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Early Japanese History

Before the mid 1800s Japan was ruled by Shoguns and the Samurai warrior class. Life was very traditional and restricted in many ways but items (not just China and porcelain) made during this time were of exceptional quality and workmanship. The Japanese (samurai) way of life was jealously guarded by the shogunate and trade was highly restricted.

On July 8, 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, seeking to re-establish for the first time in over 200 years regular trade and discourse between Japan and the western world.
Although he is often credited with opening Japan to the western world, Perry was not the first westerner to visit the islands. Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch traders engaged in regular trade with Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. Persistent attempts by the Europeans to convert the Japanese to Catholicism and their tendency to engage in unfair trading practices led Japan to expel most foreigners in 1639. For the two centuries that followed, Japan limited trade access to Dutch and Chinese ships with special charters. 

The first U.S. consul assigned to a Japanese port was Townsend Harris. Like many of the early consuls in Asia, Harris was a New York merchant dealing with Chinese imports. He arrived in Shimoda in 1856, but, lacking the navy squadron that strengthened Perry’s bargaining position, it took Harris far longer to convince the Japanese to sign a more extended treaty. Ultimately, Japanese officials learned of how the British used military action to compel the opening to China, and decided that it was better to open its doors willingly than to be forced to do so. The United States and Japan signed their first true commercial treaty, sometimes called the Harris Treaty, in 1858. The European powers soon followed the U.S. example and drew up their own treaties with Japan. Japan sent its first mission to the West in 1860, when Japanese delegates journeyed to the United States to exchange the ratified Harris Treaty.

1860s to 1891
First year of the Man'en era mission to America which was dispatched in 1860 by the Tokugawa shogunate (bakufu). Its objective was to ratify the new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Japan, in addition to being Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States since the 1854 opening of Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry.

1868—End of the Tokugawa Shogunate/Start of Meiji Restoration
Tokugawa Yoshinobu's resignation marked the end of Tokugawa Shogunate's 268-year rule and the return of the emperor as Japan's supreme ruler. Edo was renamed Tokyo. Lasting until 1912, the Meiji Restoration, heavily influenced by Japan's opening to Europe and the United States, saw the decline of the samurai warrior class and Japan's emergence into the modern era.

 So basically Japan was a closed country until 1860. Any china or porcelain wares from before this period were, and still are, very rare and of high quality.  These were primarily obtained from  European sources who did do limited trading with Japan before this time. Once trade with the outside world was initiated a flood of many of the best quality items were exported. Once this lucrative trade was established many items were made specifically for the export market with designs and functions deemed to be desired by the new marketplace.

1860s-1891  - commonly called the Japonisme era 
All types of Japanese art and ceramics were eagerly collected in the West. Until 1891 ,goods exporated to America did not have to be stamped with their country of origin in English. Japanese ceramics usually had no backstamps, or they had artists or their patrons names in Japanese characters.




Nippon (1891 - 1921)

The McKinley Tariff, which took effect October 1,1890, required that all imported goods be stamped in English with their country of origin.

Click here for information on the McKinley Tariff

At the time, "NIPPON" was considered to be an acceptable name for Japan, so most Japanese ceramics of this period were backstamped "NIPPON" or "HAND PAINTED NIPPON." often with artist or maker marks as well. However, not all were stamped that way. There were still unmarked pieces, and pieces stamped "JAPAN" as well. 

. If your piece does not have a country listed, it is possible it dates before the early 1890s. Of course, there are exceptions, so be careful making assumptions! 

These are the so-called " Nippon wares". (Some of the finest examples of Japanese ceramics were made during this period). However, the rule doesn't apply for items exported other countries nor always in America because sometimes paper labels and the like were used. So while finding a back stamp saying " Nippon " is a useful dating aid its absence is not determinative.

There is also the possibility of pieces having both"Hand Painted Nippon" and "Made in Japan" in the same mark.Some people might place a higher value on these but not everyone.

There are also 'Transitional' marks which are identical to the 'Nippon' marks used previously but now state "Made in Japan". Companies later changed their marks.


Fake Nippon

Fake Nippon first appeared on the market in the early 1980's. The early reproductions were poorly decorated and had fake back stamps which could easily be differentiated from the authentic back stamps by knowledgeable collectors. However, many novice Nippon collectors were fooled by these pieces and unknowingly added these "fakes" to their collections.
Over time the companies making these fake pieces have perfected the M-in-wreath back stamp. It is impossible to tell the authentic back stamp from this new fake! Additionally, other authentic back stamps such as the Maple Leaf and Rising Sun were also being used on fake pieces. While these fake back stamps were slightly different from the authentic back stamps and definitely not as perfect as the M-in-wreath fake back stamp, they could fool collectors.

