A mind-boggling number of ancient Chinese inventions changed the world forever. Where would we be without paper and gunpowder, to say nothing of the compass. In the decorative arts, the Chinese introduced the world to silk, porcelain ceramics, and celadon glaze. These innovations are reflected in collectible Chinese antiques such as scroll paintings made of silk and paper, as well as porcelain vases and bowls, which were glazed with the jade-like celadon or painted in intricate cobalt blue or, in the Qing Dynasty, the multicolor schemes of the various “families.”

But Chinese culture is not just renowned for its inventions—its artistry is also unique. Since ancient times, Chinese craftsmen have mastered the art of carving jade into figurines and landscapes in great detail. This high level of craftsmanship is also evident in the fanciful, extraordinary fine imagery on the porcelain and cloisonné ceramics of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Motifs from mythology and the Buddhist religion appear over and over again in Chinese antiques, from the dragons made up of "Nine Aspects" of other animals to the Chinese guardian lions also known as "Foo Dogs." Images meant to bring success, fortune and well-being include the Buddha, gourds, lotus flowers, magpies, peaches, and bats.


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Asian Art Museum

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