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

Longquan Celadon ware from the 13th century

Longquan Celadon, also known in the West as greenware, is a beautiful type of Chinese porcelain. It was produced in Zhejiang province from around 960 to 1550, and the green items were made for everyday use.

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 given to them from the mountains from which they could 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 jade and have been made as an imitation of bronze pottery.

The best craftsmen in Zhejiang province worked in the Longquan kilns.

The perfect glazed and glossy green color was created in the Song Dynasty, and later it became a traditional style also used during the Yuan Dynasty.

Longquan Celadon ware from the 13th century

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

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. 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 items for both domestic and foreign markets. 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. 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. 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 Longquan kilns which started to produce pieces in enormous sizes.

These large items of Longquan Celadon were mostly made for the rulers in East and West Asia.

A plate decorated with fish from the 14th century. 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, and they had the color of a dead leaf.

In the 20th century, archaeologists from the country tried to restore many of the Longquan 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 Longquan have not been not found, and some of the skills for making this ware are lost for good.

Fiesta dinnerware: Recognizable by its bright colors and Art Deco styling

Some existing formulas helped current artisans to pass on some part of the technique successfully. Today, incredible copies of Longquan Celadon have been made in China, Korea, and Japan.