Porcelain ChinaPorcelain originated in China. Although proto-porcelain wares exist dating from the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE), by the Eastern Han Dynasty period (196–220) glazed ceramic wares had developed into porcelain. Porcelain manufactured during the Tang Dynasty (618–906) was exported to the Islamic world, where it was highly prized. Early porcelain of this type includes the tri-colour glazed porcelain, or sancai wares. The exact dividing line between proto-porcelain and porcelain wares is not a clear one to date. Porcelain items in the sense that we know them today could be found in the Tang Dynasty, and archaeological finds has pushed the dates back to as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). By the Sui Dynasty (581–61 and Tang Dynasty (618–907), porcelain had become widely produced.
Eventually, porcelain and the expertise required to create it began to spread into other areas of East Asia. During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), artistry and production had reached new heights. The manufacture of porcelain became higly organised and the kiln sites, those excavated from this period, could fire as many as 25,000 wares. By the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), porcelain art was being exported to Europe. Some of the most well-known Chinese porcelain art styles arrived in Europe during this era, such as the coveted blue-and-white wares. The Ming Dynasty controlled much of the porcelain trade, which were further expanded to all over Asia, Africa and Europe through the Silk Road. Later, Portuguese merchants began direct trade over the sea route with the Ming Dynasty in 1517 and were followed by Dutch merchants in 1598.