Recently, thanks to the efforts of the Noritake Company, U.S. Customs has ruled that the fake M-in-wreath mark is counterfeit and not allowed for importation into the United States. Because of this ruling, wholesalers, for the time being, have stopped marking their fake Nippon with the Noritake Company back stamps (including the Maple Leaf, Rising Sun, and RC marks). Fake Nippon is now being sold 'unsigned'; that is, with no back stamp. The items come into the United States with a paper label identifying the country it was made in. Of course, the paper label is easily removed leaving the item 'unsigned.'

In addition to changes in the back stamps, the actual mold style and decoration of the fake Nippon has been improving. In fact some of the newer fakes are being copied from original patterns used during the Nippon era, making them reproductions not fakes. The quality of these reproductions, while much improved over past fakes, is still not quite right and the feel of the porcelain is wrong. However, the overall quality of these reproductions is getting better all of the time and it's imperative for collectors to be aware of this


Site of Nippon Collector's club;

Noritake (1921 - 1941)

1921-1941  - often called the NORITAKE ART DECO Era
 This was also the beginning of the "Made in Japan" period and the reason for keeping Noritake separate from this era is the fact that the quality in many cases was much superior for Noritake pieces than for "Made in Japan". Noritake is still famed for their 'Art Deco' pieces made between the 1920s and 1930s.

Many collectors consider the Noritake Art Deco pieces the best of Made in Japan ceramics. They were consistenly of better quality and most beautifully decorated, and today they are very avidly collected and are priced accordingly! Most early pieces marked Nippon in western or in Japanese Kanji characters seems to have been manufactured by or sold through the company that later would become Noritake Company. In many instances Nippon and Noritake are one and the same and both markings can be found on pieces. The forerunner of Noritake was first established in 1876. From around the 1890's until 1921 the Nippon Toki Kaisha Ltd had according to the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 marked their export porcelain with their country of origin as in "Nippon" but in western characters, which is kind of fun in an upstanding Edo period Samurai way. For Nippon collectors the bad news is that this mark only signifies the country of origin and implies no other information. So, even if early Morimura imports were likely to have been marked this way, so would other imports from Japan too. After the WWI most back stamps were changed to state "Japan" or "Made in Japan ". Still the word Nippon was infrequently used even after 1921.


Noritake History

  In 1876 Baron Ichizaemon Morimura IV formed a trading company called Morimura Kumi (Morimura Brothers) with offices in Tokyo, and a retail and wholesale office in New York for the export of traditional Japanese products such as chinaware, curios, paper lanterns and other gift items. Ichizaemon Morimura VI was a visionary and a supporter of a modernization of Japan . One thing he clearly saw was the business potential if the quality of Japanese art and skilled craft could be adapted to the needs and taste of the American consumer. Morimura brothers was still a many faceted importing company of which the porcelain were just one part.

  Beside running a china decorating facility of their own during 1878 to 1884, the Morimura brothers also bought and distributed porcelain blanks to be decorated by independent porcelain decorators in nearby regions. From 1884 Morimura Kumi subcontracted decorating firms in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto . The quality of the Early Noritake wares varied with the skill of the individual decorators. The early marks from this period seems to have been the country of origin i.e Ni hon or "Nippon" written by brush in traditional Japanese Kanji characters. The word "Nippon " also meaning Japan but in western characters 

  A visit by Ichizaemon Morimura IV to the World Fair in Paris in this period helped shape the idea of trying to manufacture a high quality, modern, western style dinnerware for export, in Japan . In January 1, 1904 the Nippon Toki Kaisha Ltd  the forerunner to the present Noritake Company was formed. The factory was located near a source of good and plentiful raw materials and in a community rich with skilled potters. The site was the small village of Noritake near Nagoya, the center of Japan's ceramic production, on the main island of Honshu . The first Japanese registry for a Noritake back stamp is reported as 1908 for use in Japan . 

