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Ching Or Manchu Dynasty
The political disturbances that attended the passing of the Ming dynasty and the establishment of the Ching Manchus were unfavourable to any material progress at the Ching-te Chen factory, but when order was restored and the Emperor K'ang Hsi was securely set upon the throne in 1662 there began the golden age of Chinese porcelain. During the reigns of K'ang Hsi (1662-1723) and of his two successors, Yung Cheng (1723-1736) and Chien Lung (1736-1796), Chinese porcelain reached the high-water mark of its development in technical perfection, the grace of forms produced, variety of output, and beauty of decoration. Both Kang Hsi and his grandson Chien Lung took a deep interest in the porcelain factory and their intelligent patronage was an important factor in assuring the triumphs scored during this long period of uninterrupted prosperity and progress.
It would be easier to enumerate the sorts of porcelain that were not made during this epoch than to chronicle all the divers kinds that were produced. Nearly all of the earlier types that distinguished preceding centuries were duplicated in addition to the output of the wares that especially characterised the eighteenth century. It is just as well to bear in mind that the great bulk of the Oriental porcelain with which we are acquainted, both in private possession and in museum collections, in Europe and America alike, was made at Ching-te Chen in the prolific eighteenth century and the latter part of the seventeenth and falls under the general classifications of either Kang Hsi or Chien Lung china.
Without entering into a full catalogue of the distinctive Kang Hsi and Chien Lung products of Ching-te Chen, which will be noted in the ensuing sections, we should remember that within the limits of this period, besides the well known varieties of blue and white ware, the Chinese potters put forth the sorts of porcelain known as the famille noir, the famille verte in its ultimate development, and the famille rose , the last named the most beautiful of all the groups designated by their distinctive methods of colouration. To this era also belong the "powder blue" porcelains and that large and highly diversified group generally called "Lowestoft", which was made to the order of foreign merchants and decorated, oftentimes with armorial bearings or monograms for individual customers in England and America. This last mentioned type of chinaware has been mistakenly termed "Lowestoft" although by far the greatest part of it was never within miles of the little East Anglian town whose name the general public, aided and abetted by many antique dealers, insist upon attaching to it. This long-standing fallacy dies hard. There was porcelain made and decorated at Lowestoft, beyond all shadow of doubt, as we shall see later on, but to apply the name "Lowestoft" to what was purely a Chinese product, influenced by Western preferences expressed to the obliging makers, is altogether absurd.
The body or paste of the oldest Chinese porcelains is heavy, opaue, crude and often full of impurities to such an extent that many authorities are dis inclined to consider it truly porcelain. It is not until well on towards the end of the Sung period that a body appears which all agree is undeniably porcelain, a body hard, white, translucent and resonant.