Longquan celadon

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Flask, Yuan dynasty, 1271-1368
Truncated with mountings Longquan Celadon in the Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey.

Longquan celadon (龍泉青瓷) refers to green-glazed Chinese ceramics, known in the West as celadon, produced in kilns which were largely located in Lishui prefecture in southwestern Zhejiang Province in the south of China. Including those in other prefectures a total of over 200 kiln sites have been discovered, making the Longquan celadon production area one of the largest historical ceramic producing areas in China.

Celadon production had a long history at Longquan and related sites, but it was not until the Five Dynasties (907–960) and Northern Song (960–1127) period that large-scale production began. Longquan celadons were an important part of China's export economy for over five-hundred years, and were widely imitated in other countries, especially Korea and Japan. Imperial kilns were established by the government, making large quantities of wares through the court.

In traditional Western terms, celadons are counted as stoneware, since the fired clay body is neither white nor translucent. In the traditional Chinese classification, which divides pottery into low-fired earthenware and high-fired porcelain, they count as porcelain. Compromise terms such as "porcellanous stoneware" may be used to describe the pieces. The Longquan celadons were the finest of a range of celadon wares produced in China, and led stylistic and technical developments. The celadons were produced in a range of shades of colour, centred on olive-green, but extending to greenish blues. All these come from the glaze; the body beneath is a terracotta brown, sometimes left partly unglazed as part of the decoration. The wares are hardly ever painted; decoration comes from the shape and carved or incised designs in the body.

From the twentieth century native and foreign enthusiasts and scholars have visited the kiln sites and excavated there. Among modern Chinese scholars, the main kiln sites were first systematically investigated by Chen Wanli in 1927 and 1934.


A Longquan Ware Celadon Vase, Song Dynasty, 13th Century, from the Nantoyōsō Collection, Japan

Five Dynasty wares displayed a variety of shapes and carved finishes with the characteristic "Yuezhou" (岳州) glaze. In the Northern Song period the Dayao (大窯) kiln site alone produced wares at twenty-three separate kilns. The era of greatest ceramic production was not until the Southern Song (1127–1279), Yuan (1271–1368) and Ming (1368–1644) periods.

Southern Song celadons display the greatest variety of shape and glaze color. Japanese tea masters and collectors have treasured examples with a decidedly bluish glaze which they have termed "kinutaseiji" (砧青瓷). Chinese collectors have noted a greater variety of Longquan ware and devised a special vocabulary to describe them such as meizi ching or "plum green" celadon. After the Southern Song period Longquan celadon experienced an expansion of production with a lessening of quality. However even the stoutly potted celadons of the Ming period have had their imitators at Jingdezhen and in Japan. Scholarly appreciation of Longquan celadon experienced great progress with the discovery of a sunken trade vessel in Sinan County off the Korean coast in 1976. It was discovered that finely finished Southern Song style celadon was manufactured well into the Mongol or Yuan period.[1]

According to local gazetteer entries two celebrated ceramicists and brothers, Zhang Shengyi (章生一) and Zhang Shenger (章生二), worked at the main Dayao kilns The Longquan Prefecture Gazetteer (龍泉省志) noted that their celadon reached jade-like perfection. Thus began the Ming period tradition of dividing the best Longquan wares into Elder Brother and Younger Brother categories. Elder Brother ware was thought to be the Geyao (哥窯) crackle glaze ware treasured by collectors throughout history. Recently this confusion has begun to be resolved with excavations of the Hangzhou official ware kilns and others.


  1. ^ 어은영 (2007-04-14). 중국보물선에 실린 용천청자(用天靑瓷) (in Korean). Internet Daily NewsHankuk. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 


  • Zhejiang Light Industry Office, A Study of Longquan Celadon, Wenwu Publishing House, Beijing, 1989.
  • National Museum of Korea, Special exhibition of Cultural Relics Found Off the Coast of Korea, Samhwa Publishing Co., Seoul, 1977.
  • Hanaoka and Barberri trans., Masahiko Sato, Chinese Ceramics: A Short History, Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo, 1978.

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Coordinates: 28°04′30″N 119°07′15″E / 28.07500°N 119.12083°E / 28.07500; 119.12083