Kangxi transitional porcelain was manufactured at China’s principle ceramic production area of Jingdezhen until 1683 when the production of “official ware” was resumed.
The Manchu regime was established in 1644. For those many intervening years a variety of porcelain wares were created in private kilns for domestic use and export to client markets such as Japan. Prior to the reinstatement of the Imperial Kilns the private use of the dynastic reign name on ceramics was officially forbidden in the 16th year of the reign of the Kangxi Emperor in the Qing Dynasty (around 1677). Previously in the years of the Wanli Emperor (1573–1619) of the Ming Dynasty, ceramics under government sponsorship slowly degenerated in quality until production itself was abandoned.
The transitional ware of the early Kangxi decades witnessed a move away from designs and aesthetic standards of the painter Dong Qichang to newer tastes typified by the artist Shen Shitong and his use of western perspective. The influence of the artist Dong Qichang can be readily seen on ceramic ware of the period with its heavily accented light and dark tones. The change to Shen Shitung can be seen in generous vertical washes that create a definite foreground and background contrast. Kangxi transitional ware in its broadest sense is best appreciated and studied in Japan than in the west. The informality of design and shape appealed to Japanese taste and especially those involved in the tea ceremony. Palace-ware or imperial-ware has traditionally found many admirers in Europe and America. Kangxi reign marks on porcelain are few throughout the ceramic period, but a few can be identified with the pre‑1677 decades. Earlier Ming period marks can frequently be found. Their styles closely match the few Kangxi marks that are found and aid in delineating Kangxi transitional porcelain.
Ming Style Mark
Early Kangxi Mark
^Tingji, Cheng (1682). The Gazetteer of Fuliang County. Fuliang county: Fuliang Xianzhi. p. chapter 3, 62b.
Masahiko Sato (Hanakoka and Barberri trans.), Chinese Ceramics, New York and Tokyo, 1981, pp. 206–209.
Cheng Tingji, The Gazetteer of Fuliang County (Fuliang Xianzhi, 1682), chapter 3, 62b