Porcelain in English comes from the old Italian word porcellana, which means cowrie shell. This material receives its name from its appearance resembling a shell’s surface. Other English-speaking countries also referred to this art as china because it was first seen as an import from China.
While kaolin porcelain is often seen as an art form, certain porcelain wares were used in daily activities such as drinking tea for hundreds of years. Porcelain has a long history since its first discovery. In this article, we will talk about the long history of porcelain and how kaolin is used in its production process.
History of Porcelain
The first ceramics and porcelain were made back in 20,000 BC. The sophisticated kaolin porcelain products were produced from around 30,000 BC. However, the porcelain conforms to the modern definition, and its style dates back 2,000 years.
The first evidence of porcelain pieces is known from the East Han Dynasty. In this era, the jade green glaze Celadon was also very popular and often found in Porcelain works.
During the Tang Dynasty, the art of tea drinking becomes increasingly popular. Ceramic wares for tea drinking were developed and exported to the Islamic countries through the Silk Road. Teacups and other tea-drinking accessories are commonly found along the north part of the Silk Road.
Then during the Song Dynasty, porcelain and the porcelain-making arts spread to other areas in East Asia. The production of these wares became more organized and produced a lot more wares at a time. Dragon kilns were found that originated from this era. These kilns have a capacity of 25,000 pieces of porcelain wares at a time.
Kaolin porcelain became increasingly popular and exported to Europe during the Ming Dynasty. The blue-and-white porcelain wares styles that are well-known to this day also arrived in Europe during this era. These styles of wares are considered rare items and art objects.
In the Qing Dynasty, arts flourished in many forms. The emperor rebuilt the imperial kilns and factories at Jingdezhen in 1677 to support the production of porcelain wares. In this era, opaque overglaze enamel colors were developed and became an important contribution to ceramic-making technology.
Today, ancient wares are worth a lot of money, and collectors even willing to pay tens of millions in an auction to get the rarest piece. Meanwhile, the new porcelain was manufactured in the 80s and became as popular as the ancient one.
In the modern era, China started economic reform and began cooperating with the West again. The country also imported advanced porcelain-making machinery from Europe. Implementing modern machinery improves porcelain production and increases the production scale.
The Use of Kaolin in The Porcelain-Making Industry
This mineral has unique chemical properties that make it an excellent material in porcelain-making. Kaolin has a high fusion temperature and turns white when burned. This particular characteristic makes kaolin porcelain very distinctive and unique.
Another unique piece of kaolin porcelain is bone china, considered the strongest of porcelain. It is mechanically and physically strong and resistant to chips. This piece also has high levels of transparency and whiteness.
Kaolin contains low iron, alkalies, or alkaline earth, which makes it offers ceramic properties. When producing porcelain or other whiteware, kaolin is often mixed with silica and feldspar or a smaller amount of ball clay. These mixtures are important to porcelain making so that their plasticity, shrinkage, vitrification, and other properties remain stable during forming and firing.
Kaolin porcelain is known as a high-quality whiteware. It is no surprise as this porcelain is made of kaolin, which offers great properties. To this day, kaolin is still one of the best materials for porcelain-making.