   In 1910 the first china products from the new company would leave Japan for the U.S. The first reported U.S. registry for a Noritake back stamp for importing is 1911. Not until 1914 after a long series of trials and errors the first fine porcelain dinnerware suitable for export was produced. One of the first patterns to be produces was the "Sedan". A piece of the dinnerware in the Noritake factory in Nagoya shows this to be a bleak white plate with a cream border of small flower sprays and the typical Noritake back stamp, the letter "M" in a wreath and the words "Hand painted." As a general rule the earliest dinnerware plates were mostly decorated with a liberal applications of gold. To identify the early Noritake porcelain, it is important to remember their intended adaptation to the western taste.

The "M in a wreath" mark was used between c 1914 until 1940. 

With the First World War came the understanding of the need for industrialization. The company soon undertook the production of necessary machinery for the use in its potteries and could by the early 1920's introduce assembly line techniques allowing for mass production of high quality, yet affordable, dinnerware. 

Starting in the 1930's, Noritake expanded its market and opened a number of divisions throughout the Japan. Noritake also introduced something called the roller hearth kiln, a revolutionary mass manufacturing furnace which sped up production. At the height of Noritake's golden era, which ran from around 1912 to 1939, the company employed over 4000 artists in the painting shops alone. Unfortunately, during WW2, the factory was virtually destroyed, many of the key staff lost their lives in the War and virtually all of the early records were lost.

  From the event of the back stamps giving up the "Nippon" mark and beginning with being marked "Japan" or "Made in Japan . I.e. in the early 1920's we can assume that all Noritake porcelain was actually designed in New York, for the US market. From the up market art deco designs of the late 1920s the designs of the 1930s took a markedly more pragmatic shape after the world-wide depression. Still, marketed in department stores and Five & Dimes, Noritake took "art deco" into America ’s homes and onto their tables. Much of the "lustreware" where a thin metallic film was applied over a bright single-color glaze, often with art deco theme decals in combination with hand painting, dates to this period. 

  From its early understanding of western taste and mass production, Noritake also early understood the western methods of mass marketing. It is thus not surprising to find that from the late 1920's throughout the 1930's, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 put a most unwanted stop to normal business, "Hand Painted Imported Noritake China" was offered as a premium by the Larkin company of Buffalo, New York, to its millions of customers purchasing soap, beauty and home products by mail. Some patterns appear to have been specially designed for the Larking Company such as the "Azalea". Azalea was then sold as premiums to the Larkin club members and their home agents.

Typical marks from the period c. 1925 to 1940 are the green Noritake mark #190. 

  In 1941 the export offices were closed and direct export to the US was not resumed before 1948. Noritake wares from circa 1948 to 1952 may bear a number of marks including "Made in Occupied Japan" and "Occupied Japan." In 1963 the company started to use its English name Noritake Company Ltd to which the Japanese company also officially changed its name in 1981. 

   Early Noritake china dinnerware featured the "Hand Painted Nippon" design around the familiar wreath-circled "M" for "Morimura" on the back stamp of most pieces.

   "Noritake" appears on back stamps of other pieces, with either "Japan" or "Made in Japan " present on most of these. For a period following World War II from 1945 to 1948 Noritake China was sold under the label "Rose China".

In 1953 the letter "N" for "Noritake" in a wreath replaced the long used "M" in a wreath. According to collectors, the number of known different Noritake marks are today more then 400.

   Marks with the initials RC have a special place in the Noritake production. The first time we find them in the first marks registered in Japan in the 1908, where RC (Royal Crockery) is combined with a "Yajirobe" or a mechanical balance toy. According to Noritake symbolizing the universal problem of finding a balance in business, such as between quality and price. It is not clear how long this symbol was used but already in 1911 the first marks with the famous laurel wreath were registered.

In 1911 also a series of circular marks with the RC drawn in an Art Noveu style were registered in Japan . In 1926 a back stamp with RC (Royal Crockery) with a right turned laurel twig registered in India for India and Southeast Asian market was used for the first time.

   Immediately after the second WW, in 1946, the Noritake was temporary dropped from the marks and RC was reappearing as "Rose China" together with a picture of a rose and the words Made in Japan. Since the quality immediately after the war was not up to the pre-war standard, Noritake preferred to save the valuable Noritake brand name until later, still in 1947 we find the Noritake name used together with the Komaru (overcoming difficulties) symbol, sometimes over the telltale line "Made in Occupied Japan".

   For today's collector, the ambiguities that surround Noritake and Morimura brothers can be overwhelming. The loss of extensive company records during World War II also makes some questions forever unanswerable. Beside the rare chance finds of new sources, stylistic comparison and a careful adding of one piece of information to another, is all that we will ever have on this.


