Opening Date: 29 Oct. 2016~ 30 May 2018

Between 1928 and 1937, the Institute of History and Philology had conducted 15 archeological excavations at Yinxu (Ruins of Yin), located near the modern city of Anyang, Henan. In total, 172 tombs from the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907 A.D.) were excavated.  These numerous tombs were aligned in an orderly fashion, and were built during the same period in history. More than 2,000 artifacts were unearthed, ranging from pottery, porcelain, ironwork, bronze coins and epitaph tablets.

As the Northern dynasties were coming to an end and with technique evolved from the traditional lead-glazed pottery and the celadon of the South, northern China witnessed a new age in the making of white porcelain when they were also producing lead-glazed pottery, and celadon in green or persimmon glaze. For the light-colored clay, thin and clear glaze with the applying of engobe, white lead-glazed pottery fired at low-temperature and white porcelain fired at high-temperature became available in northern kilns. Such as Xin and Cizhou Kilns in Hebei, or Baihe Kiln, Xiangzhou Kiln and Lingzhi Kiln in Henan. Academics have rather diverging opinions regarding the exact time that white porcelain became available and the kilns where the porcelain wares were made, but it was generally agreed that white porcelain fired at high-temperature was available in the Sui dynasty. The situation later developed into “celadon in the south and white porcelain in the northern” since the Tang dynasty.

Several kilns were engaged in the making of white porcelain, but they differed from each other because of the varying clay, ceramic glaze as well as firing technique used. Ultra-thin and spotlessly white porcelain were excavated from tombs of the nobles in the late Sui dynasty near Xian. The Xiangzhou Kiln in Anyang, on the other hand, was making white porcelain with slight bluish shade or black and brown impurities, and the glaze with a slight green or creamy white color. The white porcelain on display this time will allow you to have a glance on how potters attempted in making white porcelain when their skills were not yet perfect and in general, the early history of white porcelain in China.

Despite of their smaller size and scale, the Sui and Tang tombs in Anyang differed from their counterparts in the other regions and provided the excavators with a significant amount of pottery and porcelain to study about. The cause of this was probably their proximity to the Xiangzhou Kiln. The porcelain wares excavated here were rich in types, ranging from jars, cups, bowls, plates, jugs, bottles, incense censers, ink stones, candelabra, house models and figurines. Most of the items on display were unearthed from Tomb YM243, and some were rather delicate, exquisite and uncommon for this period as the making of white porcelain had just begun.
  • Tomb M243, Xiaotun, Anyang, Honan

    Tomb M243, Xiaotun, Anyang, Honan
    Most of the porcelain on display this time came from Sui Tomb YM243, a T-shaped earthen chamber tomb with a sloping passage where a couple was jointly buried onto an earthen platform. Their grave goods included 2 tomb guardian beasts, 2 tomb guardian warriors, 2 gate guardian figurines, 14 terracotta figurines, 1 camel, 1 cattle cart, 26 porcelain wares, pottery kitchenware as well as other domesticated animals. The porcelain figurines and porcelain wares found in this tomb showed close resemblance to those found in Sui Tomb M8 in Zhidu Village, the Sui tomb in Qiao Village and the tomb of Zhang Sheng (dated 595 A. D.) in Anyang, and therefore, Sui Tomb YM 243 was probably built around the same time or slightly later. Although there was no epitaph and the chamber was not built in brick, the style and scale of the tomb and the grave goods were similar to those of the tomb of Zhang Shen, who was a bureaucrat of the junior third rank. The owner of Tomb YM243 was therefore assumed to be of high social and economic status, possibly a rich commoner or the descendent of a high official.