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A Source of Imperial Pride - Ge Ware

By OGP Reporters / Members Contribute File Photos

Oh Good Party

Some porcelains were more highly valued than others in imperial China. We can identify the most valued types by their association with the court, either as tribute offerings, or as products of kilns under imperial supervision. Some of the best-known examples are of Jingdezhen porcelain. During the Ming dynasty, Jingdezhen porcelain become a source of imperial pride. It's fame came to a peak in the Qing dynasty.

We visited Mr. YE Kewei recently, the inheritor of Ge Ware of YE Family. He is the first son of Mr. YE Dekui.


YE Kewei was born in 1975 in Yunhe, Zhejiang. His father - YE Dekui was the domestic authority of the ancient ceramic experts. YE Kewei inheritanced his father's collections and porcelain artworks after YE Dekui was pass away. Then he continues his father's work of traditional porcelain culture researches. His achievements of porcelain artworks and professional articles have been documented in record books such as Chinese Palace Museum published ‘Antique Alike Porcelains of Natural Beauty: Selected Masterpieces of the YE's Ge Ware‘. His artworks have been displayed on various exhibitions and also recorded in books. In 2014, the event was "Innovation World: The Cultural Exchange between Masters of China and France" by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, Chinese and Foreign Cultural Exchange Center. Mr. YE Kewei's six porcelain artworks represented Chinese traditional cultures to participated in France.


Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. Its range from construction materials such as bricks and tiles, to hand-built pottery vessels fired in bonfires or kilns, to the sophisticated Chinese porcelain wares made for the imperial court and for export.


Porcelain is so identified with China that it is still called "china" in everyday English usage. Nowhere in the world has pottery assumed such importance as in China, and the influence of Chinese porcelain on later European pottery has been profound. Most later Chinese ceramics, even of the finest quality, were made on an industrial scale, thus few names of individual potters were recorded.


Many of the most important kiln workshops were owned by or reserved for the Emperor, and large quantities of ceramics were exported as diplomatic gifts or for trade from an early date.


Ge ware (哥), or Ko ware is a type of celadon or greenware in Chinese pottery. Its feature is deliberate crackle, or a network of cracks in the glaze; but this is not restricted to them, and in particular the related Guan ware uses very similar effects. Ge ware makes together with Guan ware (官), Ding ware (定), Jun ware (钧) and Ru ware (汝) up the 'Five Great Kilns of the Song dynasty', also known as 'Five Famous Kilns'.


While each of these wares has its own distinctive characteristics the southern crackled wares of Guan and Ge have retained their mystery. While no unaminity of opinion have been reached it is generally thought that those wares with a single network of wide dark grey crackles are Guan, and those with a double crackle is called "gold thread and iron wire", should be designated Ge.


Ge ware often shows "double crackle" or crackle of two types, and one view is that this is the defining characteristic of the type. Ge Ware is of two distinct types, one with a ‘rice-yellow’ glaze displaying two sets of crackles (craquelure), one set more prominent and dark in colour, this being interspersed with a finer craquelure of red lines. The second type is similar to Guan Ware with a grey-blue opaque glaze of matte appearance displaying a single craquelure. Ge Ware was initially thought to have been manufactured in the Longquan kilns but it is now thought that this ware was also made in Jingdezhen.


Ge typically has a grayish-blue glaze that is fully opaque with an almost matte finish. Its crackle pattern is exaggerated, often standing out in bold black. Though still shrouded in mystery, many specialists believe that Ge ware did not develop until the very late Southern Song or even the Yuan. In any case, enthusiasm for it persisted throughout the Ming. Differences between later Ming imitations of Song/Yuan Ge include: Ming versions substitute a white porcelain body; they tend to be produced in a range of new shapes, for example those for the scholar's studio; glazes tend to be thinner and more lustrous; and slip is applied to the rim and base to simulate the "brown mouth and iron foot" of Guan ware.


Ge porcelain of the Song dynasty is very precious, and it has highly favored by royal families and collectors. Especially, Emperor Qianlong was fond of Ge porcelain, and ordered the imperial factory to imitate them. Because of the scarcity of existence, the past dynasties also competed to copy, but they were unable to surpass the artistic realm of Song Dynasty.


In 1992, Christie's Hong Kong auctioned a Song Dynasty Ge kiln "Eight Sides with Ear Vase". Although there were still people in the collectors who held different opinions at that time, the auction price was still as high as 10 million yuan. Now Ge ware porcelains were mainly collected in museums in Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan and other places.


Ge ware culture is an important part of Chinese porcelain culture, and in today's China, the research results of the "Ye's Ge Ware" porcelain workshop are the most representative in this field.


"Ge" means "older brother" and the ware apparently takes its name from one of two potter Zhang brothers, from a story repeated in many sources from the Yuan onwards, with uncertain significance. They were both Longquan potters, perhaps in the Southern Song, though this is unclear. The elder brother developed a very special type of ware; the later sources say this was distinguished by crackled glaze, and Ge ware is supposed to be this type. The younger brother also developed a fine style of pottery, which is often taken to be the best quality early Longquan celadon. It is claimed that the Ge Ware kiln used clay from the same source as the Guan Ware kiln, which goes some way to explain why these wares are so similar, and are, therefore, difficult to distinguish apart.


Some porcelains were more highly valued than others in imperial China. We can identify the most valued types by their association with the court, either as tribute offerings, or as products of kilns under imperial supervision. Some of the best-known examples are of Jingdezhen porcelain. During the Ming dynasty, Jingdezhen porcelain become a source of imperial pride.It's fame came to a peak in the Qing dynasty.


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