Chinese Antique Pottery Buying Guide

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Chinese Antique Pottery Buying Guide

China has a wealth of history, culture and scientific innovation. All three of these aspects were showcased in China’s development of pottery. Blessed with deposits of kaolin, a type of clay conducive to the pottery-making process, China was the first nation to create pottery. From that beginning to present day, China has a rich array of pottery goods.

The objective of this buying guide is to discuss some of the different pottered items that are available for sale as Chinese antique pottery. This guide will also look at the clays commonly used in pottery, the factors to consider when buying antique pottery and how to clean and maintain a piece of pottery

History of Chinese Antique Pottery

The contribution of the Chinese to pottery, and the overall art form of decorative pottery, is unsurpassed. Although every major culture around the world used pottered items, the Chinese were ahead of all other civilisations in terms of the technical innovation and artistic diversity in the industry. As such, Chinese pottery has had a huge and important impact on the art form globally and over time. 

There is evidence that pottered ceramics were created and used in China as far back as 10 thousand years ago. From those beginnings, the practice grew and was improved upon. There is evidence showing that an organized division of labour and large scale Chinese pottery workshops already existed during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC).

During the Han to the Yuan dynasties, the Chinese became known, and renowned around the world, for creating porcelain. The Chinese would come to sell huge quantities of porcelain – a translucent pottered item that held fantastic properties for decoration – to Europe. To this day, Chinese porcelain is still much-coveted in the Western world.

Discover Antique Chinese Pottery

The wide category of Chinese antique pottery allows for a lot of diversity in the items available in the market. A pottered item is an object that is made out of clay and this all-encompassing category includes plates, bowls, vases, plant holders, teapots and statues, just to name a few.

Types of Chinese Antique Pottery

Within the wide definition of Chinese antique pottery, there are several different item categories. Below are a few of them, each listed with a brief description. 




With different paintings and etchings on them, Chinese vases were mainly made of porcelain.


Pottered plates, with painted-on artistic renderings, are a great example of the dual functions of antique goods – ornamental and practical. 


Serving trays often are adorned with attractive Chinese artwork and again can be functional or used as ornaments.

Pots/plant holders

Pottered holders for plants have become common decoration in Eastern and Western homes. 


Sometimes crafted by hand, other times prepared into moulds, statues are an important Chinese art form. In the making of a statue, clay is transformed into its form and then painted and decorated afterwards. 


Tea-drinking is a big part of Chinese culture. Antique Chinese teapots can be ornamental or an interesting addition to the kitchenware of a household.


Generally made from porcelain, antique Chinese bowls can be elaborately decorated.

Types of Clay Used to Make Antique Chinese Pottery

Pottery is made of different clays which are formed into shapes and then heated in kilns to varying temperatures till hardened. Here is a list of some of the clays that are commonly used in the past and currently.






Commonly occurring clay which derives its name from a Chinese village.

· One of the major materials that make up porcelain.

Used in a variety of other industrial purposes, including the making of paper, light bulbs, and cosmetics.

Ball clay

Extremely fine-grained, plastic sedimentary clay.

· Imparts a plasticity – or water absorption – that is required in certain types of ceramics.

Often added in the process of creating porcelain.

Fire clay

A clay type that is used when extreme temperatures are required in the pottery, or brick-making process.

· Can withstand extreme temperatures.

This clay is used in some ceramic processes, but mainly to create fire bricks for industrial ovens and other such uses.

Stoneware clay

This is clay that has some of the properties of ball and fire clay. Originated in the pottery of the Shang Dynasty in China.

· Allows more diverse heating practices than ball clay. A nearly impermeable clay compound.

Popular in American homes as household goods in the nineteenth century.

Red clay (Shale)

Clay that has ferric oxide and vegetable impurities in it.

· Can be used to produce bricks for building.

Less useful for ceramics or pottery.

Factors to Consider When Buying Chinese Antique Chinese

  • Authenticity - When purchasing items that are classified as antiques, buyers should be aware of the authenticity of antique items. Buyers must be able to differentiate between real antiques and faked items. If an item from China has a red wax seal on the bottom, it would be genuine antique. This seal signifies that the Chinese government has examined the item in question and classified it as an antique. Not all antiques bear the government seal but all items that do are genuine antiques.
  • Provenance - This refers to the story or lineage of the antique that is being purchased. If the seller has information about the items origin, and previous ownership, it certifies that the item is antique. Proper documentation can help officially date and properly value the item, although again, not all antiques will have this.
  • Purpose of the item - Another thing that buyers ought to consider is whether an item will be an ornament or be used for its intended purpose. Ornamental antique pottery is mostly purchased for display purposes and intended for aesthetic pleasure. Antique pottery such as vases, can be used and enjoyed throughout the home, but will be more prone to damage the more it is handled.
  • Size - Chinese pottery comes in a vast array of sizes, dictated by the original use of the item. Choosing a size that is suited to your space is essential to showcasing the Chinese antique pottery to its best advantage. This can also be dictated by the piece of furniture, stand, or showcase that the piece is intended to be displayed.
  • Budget - It’s a good idea to determine a budget figure that is comfortable for you and stay within in. This will make the purchasing experience more pleasant in the end and have you enjoying your pottery for many years to come.

How to Care for Chinese Antique Pottery

Antique items do require a little more care than standard items. Their age may have rendered some of their surfaces and joints vulnerable. Be gentle with an antique item as a rule of thumb. 

For antique porcelain and pottery, remember to never hold items by the handle and always by the base of the item. The handle is often the weakest part of the structure and could break easily. Also, clean dirty items with a soft sponge and water and never with abrasive cleaners.

Antiques should also be kept securely so that they are not in danger of being broken. For pieces for ornamental purposes, it is best to keep them in a glass cabinet. Well-constructed pottery can last hundreds of years, if it is taken care of. For pieces that are going to be used daily, they should be cleaned and stored away appropriately, so that they do not become damaged.

Accessories and Add-ons for Chinese Antique Pottery

With such a wide selection of different pieces of Chinese antique pottery, additional accessories will depend on the item that has been purchased. Always consider how an addition will complement the collection and enhance the pieces already bought. For example, buy some teacups to go with an antique teapot. A complete Chinese tea set would typically have four teacups, a burner on which to put the teapot and to keep the tea warm, and a tray to hold all the items.

Finding Chinese Antique Pottery Guide on eBay

Once you determine the type of Chinese antique pottery you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on ‘Asian/ Oriental Antiques’, then ‘Porcelain/ Pottery’, and finally ‘Chinese’ and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Chinese Antique Pottery on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Chinese antique pottery. For example, to find Chinese porcelain vase, type ‘Chinese Porcelain Vase’ into the search box, and then click on the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for a Chinese antique pottery with keywords. If you can’t find the exact Chinese pottery you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


There is no shortage of Chinese antique pottery pieces in the market and the choices are wide for buyers. The major concerns are discerning what the usage for the piece of antique is and then finding a piece that really interests you, be it in the way it looks or its history. Research is key to buying a good piece and also to ensure that you are paying the right price for it. Once you have collected this information, you can buy a piece of Chinese antique pottery safely and securely on eBay.

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