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Dehua Blue and White (德化青花)

Dehua was an important export oriented ceramics  production centre since the Song Dynasty. Since then till the late Ming period, Dehua kilns produced mainly white glaze wares.  The best with the ivory color glaze was finally produced during the late Ming to Kangxi Period.  The white glaze has a smooth silky ivory colour and termed  blanc de chine wares in Europe.

In view of the fame of Blanc de chine wares, many people tend to have the misconception that Dehua only produced such wares.  In fact, Dehua was an important blue and white production centre in the 18th/19th century.  The blue and white wares produced were targeted at mainly Southeast Asian market as mentioned in the Xiamen zhi (夏门志)dated A.D 1832.  Archeological excavations has so far revealed more than 200 killns in operation during the Qing period, with some still in production during the Republican period.   The Tek Sing cargo with its enormous amount of more than 350,000 pieces of mainly Dehua blue and white further substantiated the popularity of the wares.  The Tek sing junk departed from Xiamen port for Jakarta in Indonesia on Jan 1822.  Tragically it hit hidden reef near Belitung  Island and sank.

Dehua most probably started experimental production of blue and white wares during the late Ming period.  The below ivory glaze late Ming vase was decorated with sketchy abstract floral scrolls.  However, very few blue and white examples attributed to late Ming Dehua were discovered so far.  Other than the one mentioned, the rest only used cobalt to write inscription on blanc de chine wares


The civil war during the transition from Ming to Qing Dynasty had adversely affected the ceramics export trade.  In fact, even till the early Kangxi period, remnant of Ming loyalists under the leadership of Zheng Chenggong was still engaged in a movement in Southern China to overthrow the Qing invaders.   To cut off local support for the movement,  in the spring of 1662, the Qing Regents ordered the Great Clearance in southern China.   It involved moving the entire population of the coastal regions of southern China inland.  The ban was finally lifted in A.D 1669 but it must have taken some time for people to move back to the affected region and for business activities to pick up

The production of Dehua kilns most probably picked up again at least few years after A.D 1669.  During the initial period, Blanc de chine wares were probably the main product.  However during this period, the quality of Blanc de chine produced had deteriorated.  It must have adversely affected the demand.   During this time, the European traders were increasing their import of blue and white from Jingdezhen.  The Dehua potters must have seen the business opportunity and switched increasingly to production of blue and white.  But instead of the European market, the demand came from Southeast Asian countries whose consumers were less selective and ready to accept Dehua blue and white which are good substitute for the more expensive Jingdezhen wares.  

Dehua blue and white (Kangxi to Early Qianlong Period)

Dehua blue and white of the Kangxi to early Qianlong period are essentially copies of those from Jingdezhen. The motifs are similar but the potting of the vessel is thicker and the glaze thicker and more opaque as compared to their Jingdezhen counterpart.  Most have good blue colour tone as compared with the later pieces which are more grayish blue in tone.  The earliest piece I have seen is the below gu vase in the Asian civilisation Museum in Singapore.  It is attributed to the Mid 17th century.  Similar gu shape form was found in the Hatcher cargo.  The shading method used for the mountain is not unknown during the Chongzhen period as can been seen on some of the vessels found in the Hatcher cargo.  The style of depicting the scholar also reminded one of those found in the Tianqi period.   The shading method became very sophisticated during the mid Kangxi period, showing more tonal shades.  This method of depicting the mountain continued to be very popular on Dehua wares even during the Qianlong/Daoguang period while on Jingdezhen pieces, it's popularity waned after Kangxi.  

Dehua vase dated to late Kangxi /Yongzheng

Dehua censers dated to late Kangxi/early Qianlong period

Some Dehua blue and white with motifs similar to that found on Jingdezhen pieces are illustrated below.

Dehua Censer dated to AD 1748 .  Similar examples with objects of antiquity could be found on 

From my observation, when dating bowls of Dehua, generally those with high and thinner footring are dated earlier than Jiaqing.  In the case of dishes/plates, those which have thinner and well finished footring are usually from earlier period.  If the footring is thick and low, they are usually from a later date ie Jiaqing and after.

Dehua blue and white (Late Qianlong  to Daoguang Period)

Examining the sherds from the Dehua kilns published in the book "Dehua Minyao blue and white" by Chen Jianzhong, apparently most are probably from the Qianlong to Daoguang period.  Unfortunately, no dating information were provided for the sherds. So far, very little literature discussing Dehua blue and whites has been published.  Accurate dating of the wares is a problem as there are very little pieces with confirmed dating available.   Those found in the Tek Sing cargo (dated A.D 1822, 2nd year of Daoguang reign), may serve as reference to study characteristics of wares of late Qianlong/Daoguang period.  To see some examples found in Tek Sing cargo, please click.  It is clear that by then, Dehua blue and white has firmly developed their unique characteristics and different from their Jingdezhen counterpart.  Generally, they possess the following features:


Typical Motifs of Dehua wares from Late Qianlong to Daoguang period


Dehua blue and white (Late Qing to Republican Period)

The opium war of A.D1840 signaled the start of the drastic decline in the fortune of the Qing Dynasty.  Beside having to deal with western imperialism, the court also faced severe challenge from the Taiping revolution.  The country was in a state of chaos and the economy suffered badly.   Export of Chinese porcelains, including those from Dehua,  were drastically reduced. The quality of porcelain produced also dropped.   On many of the Dehua blue and white, the motifs are executed in weak strokes, appear sketchy and composition disorderly looking.


Dehua type from other Fujian and Guangdong Areas

The popularity of Dehua blue and white wares prompted kilns in other regions in Fujian and neighbouring Chaozhou to produce similar wares.  Those produced in Yongchun which is adjacent to Dehua are very similar and hard to tell apart.  Another important production site is Anxi.  Those from Anxi are less refined and has more grayish paste.  Some examples from the Anxi kilns are illustrated below.

Kilns in Chaozhou (part of Guangdong province)  such as Dapu and Raoping are also known to produce blue and white which are similar to those from Dehua. Many also carried shop marks.  They can be distinguished by their more rough paste and finishing.

Examples from Guangdong Raoping kiln.  Similar examples have been excavated from the kiln site.


Another example with horses motif that is also most probably from Guangdong Raoping kiln


Written by: NK Koh (18 Mar 2010), updated: 9 May 2013


1. 德化青花五彩瓷 (黄春淮 鄭金勤 编著)

2. 德化民窑青花 (陈建中 编著)

3. 福建陶瓷考古概论 (曾凡著)

4. Tek Sing Treasures (Nagel Auctions)

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