China has the richest and most continuous tradition of ceramic production in the world. At their best, the early Chinese wares rival those of the Tang and Song periods for boldness and imagination, and for mastery of the technique in decoration, the shaping of forms and the use of materials, especially the wares of the powerful Han dynasty (206BC-221AD). Remarkable pieces from the two Zhou dynasties (1027-256BC) and from the Yangshao and Longshan neolithic periods (6th - 2nd millennium BC) also survive.
Professor Watson's book, which makes extensive use of recent excavations and research in China, where many discoveries are being made, is the first comprehensive and authoritative book to have been written on this wide-ranging and important subject. In the six main chapters, attention is focused on the local evolution of the shapes and ornament of vessels in the main regions of China, that is, the north-central, north-east, north-west, central, south-east, south-west and southern regions. At the same time each chapter is divided into similar chronological sub-sections so that, for instance, the wares of the Eastern Zhou in the different regions can be compared. A strikingly unified historical development emerges, revealing how distinct early Chinese ceramics are from ceramics in other parts of Asia and in Europe. The book, which is illustrated with over 170 photographs and 260 line drawings, concludes with chapters on kilns and on shapes, models and figures. William Watson was Professor of Chinese art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from 1966 to 1983, and also head of the Percival David Foundation, and he is a scholar of international standing with many important books to his credit.
Published by Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1991
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