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Shanghai Museum: Ceramics, Kilns and Production Methods

Updated on February 6, 2013
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As a teacher at all levels and mother of five children, Bronwen has been interested in a variety of crafts for both children and adults.

Which floor will I choose?
Which floor will I choose? | Source

The Shanghai Museum

The Museum in Shanghai is well worth a visit. If you are lucky enough to go there, allow yourself plenty of time. There is so much to see.

As I walked around I had glimpses into other areas, but I have a granddaughter who teaches and exhibits ceramics so that was the first place I chose and it was so delightful I did not get much further. I am definitely not an authority on Chinese ceramics, but I really enjoy looking and learning to appreciate more about this ancient art.

As you can see from the adjoining photograph, the Shanghai Museum is spacious, airy and well set out to entice the casual visitor to explore further.

Model of an ancient kiln
Model of an ancient kiln | Source
Description of a Northern Song Dynasty kiln
Description of a Northern Song Dynasty kiln | Source
Description of a Qing Dynasty kiln
Description of a Qing Dynasty kiln | Source

Chinese Pottery Kilns

When we were walking in the mountains (and there are many) in Taiwan, we came upon an old kiln. It was made of brick, igloo-like in shape, long, low and had several places along the sides for the fires and several chimney along the top. If my memory is correct, it was called a Snake kiln.

The Shanghai Museum has some abbreviated, but quite large models of various styles of kilns that are also interesting and it was well worth spending some time there.

Then there were posters in both Mandarin characters and in English, that described other ancient types of kilns.

The Mantou Kiln

One showed a Northern China kiln from the Song Dynasty, that dated from about 1100 AD. The poster explained that this particular shape had grown out of very early kilns that had been built in caves and dated as far back as the 16th century BC.

Over that long period the design had changed and been improved with the addition of chimneys that assisted a down-draught. With the use of coal for fuel, amazing temperatures of 1300C could be reached.

Because of its shape, this type of kiln was known as the Mantou, or steamed bun, kiln.

The Cai Kiln

Another type of kiln began to be built as a gourd-shaped kiln in the late Yuan Dynasty and developed into a style that was popular in the Jingdezhen area in the time of the Ming Dynasty.

Such kilns ranged considerably in length, from seven to eighteen metres long, and later in the Qing Dynasty became more the shape of an egg sliced in half length-wise, so they became known as Cai, or egg, kilns.

These Cai kilns were built high and wide at the front and tapered inwards towards the back. They had a tall chimney and burned wood as the fuel.

Some materials and moulds
Some materials and moulds | Source
Processes and products
Processes and products | Source

Materials and Processing the Clay

Timber was used in many different ways in the processing of the clay as wood was usually readily available. Only one type of clay was used in early production, but later the use of different coloured clays was introduced in very creative ways.

Pottery

As time passed, different clays were procured from other areas and were used for making different objects and utensils. Originally, only lower temperatures could be reached, so articles made were what we know as pottery. Articles varied in hardness, depending on the clay and the heat used. They were also porous until the introduction of glaze.

Stoneware

Different glazes were used when it was discovered how to produce a higher heat, and dark stone was added to the clay. Stoneware is harder than pottery and more durable.

Porcelain

The third type of ceramics is known as porcelain. It is nearly always glazed and can be very fine and translucent. The clay used is white kaolin and is mixed with white stone and other ingredients. The products are fired at high temperatures.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stars439: How lovely that you did that. One of my granddaughters is a potter and teaches ceramics as well as making the most amazing things. It is so creative and that's how God made us, to be creative. God bless you, too.

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      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      A wonderful hub. So much unique work involved in ceramic work. I built my wife a ceramic bussiness , and we ran it for twenty seven years. It is wonderful creative work. Love your hub. GBY.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      AliciaC: It was a wonderful trip. I think I enjoyed Shanghai more than Beijing, but then I was in the latter to work and stayed with friends in Shanghai.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Dinkan3: I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub. As you probably know by now, I looked you up and found your hubs interesting, too. Thanks.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love sharing interesting experiences.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      sgbrown: Thank you. It was such an interesting place to visit, I'm sure you would enjoy it. Thank you for your votes.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      thumb17: I'm so glad you enjoyed it, thank you for visiting.

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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for an interesting hub, Blossum. What a fantastic trip to Shanghai you must have had! I would love to visit the museum.

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      Excellent writings and interesting pictures. Enjoyed your hub. thanks and rated us interesting.

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      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great information and wonderful pictures. I would love to visit here someday. Thank you for sharing the information with us, voted up and interesting! :)

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      JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

      Awesome hub!

      Enjoyed the beautiful pictues and writing

      Thanks for sharing

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Drtruthman: I'm so sorry to hear that. We hubbers will just have to keep up describing our travels so you can read about them. Actually, when you are on the medication you are probably fine, so that's a bit unfair. If you could afford to go on a cruise to get either to China or Australia, that is one great way to travel. I've been on a couple of short cruises and they are fantastic, but they're not cheap. Many blessings,Lee, and thank you for sharing.

