Primitive Colored Pottery

Primitive Colored Pottery

Colored pottery was an outstanding achievement of the Yangshuo culture. The making process involves drawing or painting the patterns on the clay before the pottery vessel is fired. After firing, the colored designs are fused with the surface of the pottery and are quite resistant to fading and peeling. Colored pottery uses mostly black coloring, sometimes together with red coloring. Some areas are applied with a layer of white as the background so that painted patterns will become even more appealing. Colored pottery motifs contain subject matters or images are often applied to the mouths and bellies of fine clayed alms bowls, bowls, pots and jars. Usually there would be no painted images on the underside or contracting portions of the pottery ware. This kind of design was related to the living habits of people at the times. Since people in the Neolithic Age were subject to restrictions by their living conditions, they often sat on mats directly placed on the ground or squatted. Therefore, the designs on the potteries needed to be placed at the spots most visible from such a position and angle.

There are many ways of shaping pottery, with the main methods being the following:
1. Pinching
This is the original and most simplistic way for making pottery. Pinched pots usually result in relatively rough and inconsistent form, but it is very flexible and convenient. Therefore is often used for small clay sculptures and only rarely employed for potery vessels for daily use.

2. Stack-and-Shape
As with hand-pinched pottery, stack and shape is also one of the earliest ways of making pottery. By applying layers of wet and sticky clay on the ouside of something akin to an inner mold, a whole vessel is shaped. Usually the pieces of clay are applied in order from bottom to top, with at least a double-layer composition; some vessels are multi-layered. Potteries made through this technique appeared thick and hefty; the shapes and especially the mouths of the vessels were not very even. From archeological findings and studies, evidence supports that stack and shape was used more than six to seven thousand years ago and was gradually replaced by the coiling technique.

3. Coiling
Pottery clay is first made into coils and then placed on top of one another in a circular fashion. Paddles other tools were used to flatten and smooth the exterior and interior, and to accurately shape the vessel. Not only were most Neolithic pottery made this way, some minority nationality groups in China today still employ this method for pottery-making.

Colored pottery has rich decorative images and patterns; most commonly seen are the motif of fish, birds, frogs, deer and so on, as well as some images of flora and human and deity figures. Pottery found at the Banpo area near present day Xi’an often contained Yin and Yang decorations, or positive and negative markings. The design patterns on colored pottery of the late-Neolithic Age are the earliest cases of large-scale creation of geometric patterns in Chinese history.