JSU Student Symposium 2022

Ceramics & Economics in Early China


Ceramics & Economics in Early China



Faculty Mentor

Tray Ridlen, Art & Design


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8:45-8:55am | Houston Cole Library, 11th Floor


Ceramics through the ages have served as a window into the worlds of culture, technology, and history.[1] In early China, the making of ceramics was greatly celebrated, calling for kiln towns to produce considerable amounts of ceramic goods. A closer look at textual studies, trade, and the social and religious cultures of China, reveal a complicated duality in the art of ceramics and the business surrounding it.[2] By surveying these topics, it can be said that the role of ceramics served not only as an art, but as a lens into the socioeconomic state of early China. Evidence seen in textual commentary as well as demand for the objects, proves ceramics were ultimately revered as an art in early China. However, treatment of ceramics and ceramicists alike, suggests the reaction towards both was strategic. Denying the art and the artists allows higher-class citizens to secure ceramic making as labor rather than craft, a business rather than connoisseurship, and denying creators the ability to elevate in social class through the title of ‘artist’. Implementing kiln towns trains low-class citizens in ceramic making while successfully supplying a continuous demand, ultimately creating a ‘perfectly working machine’.[3] A number of religious ideas support the strict social structure enforced by elites, in which a clear working class and a clear administrative class exist in a symbiosis responsible for the success of China’s economy.

[1] Sessions, “Ceramics Curriculum”, 7.

[2] Gerritsen, “Fragments of a Global Past”, 117.

[3] Neave, 127.


student research, art


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Ceramic Arts

Ceramics & Economics in Early China