Marumon ware


An extensive search has not produced any details about the Marutomo at this stage. We know that the Japanese word “Maru” translates to mark or circle. We also know that similar wares appear with the names “Marumon Ware” and “Maruhun Ware”, only these brands appear with the circled letter “K”. A lot of Marutomoware is advertised as 1920-1930.

Marked on the base, Marumon Ware, the letter K in a circle, Made in Japan and Japanese writing underneath that. The Japanese were required to mark their exports Made in Japan , a practice which continued until the beginning of World War II, from 1941 until 1945. During the following years of American occupation of Japan (1945 to 1952), all exports from Japan were marked Made in Occupied Japan. After the Occupation, Japan marked her exports simply Japan.

 It is believed that Marumon Ware was produced by a Division of the Noppon Toki Gomei Kaisha Company in the small town of Noritake. (See Noritake above)


ESD Japan,  

Lefton China,



ESD was a distributor for SOME of Lefton's products but there is no known connection other than that between ESD and Lefton. ESD did sell some Lefton items - but not all. And not all ESD sold was sold by Lefton.

Giftcraft is another example of a distributor that sold the same things in Canada as Lefton sold in the US .

 ESD is Enterprise Sales and Distributing headquartered in Toronto Canada (thus the Enterprise Exclusive labels). The owner was a friend of Mr. Lefton and was allowed at one time to "piggyback" on Lefton orders so that Lefton could order larger quantities and both companies would get better pricing from the Japanese manufacturer. 

George Zoltan Lefton Company

The Lefton mark can be found on a wide array of pottery, porcelain , and glass imported into the United States by the George Zoltan Lefton Company. The company was founded by this new immigrant from Hungary after he arrived in Chicago, Illinois in 1939 and established the company in 1940. George Lefton had previously worked in the clothing and sportwear industry, but he was a collector of fine porcelain and dreamed of entering that business. America offered the backdrop for even a new immigrant into the country to have a chance at commercal success. George Zoltan Lefton had always admired the quality and workmanship in finer Japanese and oriental porcelain, and after the end of World War II he pursued business relationships in post-war Occupied Japan to export Japanese porcelain to America through his company. George was one of the first American businessmen to enter post-war Japan. Early Lefton china was imported into the U.S. with a "Made in Occupied Japan" mark, used in the years immediately following World War II commencing in about 1946 1947. While not comparable to the best wares of European or Chinese porcelain manufacturers, Japanese porcelain was still of good quality and was produced at a cost that made it affordable for the average American family in the post-war years.  The export of china and ceramics was a key contributor to the emergence of Japan from the destitution of the war years and the reinvigoration of their economy.

  Some of the items manufactured during that period are quite rare today. Mr. Lefton held his quality specifications high, therefore his items will be in high demand for a long time to come. His reputation earned him the name "China King". Until the mid 1970's, Japan was the main source of Lefton's pieces. Sources in Japan changed, which caused Lefton to look for other factories and suppliers. Some of them were Taiwan, Malaysia, and China. The majority that are sold in the secondary market were made in Japan.


Lefton marks include: stamps, labels, or numbers. Some pieces may have one of the three, two of the three, or all of the three. Some may have initially had a stamp and paper label. Paper labels wash off or get removed.
Some of the early marks consisted of:
(1946-1950)   a horse with a rider stating: "Handpainted, Exclusively Made in Occupied Japan, G.Z.L.,U.S.A.", stamped "Lamore China, Entirely Handmade, G.Z.L., U.S.A.,Made in Japan"
(1948-1953)  "Made in Japan", "Lefton China, Hand Painted, Made in Japan" with a crown in the center;
(1950-1955)   a crown encircled with "Lefton China,Hand Painted;
(1949-1955)   a crown encircled with "Lefton China,Hand Painted, Reg.U.S. Pat. Off.";
(1950-1955)   "Geo.Z.Lefton";
(1948-1953)   a crown with a capital cursive "L" above;
(1955-Present)a crown encircled with "Lefton China, Hand Painted". There can also be "Royal Dover, Bone China" or "Made in Japan".


