Blue & White

Practically speaking, Chinese blue and white porcelain is contrived using a blue pigment from cobalt oxide. It creates designs on clean white clay which is glazed and fired at high temperatures, but the history of blue and white Chinese pottery is much more poetic.

Blue and white ceramics hold a special significance in the rich and varied history of China’s pottery industry and the origin of the famous blue gained recognition during the Tang dynasty (618 – 907). However it wasn’t until the Mongolian-ruled Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368) that the production techniques of what has become antique blue and white stoneware reached maturity.

As the Silk Road trade route flourished, cobalt ores were imported from Persia and were an extremely expensive and scarce commodity used only sparingly, hence why blue and white China antique vases, bowls and plates are highly desired by collectors, both for their beauty and their scarcity.

The Yuan artisans took extraordinary pride in their work because it had a mythological, almost religious element, the Yuan mythical animal large charger in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (collection number EAX.1707) is a classical representation.

Chinese blue and white porcelain has always been highly prized, often reserved for diplomatic gifts and special occasions.

Available Pieces
  • M5270and1

    £65,000

    A pair of Chinese porcelain blue and white large ovoid ginger jars and covers, each painted with four different panels, two of landscape and two with the bogu tu, ‘100 antiques’, one vase with two landscape panels with scholar and attendant crossing a rocky promontory in a mountain river landscape scene, the other with a single scholar crossing a rocky promontory in a mountain river landscape scene with viewing pavilion and buildings beneath mountains and birds in flight and a scene with addition of a fisherman in his boat, the ‘100 antiques’ panels including vases of archaic gu form holding peacock feathers, censers, wrapped qins, ruyi-sceptres, weiqi board, rings, music stone, scrolls, books and precious objects, all on a rich blue floral cash ground between ruyi-lappets painted in reverse with white flowerheads on a blue ground, beneath a keyfret band at the shoulder, the covers with bogu tu with different bands at the rim, one with a ruyi-band, one with a fruit and floral band, each beneath a crenellated band.

  • M5261

    £12,500

    Chinese porcelain blue and white lotus form teapot and cover, one side with a fisherman seated in his boat, the other with a scholar seated on a rocky promontory in a mountain river landscape scene, between relief lotus leaf petals painted with flowers, the spout set on another petal panel painted with a fisherman in his boat beneath birds in flight, and the handle set on a further panel with river landscape scene, the cover with relief lotus pods amongst flowering branches.

  • M5374

    £5,850

    Chinese porcelain blue and white pierced openwork small cup painted with five Buddhist lion circular medallions, all on a intricate cash form openwork ground between bands of scrolling foliage at the rim and above a band of lappets at the foot, glazed on the interior, the base unglazed.

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  • M5371

    £32,500

    Chinese porcelain blue and white bitong of gu form painted with flared neck and relief ribbed body, painted on the top register in a continuous scene with flowering prunus branches and birds, one perched on the branch, the other in flight, with a large open-winged butterfly amongst other plants with a spray of large leaves, bamboo and grasses, the raised middle band with a continuous scrolling branch above lappets and leaves, the base unglazed.

  • M5372

    £58,000

    Chinese porcelain blue and white brushpot of slender gu form with flared neck and gently everted foot, painted with a seated scholar on an oval floral rug, raising his left hand while holding a wine cup while his attendant pours the wine from the ewer, beside wine jars and food container and a large screen, in a continuous landscape amongst rockwork, bamboo, grass, wutong and branches, divided by cloud banks, the central raised band with two branches of scrolling flowering lotus above a band of leaves, the base unglazed.

  • R1279

    £12,500

    Pair of Chinese porcelain blue and white ovoid tea caddies and covers, each painted in a continuous scene with ladies standing in a garden each holding a branch, one with an attendant carrying a wrapped qin, all amongst rockwork, fencing and plantain, the covers with boys, each base with a four-character mark of Chenghua.

  • M5291

    £2,250

    Chinese porcelain blue and white moulded Kraak saucer dish painted in the centre with a stylised flowerhead medallion with a bird perched on rockwork, amongst flowering camelia and other plants, encircled by ten petal-shape moulded medallions of aster between different panels of precious objects including scrolls and music stones.

  • M5295

    £2,250

    Chinese porcelain blue and white moulded Kraak saucer dish painted in the centre with a grasshopper perched on rockwork amongst flowering camelia and daisies, encircled by ten petal-shape moulded medallions of aster between different panels of precious objects including scroll, leaf and gourd.

