imperial ceramics
of jingdezhen


PHASE I Sample Groups 1.0–8.0 Research Protocol. Topic II

PHASE I (2016–2017)
Sample Groups 1.0–8.0, Topics II


Imperial Ceramics of Jingdezhen: "White as jade, bright as a mirror, thin as paper, with a sound as clear as a bell."

David V. Hill, Philippe Sciau, Gulsu Simsek, Tiequan Zhu

Goal, objectives & aim

The goal is to  study  closely related groups of the Yuan and Ming ceramics from PHASE I Sample Groups 1.0–8.0 (Tai 2015)1 with an objective to establish: (i) the  composition and formation process of the glaze, its colorant processes and chromogenic mechanisms (Sciau 2015);2 (ii)  the degradation processes and deterioration mechanisms (of the glaze and the ceramic body (iii) the mineral alterations and pseudomorphic replacements resulted from the natural phenomena of long-term effects of physical disaggregation and weathering (Merino, et al. 1993; Yang 2012); (iv) detailed comparisons of the (i)(ii)(iii) research results with those of the published databases of the samples with or without verifiable archaeological contexts. The prime goal is to design a successful model for research on samples, with and without verifiable archaeological contexts, with a view to reconstruct the technology and sources of productions of the Yuan and Ming ceramics whose archaeological contexts are no longer known. This includes identifying potential origins of the sources of cobalt used as colorant.

The aim is to produce significant research results publishable in peer-reviewed academic journals and presentable at international congress and conference proceedings. The results of research based on the present protocol shall produce the programme’s initial research manuscripts for peer-reviewed publications by 3Q–4Q 2016 deadlines.

The collective research results of the programme’s initial peer-reviewed publications shall supplement the proposed research designs, goals and objectives described in the BLUE PRINT Research Protocol 14.0–2015.01.03, planned to be officially submitted to Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, the German Research Foundation (DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft the ESF (European Science Foundation) and European Commission’s relevant funding bodies for funding the undertakings described in the BLUE PRINT Research Protocol 14.0–2015.01.03, and the BLUE PRINT Monographic Publication PHASE II (2017–2022) – PHASE III (2023–2028).

Preliminary steps (compiling non-destructive data):


  1. Measurements (cm);
  2. Weight (gr); Shape of the footring (in profile, i.e. potting profile.


  1. Detailed descriptions on the overall or general physical condition or the state of preservation (of the sample);
  2. Detailed descriptions on any form of chemical and/or biological degradations or weathering, or any presence of crystallization or potential pseudomorphic replacement in the glaze or the unglazed ceramic body.

Detailed laboratory instrumental research

A. Non-invasive analysis:

  1. Microscopic analysis of ceramic glaze and underglaze;
  2. Raman spectroscopy of ceramic body and glaze (for comparison with invasive analysis);
  3. Portable XRF of ceramic body and glaze (for comparison with invasive analysis);
  4. PIXE (Leon, Sciau et al. 2012) or any combination of synchrotron radiation-based μ-XRF, μ- XRD, μ-XANES to obtain high resolution data for research on the composition and formation process of the glaze, its colorant processes (Sciau 2015); as well as the degradation processes and deterioration mechanisms of the glaze and the ceramic body by the mineral alterations and pseudomorphic replacements of kaolin-based clay body (Merino et al. 1993, Yang 2012
  5. Colorimetric analysis for measuring a*, b* and L* values of blue decors and glazes with the objective to determine and verify the potential sources of production (Yung-Kuan, et al. 2012).

B. Invasive analysis (oriented towards sherds):

  1. Electron microprobe analysis of ceramic paste;
  2. LA-ICP-MS of cobalt colorant to develop a data-base of potential sources of cobalt in China and the Near East (Yacheng et al. 1995; Zhu et al. 2015a; 2015b);
  3. XRMF (X-ray µ-fluorescence) analysis of ceramic body, glaze composition and cobalt (Sciau et al. 2015);
  4. Micro-XRF imaging of the distribution of cobalt in underglaze.(Sciau et al. 2015);
  5. Electron microprobe and XRD analysis of iron-rich inclusions present in the fired ceramic body (Merino et al. 1993);
  6. PIXE analysis of phase boundaries in weathered kaolinites (Merino et al 1993) and the exterior glaze.

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1 See TAI Yew Seng’s preliminary reports on PHASE I Sample Groups 1.0–8.0.

2 Philippe SCIAU, Thesis proposal CSC 2015 submitted under no. 13967 to the University of Toulouse.