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Chinese Ceramics

Censer (incense burner)
Song dynasty (AD 960–1279)
Stoneware, glaze (celadon)
2.75 in. high x 3.5 in. diameter
Museum purchase
(formerly in the collection of
Ambassador Alexander Otto)

[click on images for larger view]

Incense burner (Longquan ware)
Yuan/Ming dynasty
(Yuan dynasty, AD 1279–1368;
Ming Dynasty, AD 1368–1644)
Stoneware, glaze (celadon)
11.5 in. high x 12 in. diameter
Estate of Ruth Prime

Section 3:

Fit for the Emperor

By becoming an official, supervising the making of ceramics for the emperor and his court, I become part of a tradition that reaches back hundreds of years. The ceramics made in Chinese kilns during the Song Dynasty [view Chinese Dynasties] are among those most highly prized by our emperors.

This Song incense burner that we use in rituals is a beautiful blue-green color the Europeans call celadon. One of the things that I learned in my studies is that the beautiful and delicate color—like a bird's egg—comes from small amounts of iron in the glaze. When the pot or bowl or incense burner is heated very hot in the kiln, the glaze turns blue-green. We still make celadon ceramics—some for the emperor, some for use by Chinese people, and others to sell in far away lands.

By the way, some of the kilns that we use are called dragon kilns. That's because they are tunnels that twist up along the slope of a mountain like a dragon twists through the clouds. They also become very hot, just like a dragon's breath! [view Ceramic Secrets]


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