  • R1347

    £9,850

    Chinese porcelain blue and white and underglaze copper-red thinly potted shallow bowl, painted on the interior with a central flowering lotus plant with leaves, bud and arrowhead, surrounded by sprays of prunus, lily and chrysanthemum, beneath a single underglaze blue line at the rim, the exterior with two stylised branches beneath two rings at the rim, the base with a six-character mark of Xuande within a single ring.

  • R1340

    £8,500

    Chinese porcelain blue and white octagonal bowl with pierced ‘reticulated’ roundels on each facet in pairs of honeycomb, wave, fretwork and cash, set within trapezoid windows, above a scroll and pearl pattern above a keyfret band, the interior glazed white, the base and foot rim unglazed.

  • R1337 

    £2,450

    Chinese porcelain blue and white small ovoid jar and a cover, painted with prunus flowerheads and petals on a cracked-ice ground, with triangular diaper on the shoulder and lappets on the edge of the cover, the underside with two rings in underglaze blue.  

  • M5211

    £5,850

    Chinese porcelain blue and white minyao small dish with flat everted rim, painted in the centre with a four-clawed dragon amongst stylised flames within a double ring in underglaze blue, the border with swirling and crested waves with prunus flower heads, the underside with five previous objects including music stone, pearl and scrolls each tied at the ribbon.

  • M4818

    £26,000

    Chinese porcelain blue and white circular box and cover painted overall with an intricate basket weave pattern intertwined with flowers on a blue washed ground, the interior plain, the base with a four-character mark of Xuande in underglaze blue.

  • M4815

    £28,000

    Chinese porcelain blue and white large deep saucer dish of thickly potted form painted with a fabulous seated qilin amongst stylised flames, rockwork and plantain beneath the moon, all within a single line in underglaze blue and beneath a brown dressed rim, the underside plain with a wide channel foot rim, the blue of luminous tone. The base with an incised Chinese collector’s mark, da zhai (grand hall).

  • M4241

    £18,000

    A rare and large Chinese porcelain blue and white bowl painted on the exterior with a dragon and phoenix bird amongst stylised flames, waves and flower sprays, the interior painted with a bird perched on rockwork amongst flowers encircled by a wide band of different flower sprays beneath butterflies in flight, blue glazed washed rim.

  • R1227

    £3,850

    Chinese porcelain blue and white rectangular tea caddy and circular cover on four bracket feet, painted on the wide sides with vases and precious objects including a weiqi board, counter holder, books, censer and scrolls, the short sides with flowering branches, the flat shoulder with reverse technique flower sprays on a blue ground, the top of the cover similarly decorated.

  • R1112

    £9,500

    A Chinese porcelain blue and white vase with globular body with twelve moulded panels, each enclosing flowering branches, the shoulder with band of ruyi-heads, the mouth of conical form, painted with stylised foliage above a protruding brown band, all above a slightly splayed foot with brown glazed edge, the base with artemisia leaf mark within a double ring.

  • M1373

    £10,500

    Blue and white two handled tripod incense burner painted in a continuous mountain river scene, each side with two fisherman in boats heading towards viewing pavilions with a willow amongst rockwork beneath further viewing pavilions at the shoulder, birds in flight amongst stylised clouds and the moon, the interior of the handle painted with a yang symbol of three unbroken lines, the exterior of the handles with a single line beneath a dot, covered overall in a rich blue tinged glaze continuing on the interior, the rim and feet with mushikui.

Further information on Blue & White

During the early Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), the supply of cobalt oxide from Persia was briefly halted due to foreign trade restrictions and a locally-mined cobalt was used. It’s high concentration of manganese resulted in a softer, more pale blue and it continued to be used all the way through the reigns of emperors Xuande, Chenghua and Zhengde through the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

It was also at this time that smalt cobalt – achieved by mixing cobalt oxide with molten glass and brought to China by Zheng He’s maritime expeditions – was used to create stunning blue and white Chinese pottery. It resulted in brilliant blues visible in the glazed surfaces of blue and white china antique plates, blue and white china antique vases and blue and white china antique bowls.

As was their wont, the desirability of what has become antique blue and white stoneware was largely dependent on the tastes of each emperor. The fifth Ming emperor Xuande enjoyed Mineral Blue (shizi qing) from Jiangxi province mixed with Muslim Blue (huiqing) from predominantly Central Asia. This generated a deeper purplish-blue tone while the favoured blue and white Chinese porcelain of the ninth Ming emperor Chenghua used the locally-sourced cobalt with high concentrations of manganese, resulting in a paler hue for the blue and white ceramics produced for his Imperial court.

You should also check

Monochromes

Objects of single-colour.

Cloisonné

Cloisonné pieces from the Ming & Qing dynasties

Doucai

Doucai ceramics, where parts of the design and some outlines, are painted in underglaze blue, the piece is then enamelled, glazed and fired.