The 'Ceramic Interregnum' Facts: The Reigns of Zhengtong, Jingtai and Tianshun
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The 'Ceramic Interregnum' Facts: The Reigns of Zhengtong, Jingtai and Tianshun

Working in theory, the specialists had sensibly speculated that there had passed a logical development from the designs on the marked Xuande porcelain to the marked Chenghua series. This uncertainty brought about the easy designation 'Ceramic Interregnum' to lump together wares fabricated between 1436 and 1464.

Until lately, due to the lack of strong textual evidence and reliable reign-marked pieces created in the period of 1436 to 1464, it had been presumed by Western porcelain authorities, different than the views of Chinese scholars, that Jingdezhen potters carried on to create imperial-quality blue-and-white porcelain, which were given the nianhao of the former Xuande reign. Chinese specialists have long accepted the view that because it was absolutely forbidden to use a given nianhao after the death of the emperor to whose rule it implemented that it wasn't in fact done. This view betrayed to take into consideration that, while illicit, such an exercise would have been too temptingly remunerative to withstand.

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Scholarly opinions have diverged widely, on occasion heatedly, as to what styles and forms must be assigned to this period. This uncertainty brought about the easy designation 'Ceramic Interregnum' to lump together wares fabricated between 1436 and 1464. Working in theory, the specialists had sensibly speculated that there had passed a logical development from the designs on the marked Xuande porcelain to the marked Chenghua series. Nevertheless, most objects so assigned have established no such transitional leaning or nature. Only a few of reign-marked specimens exist from this period of time and those having the marks of Tianshun reassert Jiangxi provincial accounts that the fabrication of imperial official porcelains restarted in 1457.

Freshly revealed textual references expound in detail the numerous imperial edicts passed on down during this time, showing why no logical development in blue-and-white production happened. An unlawful trafficking in imperial wares with fake Xuande marks was being actively conducted. Instantly after the death of the Xuande emperor, an official edict prohibited the production of imperial-quality blue-and-white porcelains in 1435. The new ruler, the Zhengtong emperor, was the eight-year-old son of Xuande, whose foster grandmother, the Superior Empress-Dowager played his regent. She was iron-willed and determined to overrule the extravagances of her son Xuande, one of them the commissioning of Jingde imperial wares. It seems that the wares all the same continued to be made, for there came after strongly worded edicts in 1438, 1444 and 1447. All these bore harsh punishments for the unauthorized fabrication of imperial wares and their private sale, particularly to foreign envoys. Again, the potters apparently circumvented the rules and kept on to produce blue-and-white ware. Then, the cruelest of all the announcements was declared in 1448, expressing that 'if there are still those who dare to disobey this order, the chief among them (the recorded male heading the craft-group) condemned of this crime will be punished by a slow and painful death, his belongings confiscated, and all the grownup males in his family banished to a military life in frontier outposts.'

 

References:

Retrieving the past: Essays on Archaeological Research by Joe D. Seger and Gus Willard Van Beek

Ming Porcelains: A Retrospective by Suzanne G. Valenstein, China House Gallery, 1971

The Chinese potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics by Margaret Medley

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