Neolithic period, Majiayao culture, Banshan phase (c. 2400 B.C.E.)
burnished earthenware with painted design
4.5 x 4 x 3.75 inches
Settlement around the Yellow River and its tributaries provided everything needed for a rich life of plentiful food and artistic inspiration. The peoples learned to create vessels for storing food and water, essential for a settlement focused on farming. Those pieces that survive are probably special, more ornate than usual, since they were found in tombs. Fine clay dug near the river was hand-rolled into coils and shaped into jars, which were then left to dry on woven mats. Before drying completely the jars were burnished to create a smooth surface to receive paint. Daily life on the river inspired the abstract patterns: crosshatched lines conjure nets in the mind’s eye, and curvilinear, peaked shapes are reminiscent of waves. After painting, the vessels were fired in simple kilns.
Neolithic kilns were updraft types. A pit would be dug on the top of a hill. Shafts would travel from the bottom of the pit out the hill’s side to the firebox. A loosely packed fire on the top of the pit would vent the kiln as well as provide consistent firing temperatures. The oxygen-rich atmosphere produced the reddish color of the wares.
Rawson, pp. 369-370
Tregear, Arts of China, pp. 13-16
Weichao, vol. 1, pp. 32-36