Porcelain was invented in China, perhaps as early as the seventh or eighth century AD however white ceramic pieces made from Kaolin clay and fired at a temperature of over 1000 degree and with a thin layer of green glaze on the surface had already appeared in the Shang Dynasty (16th century - 11th century B.C.).
The Chinese use the word ci to mean either porcelain or stoneware, not distinguishing between the two. In the West, the definition of porcelain is more narrow, as a high-fired (about 1300 degr centigrade) white ceramics, whose bodies are translucent and make a ringing sound when struck. Western porcelain can also be subdivided in various types depending on the composition of the paste.
Stoneware is technically a similar high-fired material but tougher and non-translucent while also ringing when struck.
A number of white ceramics were made at various locations in China, several of which might be termed porcelain.
The northern white porcelains, such as Ding ware, were made of a local clay rich in kaolin.
Southern porcelainIn southern China, porcelain stone was the main material. At the kilns in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, kaolin was added to porcelain stone to create a special porcelain paste. In the Fujian province, on the coast and east of Jiangxi, porcelain stone was used alone.
White and translucent porcelain with underglaze blue and white decoration was not made before the Yuan dynasty (AD 1279-1368).
The results differed in that northern porcelains were more dense and compact, while southern porcelains appeared softer and more glassy. The different wares ability to combined with a fitting glaze was also different.
See also Porcelain