, Korea, and Japan.