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How to Buy Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases

Chinese Porcelain vases have been in demand as consumer items for thousands of years. The process of making porcelain was first discovered by the Chinese and they used it to create ornate vases that were sought after in Europe by nobles and royalty. This buying guide aspires to discuss antique Chinese porcelain vases and to arm consumers with as much information as possible so that a definitive, informed purchase can be made. In that pursuit the following topics will be explored further. The history of Chinese porcelain vases, Chinese antique porcelain vases as a contemporary consumer category, different historical/artistic genres of Chinese porcelain vases, factors to consider when buying an antique Chinese porcelain vase and best practices to maintain an antique Chinese porcelain vase. Knowledge is power, and having at least some knowledge in this wide area of information should help a consumer to make a better purchase.  

History of Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases

The Chinese have a long tradition in ceramics and pottery goods. The porcelain production process was first developed during the Han dynasty, (196-220 AD). Over the course of the next thousand years porcelain production would continually be refined and improved. A great innovation during the period was the development of Sancai porcelain, which was porcelain that used three intermingling colours (often green, white and yellow) for decoration. This process would often be used to decorate Chinese vases.

During the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) a lucrative trade network for porcelain goods developed between China and Europe. During that time frame the Ming vase would become a sought-after consumer item. Also, from the 14th century when it was first created, blue and white porcelain would become a vastly popular trade item. Blue and white porcelain used white porcelain with a blue, highly ornate and artistic under-glaze for decoration.  This item, as with Sancai porcelain before it, would make up the base of many vases.

Up until end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the last of the Chinese dynasties, vases would remain an item often traded, and a corner stone of the western fascination for China and the east.  

Discover Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases

The antique Chinese porcelain vase still is one of China’s most popular exports. Blue and white porcelain as an art form is recognized as being quintessentially Chinese. The difference between China and the West creates allure in terms of the cultural/artistic items that they have created. Consumers still buy antique Chinese vases to connect themselves to a nation that is steeped in culture and history. This area of antiques has numerous options for the antique hunter, right down to the casual antique collector.

Components of Porcelain

Below is a list of required natural substances to create porcelain items.




Kaolin is a soft, earthy, white clay that is found in abundance in China. This material is the base of most Chinese porcelain. It also gives porcelain its shiny veneer.

Petunse (pottery stone)

The term for wide range of micaceous or feldspathic rocks. Must be ground down into powder form in the production of porcelain.  It is lso, referred to as pottery stone.


Feldspar crystallizes from magma and is a mineral that contains aluminium silicate and flint.  In porcelain production it changes the thermal properties of ceramic mixes.


A common occurring mineral inside the earth’s crust. Quatz acts as stabilizer in ceramic mixes.

Types of Antique Chinese Porcelain Vase

The table below highlights a few major types of antique Chinese porcelain vase.



Additional Considerations

Ding ware vases

Characterised by lightweight bodies and a warm ivory coloured glaze.

Early 12th century potters used moulds that could be mass produced.

Ru Ware Vase

Lavender blue crackled glazed vase.

One of the rarest forms of porcelain. Highly sought after.

Jun Ware Vases

Straw ash in the glaze creates the unique blue glaze suffused in white.

Created during the Song dynasty 960 – 1126 AD.

Ge ware vases

A grayish-blue glaze that is fully opaque. Exaggerated crackled patterns.

One of the most popular porcelain styles of the Ming dynasty.

Guan Ware vases

A celadon vase with crackling.

Guan ware was considered one of the five great wares of the Song dynasty.

Blue and white vases

White porcelain decorated under the glaze with blue pigment.

One of China’s largest export items to Europe.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Antique Chinese Porcelain Vase

  • Get the story behind the antique – Provenance, in terms of antiques, is when an antique has a paper trail that proves its authenticity. If a seller has written evidence that shows the item’s previous ownership, or information about the artist that created it, it can create a time line for the item. This time line will help authenticate the item and place an accurate value on it.
  • Does the item have any identifying marks – When purchasing an antique vase look for markings that might identify the artist connected with creating the vase. This process connects to the above concept of provenance and can help identify the value of an item. In addition, it will help protect against fake items being purchased. 
  • Is it an antique? – Something to be considered is that antiques that are exported from China should have a red wax seal on their bottom. This seal signifies that the Chinese government has, as their law dictates, examined the item before it was exported and classified it an antique.
  • Has this item been altered? – With the majority of household goods, a few repairs would decrease value; this is not the case with antiques. Chinese vases should not be touched up or tampered with. Well-crafted porcelain vases will naturally show some wear and tear and this is to be expected. It is advised that the buyer keep an eye out for paint touch ups on a vase, this can devalue an antique Chinese porcelain vase.
  • Buy something that resonates with you – Beyond actual value, an important aspect of buying an antique porcelain Chinese vase is finding one that artistically connects to you. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and a vase that resonates with its buyer will be well cared for. It will give its owner pleasure now, and into the future.

How to Care for Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases

Antique porcelain is best cleaned with a small paint brush to remove dust and grime. Unrestored porcelain can be washed in warm water with a mild soap. Always allow the vase to self-dry placed on a towel. Under no circumstances attempt to machine wash a porcelain vase.

Porcelain should be stored away from direct sunlight, as this can distort the decoration on the vase. It should be stored in a place that does not have great variance in humidity and temperature. The best practice is to store a porcelain antique vase behind glass where it cannot get knocked over.  When transporting do not grab by any extremities, carry the item by its base alone, as extremities can weaken structurally over time and break.

Major Dynasties in China that Created Porcelain Vases

  • Tang Dynasty: 618-906 AD
  • Song Dynasty: 960- 1279 AD
  • Yuan Dynasty: 1279 -1368 AD
  • Ming Dynasty: 1368 – 1644 AD
  • Qing Dynasty: 1644-1912 AD

Accessories for an Antique Chinese Porcelain Vase

Some accessories available for purchase include:

  • An artist’s brush and soft sponge.
  • An antique cabinet.
  • Additional antiques to compliment the vase.

Finding Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases on eBay

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

Searching for Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Antique Chinese Porcelain Vases. For example, to find Chinese antique porcelain vases from the Ming dynasty, type ‘antique Chinese porcelain Ming vases’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customize the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique Chinese porcelain vases with keywords. If you can’t find the exact for antique Chinese porcelain vases, try shopping eBay Stores.


Sifting through such a variety of antique Chinese porcelain vases should be easier when armed with some relevant information. Find a vase that resonates best with you. Make sure the item you purchase is what the seller says it is. Please consult additional information about this large topic in order to make the most satisfying purchase that you can. Teaching yourself more about the eras that Chinese vases came from will help you to get a deeper understanding of any vase that you may purchase. An Antique Chinese porcelain vase can add distinction and sophistication to any antique collection. It could also prove to be a lucrative financial investment.

Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique Chinese porcelain vase safely and securely on eBay.

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