Japanese Porcelain marks
 Japanese porcelain marks and backstamps are different from the Chinese. The old Japanese ceramic industry was with few exceptions a mere fraction of the Chinese. The production from design to sale was organized in a much smaller scale. Where the Chinese differentiated and made "everything", the Japanese specialized and made maybe only, teacups. Where the Chinese invented assembly line mass production, the Japanese had 'master potters', changing his signature as he went. Thus, we find a totally different philosophy behind the marks on the Japanese porcelain. They are more numerous, they can indicate the name of the factory, the potter, the decorator, the pattern, the customer, the exporter, the importer or maybe just say "Made in Japan", "Japan", "Nippon", "Happiness" or "Good luck" in any number of ways. Increasing the confusion are the hundreds of porcelain decorating firms active in the early to mid 20th century simultaneously putting many different marks on the same wares seemingly at random but probably for some reason. To take just one example, the Noritake company which has been active for about one hundred years only, are thought to have used over 400 different marks. That is four different marks per year, for a century.

      Regarding dates, the following period names are the ones most commonly met with:

The Edo period     (1603-1867) or Tokugawa period. is the period  in the history of Japan when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional Daimyo. It is roughly split into early, middle or late Edo. Sometimes the Genroku era (1688-1703) is distinguished.

The  Meiji Period  (1868-1912) also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which represents the first half of the Empire of Japan during which Japanese society moved from being an isolated feudalism to its modern form.

The Taisho Period (1913-1926),  After Emperor Taisho who was the 123rd Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 30 July 1912, until his death in 1926.

The Showa Period  (1926-1988) where "early Showa" is often used to cover the Showa reign before 1945. Showa era, is the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Showa Emperor, Hirohito

The Heisei Period (1988-today). The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the first day after the death of the reigning Emperor, Hirohito. His son, Akihito, succeeded to the throne.

       Japanese marks are normally read from top to bottom, and right to left. Signatures are usually followed by a suffix, for example Sei, tsukuru or saku all meaning "made", or Ga, Dzu or Fude meaning "painted" or "drawn". Then there are place names, Satsuma, Kutani, Seto etc.

The best site to visit regarding Japanese porcelain etc. is the following;



 Relationships between Korean,Chinese and Japanese "China"

"China" or "chinawares" was coined by the Dutch who were the early importers of Oriental porcelain. I don't believe they really differentiated between Japan, China, Korean or any other oriental race. It was simply "chinaman" if you looked a certain way. It has long been believed that the origin of "china" started in China. But there have been much earlier instances of fired ceramic products. One of the early originators of fine pottery and ceramics was Korea who had ties with China and the Japanese were not far behind the Chinese and freely borrowed, hired (or stole) artists and techniques from both China and Korea. It is believed that Korean potters first discovered the necessary clay for making fine china in Japan in the 16th century.

      It should be noted that the history ( and success) of fine china and pottery production has always been dependant upon the right materials for making these products. The English china industry took some time to catch up to the rest of the world in this area due to the lack of the right clays and additives needed.

Once found in Japan, these materials allowed Japan to compete and rival the best of Chinese porcelain and although borrowing ideas and styles from the Chinese Ming dynasty they soon developed their own style and techniques.

The history of  oriental "china" and porcelain is intertwined with all three nations. Korea, China and Japan.


Three Kingdoms Pottery 
The Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 BC-668 AD), namely Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje
, provided the beginning of Korean ceramic history. Rough domestic wares for the people were produced from numerous kilns. Likewise a number of very sophisticated statues of royal figures, guardians, and horses, equivalent to Chinese Han Dynasty figures, used for domestic and imperial votive shrines, as well as for escorts of the dead in tombs of the nobles and kings, were turned on potter's wheels, while others were formed using the traditional hammered clay and coil method.

 Silla Era Pottery 

During the Unified Silla period (668–935) pottery was simple in colour, shape, and design. Celadon was subsequently the main production, with baekja porcelain wares developing slowly in the 14th century, when the pace accelerated with new glazes, better clays, and surprising variations of the white of different clays. The kilns at the time had to compete with Chinese wares on a variety of social levels. The Korean ceramic masters decided to distinguish Korean baekja or white porcelain from Chinese imports by maintaining simplicity in design when the practical problems of finding pure white glazes were solved. Dating of glazes from this era has revealed a celadon or jade patina beneath white glazes.

