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  • Writer's pictureCabinet Gauchet Art Asiatique

How to distinguish Chinese blue-white porcelain from Vietnamese porcelain ?

Updated: Apr 3

Chinese and Vietnamese blue and white porcelain are two highly sought-after types of ceramics on the art market. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between these two types of porcelain, as they share many similar characteristics, particularly in the so-called "Blue of Hué" pieces produced in China but intended for the Vietnamese market.

In this article, our team of experts will explain the differences between Chinese and Vietnamese blue and white porcelain, so that you can better understand how to distinguish them in the art market.

Two blue and white porcelain bowls, on the left a Vietnamese model from the 19th century, on the right, a Chinese model from the same period.

History and Context

Blue and white porcelain is a type of ceramic that first appeared in China in the 14th century during the Ming dynasty. This technique was then perfected during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and became an iconic feature of Chinese porcelain. Vietnamese blue and white porcelain, on the other hand, has a more recent history. The technique was introduced to Vietnam in the 17th century by Chinese artisans who settled in the north of the country. Vietnamese porcelain has been influenced by Chinese porcelain, but has also incorporated unique elements of Vietnamese culture.

Characteristics of Chinese Porcelain

Chinese blue and white porcelain is recognizable by its blue designs on a white background, which are usually dragons, flowers, or landscapes. The designs are usually intricate and well-defined, with clear lines and sharp outlines. Chinese porcelain is also known for its fineness and translucency, making it highly sought after by collectors.

Characteristics of Vietnamese Porcelain

Vietnamese blue and white porcelain is also recognizable by its blue motifs on a white background, which are often similar to those of Chinese porcelain. However, Vietnamese motifs are generally simpler and less detailed than Chinese motifs. The outlines are also less sharp, giving the motifs a more blurry appearance. Vietnamese porcelain is often thicker than Chinese porcelain and has a more earthy appearance. It can also have fire marks or poorly applied enamels, which adds to its rustic charm.

Crédit photo Yann Girault
Vietnamese porcelain teapot, VIETNAM, Nguyen Dynasty, early 19th century, sold for 80,000 euros.

Crédit photo : Yann Girault
Chinese porcelain teapot, China, 19th century

Distinguish Chinese porcelain from Vietnamese porcelain

Now that we have examined the distinctive characteristics of Chinese and Vietnamese porcelain, how can we distinguish them in the art market ?

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Materials Used

The first difference to consider is the material used to make porcelain. Chinese porcelain is often made from a fine and pure clay, while Vietnamese porcelain is often made from a coarser clay. This difference can translate into a difference in weight and texture of the porcelain. Generally, Chinese porcelain is finer and lighter than Vietnamese porcelain.A large part of Vietnamese porcelain pieces have a metal band around the neck of the vases or around the edges of the bowls, which is an additional clue to distinguish between the two types of production.

  • Cooking technics

Chinese porcelain is often fired at higher temperatures and for longer periods of time than Vietnamese porcelain. This firing technique creates a smoother and shinier finish on the porcelain. Vietnamese porcelain, on the other hand, is often fired at lower temperatures, which can give a rougher and matte finish.

  • Motifs and Designs

The motifs used to decorate Chinese and Vietnamese porcelain can also be used to distinguish between the two. Chinese motifs are often more complex and detailed than Vietnamese motifs. Chinese motifs can include scenes from nature, historical figures, and cultural symbols. Vietnamese motifs, on the other hand, are often simpler and more abstract. The motifs can include cultural and religious symbols, but are often less detailed than Chinese motifs.

Crédit photo Yann Girault
Vietnam, 19th century Porcelain bowl with blue and white decoration, sold for 13,000 euros.

  • Colors Used

Although the name of the porcelain is "blue and white", there can be differences in color between Chinese porcelain and Vietnamese porcelain. Chinese porcelain can have deeper and richer shades of blue than Vietnamese porcelain. Additionally, Chinese porcelain can also have lighter shades of white than Vietnamese porcelain.

Crédit photo Yann Girault
CHINE, XIXe siècle Vase en porcelaine de forme double gourde, à décor en bleu de cobalt sur fond blanc de dragons dans les nuées, adjugé 3000 euros

  • Marks and Signatures

Marks and signatures are often an important indicator to differentiate between Chinese and Vietnamese blue and white porcelain. The pieces can include a variety of marks and signatures, which often indicate the place of production, the period of production, and the name of the maker. Note however that Vietnamese porcelain pieces may feature characters and reign marks borrowed from China.

You want to have your porcelains appraised, don't hesitate to contact our specialized appraisal cabinet.

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