Chinese ceramics of the Tang and Liao periods receive the most comprehensive examination in Western literature in this new study by one of the world's foremost scholars on Far Eastern art. William Watson describes and analyses all aspects of these extraordinary wares wholly from the evidence of the most recent excavations and Chinese archaeological studies appearing since 1949. No other history of the ceramics of this era has attempted so detailed a survey based on the latest findings.
The ceramics of the Tang dynasty (618-907), through its lead-glazed pottery and its figurines, dramatically reflect the exchange of ideas that accompanied the expansion of Chinese influence into Central Asia. The mid-Tang period marked the beginning of a huge increase in trade - tea, salt and pottery were the main goods traded within China, and gradually the exchange of pottery came to assume an importance comparable to that of silk in the external trade with India and the Near East. There is nothing in earlier ceramics that compares with the fortuitous beauty of the splashed decoration on the Tang lead-glazed pieces or with the unpredictable ornament afforded by the suffused glazes on stoneware. At no other time in their history have Chinese potters played more boldly on their themes than during the Tang dynasty, and none of their heirs since has treated extravagance so lightly or has so well delivered the freshness that is expressed through such technical perfection. Against a background of native Chinese tradition, William Watson treats the exotic influences that give Tang art its distinctive character. The historical and technical aspects of Tang ceramics are thoroughly discussed with special attention to the types of wares and figurines with additional observation of works from the Sui and Five Dynasties periods. The author also devotes a special chapter to the ceramics of the Liao dynasty (947-1125), a Qidan empire bounded on the south by the Great Wall in northern Shanxi, on the east by northern Hebei and including the province of Liaoning and, broadly speaking, the whole of Inner Mongolia. Although the period of Liao rule overlaps with the Song government in China, Liao pottery is not a provincial manifestation of Song methods and styles, but in essential aspects shows the survival through the Liao period of types and techniques that prolong Tang-dynasty standards. William Watson was formerly head of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art in London and is the author of many standard works on Chinese Art.
Published by Rizolli International Publications, Inc., 1984
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