    Baekja wares came from highly refined white clay, glazed with feldspar, and fired in large carefully regulated and very clean kilns. Despite the refining process, glazes in white colours always vary as a result of the properties of the clay itself; firing methods were not uniform, temperatures varied and glazes on pieces vary from pure white, in an almost snowy thickness, through milky white that shows the clay beneath deliberately in washed glaze, to light blue and light yellow patinas. The baekja wares reached their zenith immediately before the Joseon Dynasty came to power. Fine pieces have recently been found in the area about Wolchil Peak in the Diamond Mountains. The transitional wares of white became expressions of the Joseon Dynasty celebrations of victory in many pieces decorated with Korean calligraphy. Traditionally white wares were used by both the scholarly Confucian class, the nobility, and royalty on more formal occasions.Simultaneously, the Buddhist traditions demanded celadon-glazed wares, and cheongja pieces of celadon porcelain with more organic shapes drawing on gourds, with animal and bird motifs that evolved very quickly. In some ways these were over-decorated wares, using exaggerated forms, stylized repeating designs, and a wide variety of organic patterns.

  Cheongja wares used refined earth clays with a bit of iron powder added, then a glaze with a bit of added iron powder added once again, then fired. The glaze dried to a hard finish and was duable with a slightly shinier and glossier finish, in an oily way, than whitewares.

 Goryeo Dynasty
  The Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) achieved the unification of the Later Three Kingdoms under King Taejo. The works of this period are considered by some to be the finest small-scale works of ceramics in Korean history. Key-fret, foliate designs, geometric or scrolling flowerhead bands, elliptical panels, stylized fish and insects, and the use of incised designs began at this time. Glazes were usually various shades of celadon, with browned glazes to almost black glazes being used for stoneware and storage. Celadon glazes could be rendered almost transparent to show black and white inlays.
While the forms generally seen are broad-shouldered bottles, larger low bowls or shallow smaller bowls, highly decorated celadon cosmetic boxes, and small slip-inlaid cups, the Buddhist potteries also produced melon-shaped vases, chrysanthemum cups often of spectacularly architectural design on stands with lotus motifs and lotus flower heads. In-curving rimmed alms bowls have also been discovered similar to Korean metalware. Wine cups often had a tall foot which rested on dish-shaped stands.

 Joseon Dynasty Ceramics
  During the Joseon Dynasty, (1392–1910) ceramic ware was considered to represent the highest quality of achievement from imperial, city, and provincial kilns, the last of which were export-driven wares. This was the golden age of Korean pottery, with a long period of growth in imperial and provincial kilns, and much work of the highest quality still preserved.
  Wares evolved along Chinese lines in terms of colour, shape, and technique. Celadon, white porcelain, and storage pottery were similar, but with slight variations in glazes, incision designs, florality, and weight. The Ming influence in blue and white wares using cobalt-blue glazes existed, but without the pthalo blue range, and the three-dimensional glassine colour depth of Ming Dynasty Chinese works.
  Simplified designs emerged early on. Buddhist designs still prevailed in celadon wares: lotus flowers, and willow trees. The form most often seen was that of pear-shaped bottles. Notable were thinner glazes, and colourless glazes for buncheong or stoneware. After the prolonged fall of the Ming dynasty, immigration of some Chinese master potters occurred in southern coastal Korea. Qing colouring, brighter and almost Scythian in enamel imitation, was rejected by Korean potters, in favour of simpler, less decorated wares in keeping with a new dynasty that built itself on military tradition.
  Generally, the ceramics of this dynasty is divided into early, middle, and late periods, changing every two centuries, approximately; thus 1300 to 1500 is the early period, 1500 to 1700 the middle, and 1700 to 1900–1910 the late period. The wares began to assume more traditional Korean glazes and more specific designs to meet regional needs. This is to be expected, as the Scythian art influences were of the former dynasty. The rise of white porcelain occurred as a result of Confucian influence and ideals, resulting in purer, less pretentious forms lacking artifice and complexity.

 Export Porcelain
Nearly all exports of Korean ceramics went to Japan
, and most were from provincial coastal kilns, especially in the Busan area. Export occurred in two ways: either through trading and the voluntary immigration of potters, or through outright invasion and theft of pottery and the forced relocation to Japan of families of potters who made the wares when the first method failed.The method of sending paper models of ceramics to Japan, having them approved and then having them manufactured began in the late 17th century, most often for the masters of Japanese Tea Ceremony.

  Central to Korean success were the chambered climbing kilns that were used throughout the Joseon dynasty and exported abroad, especially to Japan by Korean kiln-makers where they were renamed as noborigama in the Karatsu area from the 17th century on.Today most kilns used are electric kilns with computer controlled switchoffs, replacing first generation electric kilns with ceramic cones used as timers. There are, however, also artists using gas-fired kilns.



