How to Identify Authentic Chinese Antique Porcelain or Ceramics

-- George Wang, Ph.D.,


Antiques are precious because of their beauty, much less of their age.  Because of their beauty they are preserved for generations, therefore become aged antiques. Beauty is the single most important thing I learned from my antique mentor Dr Chuck Jia.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  Now you are better than 90 percent of the antique collectors because you are reading this! 

Beauty is so important that when it reaches a certain level even authenticity becomes less important.  In fact, Beauty and authenticity often goes together.  Beauty is the hardest or most expensive thing to imitate.

There are 3 elements to the value of an antique: artistic, cultural and historical.  Beauty mainly belong to the artistic aspect.  Of course age itself can contribute to beauty.

Do you see beauty in this 2000 years old ram?

Some people have sharp sense of beauty while others are indifferent  I have an antique collector friend whose sense of beauty is very poor.  However his daughter has a very sharpe sense of beauty.  I do not know how much of this is due to inheritance (gene) vs learning through experience.

How do you think about these two pictures? Which one do you like more, the carved wood plate or red Jun kiln bowl? Think about these and see my comments at the end (Note*).


It costs money to have detail

Aged Signs

1) Chick Feet Crack/Crazing

Export Qinghua plate of the 1700s.

Zhengde Reign Qinghua Jar of the Ming Dynasty.

Chongzhen Reign Qinghua Lotus Seed Jar of the Ming Dynasty

This is one of the most reliable aged signs and very hard to fake.  It takes at least a few hundred years to form. It most often happens in the middle of a plate or inside in the middle of a jar.  When you swipe with your finger, you should not feel scratched by its surface.

2) Aged or Dead Bubbles

Qinghua Vase of the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368)

Under 30x or more magnification, Some porcelains show discolored or blacked or even broken bubbles. It usually takes 600 years or more for this to be obvious. This happens often to some porcelains of the Ming, Yuan or Song dynasties.  This is a sufficient but not necessary indication - which means whenever you see dead bubbles, it can certify its authenticity.  But Not all genuine old porcelains have dead bubbles.

3) Iridescence (蛤蜊光)

At a certain angel, you can a light spectrum for certain old porcelain glaze.  This happens more often to Wucai especially green dye. Normally it needs 150 years or more to form.

Qingbai Bowl of the Song Dynasty

Hongzhi Reign Yellow Plate of the Ming Dynasty

Wucai Elephant Ear Vase of the Yuan Dynasty

4) "Treasure Light" (宝光)

It is the glossy or shining from the inside appearance.  It is very comfortable to watch.  When you touch the glaze, it feels like baby skin.  However, for fake porcelain either the light is too strong or too dull (due to acid treatment).

A Good Reproduction (left) versus a Real Yuan Qinghua porcelain Jar (right)

A Good Reproduction (left) vs an Authentic (right) Kid Bell Vase of the Ming Ware.


With this Ming Xuande Tianqiu Vase, you should understand why good antiques are so expensive - it is pleasing.  It takes your breath away

*Note  if you see the beauty of the Carved wooden plate, you have a good sense of appreciation of beauty.   If you think the Red Bowl is more beautiful, you sense of beauty is unusually sharpe.