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      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      No, unfortunately because of my epilepsy and my meds I am on the "No fly" list here in the US. The Meds I take for epilepsy are also used for bi-polar disorder and bi-polars except for emergencies can no longer fly. I could take a "slow boat to China" I suppose or to a country where I would be allowed to fly. Unfortunately allot of our once cherished freedoms have been vastly diminished since 911 here. My kids will be home about every 6 to nine months anyway. Again, I enjoyed the article. I would love to see Australia but again, I gues for now that would on a "slow boat" God's blessings on you. Lee

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      How lovely that they are working there. There is so much to see. Will you go to visit them? Thank you for your votes.

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      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Beautiful Hub Blossom. I have a son and his fiancé who work in China and I will share this with them. Well done. Enjoyed allot. I voted up all across. Lee

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      davenmidtown: You were the first to comment and thank you again. I just hope this bug flies off and does not keep telling me to reply again. Thank you so much for you comments.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Pollyannalana: I'm sure I've replied twice before. There really must be a mischievous bug hiding around somewhere. Anyway, I'm so glad you could relate so well to my hub and thank you for your comments.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      oceansnsunsets: Do, if you possibly can. It is well worth the visit.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      anndavis25: I really think there must be a bug somewhere a I'm still being told to reply. So, again, thank you for your comment. I loved being there, too.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      The Finance Hub: I just press the buttons and reply as requested, but your kind comments still come back telling me to reply, so, again, thank you and your hubs are great.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      flashmakeit: I know I've replied before, but my computer tells me to reply, so thank you again for your kind comments.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      always exploring: Yes, it was so interesting. I was just wishing I knew more about it, but I loved reliving it by writing about it.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: There was so much more to the Museum than just the ceramics, but I only glimpsed them in passing as the first one I went into was so captivating. I certainly was blessed in having such a wonderful visit there.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you for your encouraging comments. I'm so glad you have enjoyed it. There is so much about Chinese ceramics that I don't know I'm still hesitating about adding Part 2, but I have some lovely photos, so should do it sometime, I guess.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Movie Master: I wish I'd seen that TV programme. Yes, it was a wonderful trip and I was so privileged to be able to go.

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      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      Ive read a few delightful and interesting hubs today and this one was one of them thanks for the share boted up and interesting.. and entertaining too :)

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      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Blossom, I saw a TV programme the other day about chinese ceramics, it was fascinating. They are so gifted in their arts. This must have been a wonderfully interesting trip for you, thank you for sharing with us.

      Voted up.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      anndavis25: Thank you so very much. I loved being there, especially as I will probably never have the opportunity again.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Oceansunsets: Yes, it was certainly worth the visit. Thank you for your comments. I think I replied to you yesterday, too, so I think I must be doing something wrong in my replies.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Pollyannalana: I know I replied to your comment, too, but again the reply button is visible. It must have been such interesting work for you in the pottery, I'm quite envious.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      davemidtown: I'm sure I replied to your kind comments before, but the 'reply' button is still visible, so perhaps it got lost on the way. Thank you again for your great encouragement.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: You are so right! Because the Chinese are descended from such an ancient civilization they have developed their arts to a very high degree - and appreciate them, too. Yes, I was blessed indeed.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      It was so very interesting. I was staying there for a few days with friends, but was on my way to Beijing to meet up with my publisher at the International Book Fair to advertise two of my children's books. It was quite expensive as we had to stay in a beautiful hotel and pay our own way.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      flashmakeit: Yes, it's mind-blowing to think that it goes so far back in time. That's why China is so fascinating, because it has such a long history.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I've just read one of yours and it is very helpful, but I'll need to learn more before I can put your advice into action. Thank you for your comment.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      oceansunsets: It's certainly worth a visit and there are so many other interesting places to visit and things to see in Shanghai. Even just walking along the Bund and watching all the barges and traffic on the river is fascinating.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      anndavis25: Thank you. The whole trip was a great experience.

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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thank you for giving us a tour of the museum and highlighting the artifacts. The Chinese are so gifted in the arts. I am sure you had a most wonderful time and are blessed to have gone to such an exciting place.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is very interesting..Lucky you, getting to see this in person..Lovely..Thank you for sharing..

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      oh my the Mantou Kiln dated back pretty far that is so interesting me I am voting this hub up.

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      The Finance Hub 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Wow, what an interesting hub! I really enjoyed it, voted up and interesting! Hope you will enjoy my hubs as well!

    • anndavis25 profile image

      anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

      Love, love love this Blossom.

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      Paula 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I would love to visit the Shanghai Museum one day. Thanks for sharing this information and photos with us.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Pollyannalana: Wow! You must know lots more about it than I do. I think potters are such wonderfully creative people. It really is such a useful art, too.

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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      davenmidtown: Thank you for your encouraging comment and vote. Yes, it was an amazing place - happy memories.

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      Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

      Very good Blossom. I worked in pottery for awhile a few years back so it really interests me. I know the feel and thrill of it being finished. Up and beautiful.

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      David Stillwell 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Blossom! what a wonderful hub. I love the detail and the look at what is a place we would not normally have a peak at. Beautifully laid out and designed and of course excellent writing! voted up and beyond awesome... davenmidtown.