Porcelain is generally believed to have originated in China. Although proto-porcelain wares exist, dating from the Shang Dynasty, by the Eastern Han Dynasty (100-200 CE) high firing glazed ceramic wares had developed into porcelain, and porcelain manufactured during the Tang Dynasty period (618–906) was exported to the Islamic world where it was highly prized.  The principle ingredients of Chinese porcelain was a white clay known as 'kaolin' and 'petunse' , a feldspatic rock (see "China FAQ on feldspathic or felspathic") .Early porcelain of this type was a hard paste porcelain with a feldspathic glaze as well, which fused with the body  becoming an integral part of it. The fusion made for a perfect surface. When glazed over an already bisquited (fired once) hard paste this fusion produced a slightly pitted surface often called 'chicken skin'.This includes the tri-color glazed porcelain, or sancai wares. Historian S.A.M. Adshead writes that true porcelain items in the restrictive sense that we know them today could be found in dynasties after the Tang,during the Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, and Qing Dynasty.
 By the Sui and Tang dynasties, porcelain had become widely produced. Eventually, porcelain and the expertise required to create it began to spread into other areas; by the seventeenth century, it was being widely imported to Europe. It is said that Marco Polo brought the first porcelain back to Europe from his famed expeditions and filled the heads of kings and alchemists with dreams of discovering it's secrets.

Chinese porcelain (and other items as well) are usually dated as to the dynasty ( usually named after the reigning emperor)they originated in.

1- The Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220)

The body was a grey stoneware over which a slip (liquid clay mixture, feldspathic)of transparent whitish glaze was washed. Named 'tzu' which refers to the material's resonance not it's translucency. In the West it has been termed 'proto-porcelain'. These wares tended to imitate the decoration and appearance of metal wares with patinated bronze, greens and reddish-browns, with decoration incised or combed and added in relief.

2 - The Six Dynasties (AD 220 - v589)

This was when 'kaolin' and china stone or 'petunse' was discovered. These were the only ingredients capable of producing  the white body so necessary  for true porcelain.

3 - T'ang Dynasty (AD 618 - 906)

This was when the first translucent (allows light to pass through but cannot be seen through) porcelain was made. A fine white body was made with a thick glaze which ran down the sides of the pot where it formed into 'teardrops' when it stopped short of the bottom. A common technique of firing these wares was to place them on a bed of sand hence forming the pebbled bottom with embedded grains of sand.

4 - Sung Dynasty (AD960 - 1279)

5 - Ming (1368 - 1644)

6 - Ch'ing Dynasty (or Manchu) (1644 - 1912)

There are sub dynasties here such as;

K'ang-hsi (1662 - 1722)

Yung-cheng (1723 - 1735)

Ch'ien Lung (1736 - 1795)

Tao Kuang (1821 - 1850)





The earliest japanese production in china or porcelain wares was Kakiemon and Imari.

Imari was simply the trans-shipment port for Arita wares. The kilns at Arita formed the heart of the Japanese porcelain industry, which developed in the 17th century, after the white kaolin clay was discovered in 1616 by abducted Korean potter Yi Sam-pyeong (1579–1655). Yi Sam-pyeong was kidnapped along with several thousand other Korean artisans by Japanese invaders during the Japanese invasions of Korea of 1592–1598. Arita soon came to rival the output of the Chinese kilns at Ching-te-Chen. Blue-and-white porcelain made at Arita was also widely exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company, but "Imari porcelain" connotes Arita wares more specifically designed to catch the European taste.
  Though sophisticated wares in authentic Japanese styles were being made at Arita for the fastidious home market. European export porcelains imitated Chinese underglaze blue decors (blue-and-white wares) or made use of enamel colors over underglazes of cobalt blue and iron red. The ware often used copious gilding, sometimes with spare isolated sprigged vignettes, but often densely patterned in compartments. There were two quite different styles in these wares. On the one hand a gaudy, brash brightly coloured and highly decorated style, the "Imari" style. The other ,"Kakiemon" is sometimes used as a generic term describing wares made in the Arita factories using the characteristic Kakiemon overglaze enamels and decorative styles  Kakiemon decoration is usually of high quality, delicate and with asymmetric well-balanced designs.


