Know the Age of Your Chinese Porcelain through the Reign Marks

Aside from tea and silk, China is most known for its porcelains. As far back as 4,000 BC, the first specimens of Chinese porcelain is already in use. Chinese porcelain is considered as Tzu- the high-fired type, and Tao- the low-fired type.

For connoisseurs, the age is a significant element in purchasing Chinese porcelain. In order to know when the porcelain was made in China, the first step of identifying the age of the item is to look at the bottom and read the “reign marks”.

As an example, the most common marks that one will see in Chinese porcelain antiques are usually made in China during the Qianlong reign. Significantly, it was considered the golden age of Chinese art during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. It was proof of the Emperor’s fondness and great delight in almost all the aspects of Chinese art. The Emperor was said to have been a connoisseur who was actively involved in calligraphy, painting, writing poems and essays, among others.

So what is a reign mark? The reign mark indicates the period during whose reign or rule when the porcelain was made. Again as an example, Chinese porcelain during the Qianlong reign commonly has this following transcription: “Da Qing Qianlong nian zhi”. When translated to English, the phrase means, “Made during the Qianlong reign of the Great Qing dynasty.”

The marks are usually made up of four or six characters, with the last two characters indicating the words “nian zhi”, meaning “made during the years of”. In addition, the marks are commonly in “kai” form or seal script, the latter being the preferred style during the years of reign of the Qianlong and Jiaqing emperors.

So when you want to know the year the porcelain was made in China, look below- or more appropriately, look at the bottom.


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