Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain collector's help and info page


Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Dictionary
and Glossary of Terms

Jan-Erik Nilsson at a porcelain event in Gothenburg, Sweden, after a talk on Qianjiang Decoration and The Eight Friends of Zhushan at the Rhoss Museum of Arts and Craft in 2011.

Welcome to the Dictionary on Antique Chinese and Japanese pottery and porcelain terms and explanations.

The field of Asian Ceramics collecting is a challenging one. Not the least due to the large number of terms of various origins, problem compounded by a variety of spellings and transcriptions. Many terms in particular regarding porcelain exported to the west are made up by collectors and dealers and are not recognized in China. When possible I have tried to address this by cross referencing both terms and explain where the understanding differ.

Names, meanings and categories also change depending on new discoveries, which might not be as helpful as it might seem. Too myopic classifications might just complicate matters. Here I try to go back to the roots and explain why an older but somewhat incorrect name might still be more helpful than a modern, technically correct name.

Many names and terms that are Chinese in origin have been transcribed in western characters. In old books this was often done by a system called Wade-Giles such as Peking, Ching-te-chen and Chien-lung" while modern books today use a system called Pinjin, making the same names turn out like Beijing, Jingdezhen and Qianlong".

Naturally this causes some confusion.

In this section I have over the last decades tried to write and collect good explanations of our most common terms that we use to describe antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain. By and by I add to and revise the entries when I find a better and more straightforward explanation of things. In this the Discussion Board and it members have been a good source.

The point with this dictionary, is that it is actually written and edited by people who know porcelain and, which is equally important, does not have any agenda of their own to twist the truth or any concept in any particular direction.

The information offered here tries to reflect the general understanding among collectors and arts historians on most subjects covered. Sometimes the 'general understanding' is wrong. In those cases we try to explain how and why. This is a work in progress and additions, suggestions and improvements from you, is appreciated. Ideally, kindly join our Discussion Board that over the decades have proved a most reliable source of porcelain wisdom.

Jan-Erik Nilsson, Sweden 2021