Imari porcelain is the European collectors' name for Japanese porcelain wares made in the town of Arita, in the former Hizen Province, northwestern Kyūshū, and exported from the port of Imari, Saga, specifically for the European export trade.Early experiments with overglaze colored enamels at Arita are associated with the famous Sakaida Kakiemon (1596–1666), whose name is memorialized in "Kakiemon" ware, the other main tradition in enamel decors. Dutch traders had a monopoly on the insatiable export trade, the first large order being placed at Arita by the Dutch East India Company in 1656. The trade peaked in the late 17th century and was slowly replaced by Chinese kilns in the early 18th century, as social conditions in China settled with the full establishment of the Qing Dynasty. Very fine "Chinese Imari" export wares were produced in the 18th century, eclipsing the original Japanese exports.
 Chinese Imari patterns, as well as "Kakiemon" designs and palette of colors, influenced some early Orientalizing wares produced by the porcelain manufactories at Meissen, or later at Vincennes. Imari has always been popular with Romany women.European centers imitated the style of "Imari" wares, initially in faience at Delft in Holland, and in the early 19th century at Robert Chamberlain's factory at Worcester.

   From the mid-17th century, Kakiemon wares were produced at the factories of Arita, Saga Prefecture, Japan with much in common with the Chinese "Famille Verte" style. The superb quality of its enamel decoration was highly prized in the West and widely imitated by the major European porcelain manufacturers.In 1971 it was declared an important "intangible cultural treasure" by the Japanese government.
 There exist other Japanese ceramic arts. The most known are Imari, Arita Blue & White, Fukugawa, Kutani, Banko Earthenware and Satsuma pottery.

 The Japanese potter Kakiemon Sakaida (1596-1666) is popularly credited with being one of the first in Japan to discover the secret of enamel decoration on porcelain, known as 'Akae'. The name "Kakiemon" was bestowed by his overload on Sakaida, who had perfected a design of twin persimmons (kaki: persimmon) and who then developed the distinctive palette of soft red, yellow, bleu and turquoise green. Kakiemon is sometimes used as a generic term describing wares made in the Arita factories using the characteristic Kakiemon overglaze enamels and decorative styles. However, authentic Kakiemon porcelains have been produced by direct descendants, now Sakaida Kakiemon XIV (1934-). Shards from the Kakiemon kiln site at Nangawara show that blue and white and celadon wares were also produced.

Kakiemon decoration is usually of high quality, delicate and with asymmetric well-balanced designs. These were sparsely applied to emphasize the fine white porcelain background body known in Japan as NIGOSHIDE (milky white) which was used for the finest pieces. Kakiemon wares are usually painted with birds, flying squirrels, the "Quail and Millet" design, the "Three Friends of Winter" (pine, prunus and bamboo), flowers (especially the chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan) and figural subjects such as the popular "Hob in the Well", illustrating a Chinese folk tale where a sage saves his friend who has fallen into a large fishbowl. However, because manufacture of NIGOSHIDE is difficult due to hard contraction of the porcelain body during firing, the production was discontinued from the former part of the 18th century to mid-20th century. In this period, Sakaida Kakiemon produced normal 'Akae' wares. Sakaida Kakiemon XII and XIII attempeted to reproduce NIGOSHIDE and succeeded in 1953. It has been manufactured till now.

 Kakiemon in Europe
The Kakiemon porcelain was imported into Europe. Augustus the Strong of Saxony and Mary II of England both owned examples. The earliest inventory to include Japanese porcelain in Europe was made at Burghley House, Lincolnshire, in 1688. These included a fabulous standing elephant with its trunk raised and a model of two wrestlers. Wares included bowls, dishes and plates, often hexagonal, octagonal or fluted with scalloped edges. The famed white "nigoshide" body was only used with open forms, and not for closed shapes such as vases, bottles and teapots, or for figures and animals. The hexagonal Kamiemon vases and covers known as "Hampton Court" vases were named after a pair at Hampton Court Palace, London, recorded in an inventory of 1696. Around 1730, this shape was copied at Meissen, Germany, which entered into a "sister city" contract with Arita, in 1979. The style was also adopted and copied in Chelsea and Worcester in the 1750's and by Samson Ceramics in the 19th century.
  The Kakiemon porcelain proved a major influence on the new porcelain factories of the 18th-century Europe. Meissen copies could be extremely close to the originals, alternatively the factory painters might just have borrowed designs and use them with other shapes and styles.
Kakiemon style was also adapted in Germany and Austria by the Du Paquier and "Vienna factories" and in France at Chantilly, Mennecy and Saint-Cloud. Kakiemon was also an influence on Dutch Delft pottery and Chinese export porcelain.