Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

China: The Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties (1500-1700)

(Previous post on China's History.)
In honor of Chinese New Year's this week I thought I would take a moment to look at China in the Renaissance period. During the Renaissance, the Ming dynasty goverened from the northern city of Beijing where they lived in a palace in the Forbidden City, so named because only the emperor's family and advisors were allowed to enter. This period is known for it's vases and wooden furniture, but there were also beautiful gardens and illustrated books. Doctors used acupuncture. By 1500 China was almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. During the 1600's the south coast of China was plagued by Japanese pirates.

The Great Wall was strengthened and guards were stationed at it. The taxes were so high  and food was so scarce that by the 1630's rebellions broke out and by 1644 the rebels seized the city of Beijing. The emperor's advisors asked the Manchus, a group of people from the north, to help them crush the rebellion. The Manchus did help, but then they took over Beijing themselves, conquering all of China by 1681. The Manchus' rule was called the Ch'ing Dynasty. They won even more land, expanding China's borders, but also made sure that China stayed independent fro the rest of the world.

For our activity this week, I thought that we would focus on the famous vases made from the Ming Dynasty. Using an article I found on e-How, I sent my students on a Ming Vase Treasure Hunt on the Internet. It was a lot of fun and very informative. I had them Google Ming Vases images and then they looked among them for the ones that fit the descriptions.

Look for vases with a narrow neck and flared rim. The pattern on the vase may appear Asian in design and features elaborate designs, which are frequently floral.

Find pictures of vases with a round bowl, long narrow neck which is indicative of a Ming bottle vase. These were common in a white base color with blue detailing.

Another type of Ming vase is a white base with hand-painted decorations in red, blue, green and yellow colors.

The bottom of the vase is inscribed with antique Chinese characters, called reign marks.

Look for pictures of vases with a round bowl and a tubular neck in a light green color, which was a celadon glaze. The patterns will almost seem inscribed or sculpted onto the vase, with a raised effect, as opposed to being painted on.

Other pictures will show a vase with one large round bowl that opens into a smaller, round bowl with a flared rim. Often predominately blue and white in design, the vase may have some red spots included in the design. This style is called a "double gourd vase."

Examine the picture closely for signs of the underglazing on the vase, which was typically white, blue or green. However, a reddish copper underglaze was used in some Ming vases, although they are considered very rare. One red underglaze Ming vase sold for more than $10 million in 2006.
It was hard to find and example of this, but this one was the one sold in 2006 for more than 10 million.

If you would like to do a project with Ming ceramics, you should see the project  Momma Teaching 3 at Shady Bayou Academy did with her boys. They made Ming style plates that you can use at the table! This is one of her son's plates.


  1. Beautiful vases and great info! I remember my trip to Korea and looking at all the pottery through the different time periods. It would be interesting to study history through pottery and discuss materials and styles. Also would be interesting to study costumes during the different dynasties.

  2. Ming vases really are gorgeous.

  3. Those are such beautiful vases.

  4. Loved your post. We made some of our own!


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