A line from a Chinese poem reads, “After creating a pottery with clay, you will see extraordinary light and color.”A handful of clay, after being kneaded, fired, and quenched, has developed into a variety of shapes over a long history. This is pottery, one of the oldest handicrafts in China.
Pottery was first used to store food by ancestors before extending to scenarios of sacrifices, funerals, and aesthetics. In the Neolithic Period (6500–1700 BC), antique Chinese pottery underwent a transition from red pottery, grey pottery, colored pottery, black pottery to white pottery, either in the plain form or with animal and geometric patterns. A great many types of ware, such as pottery basins, flat bowls, jars, and double-ear pots, are still in use today.
It was pottery that contributed to the reputable architecture of the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) and Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the magnificent terracotta soldiers and horses of the Qin Dynasty, the vivid talking and singing figurines of the Han Dynasty, and the remarkable tri-colored glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). After the Song Dynasty (960-1279), pottery was gradually eclipsed by porcelain, but Chinese people’ s affection with pottery has never decreased.
Chinese people love pottery out of the spirit to “achieve unity between human and pottery” and the respect for the sense of life in clay. Pottery, also called Tao in Mandarin, is applied in many Chinese idioms, such as Taoqing Shixing (make people happy), Lele Taotao (feel happy and contented), and Qianxing Taoqing (express feelings and cultivate temperament). Gentlemen often make use of pottery to release emotions, cultivate moral characters, and enhance self-discipline and social commitment.
Till today, pottery is widely seen in people’s daily life as tea ware, tableware or ornaments. Contemporary ceramists have even revitalized the ancient art in modern times by exploring into the heaviness, softness, hardness and plainness of pottery clay. It exactly shows how can we “draw strength from clay, recover original simplicity and stay true to the traditions.”