Antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain collector's help and info page


Names of pottery parts and shapes

The Chinese Pottery and Porcelain morphology, being a description of the shapes of the vessels with illustrations.

The Morphology table contains information describing the range of vessel forms and types described by this table. Form is the broadest descriptor while type refines this general classification. Illustrations of the of the forms and types are found in this table; illustrations of the profiles of vessels are found in the profile terminology table.


The terminology used to describe the vessels' profiles, with illustrations

Form: Form is the broadest descriptor. These are diversified. Cylindrical, globular or spheroidal, egg-shaped or ovoid ; apple-shaped or pomiform, pear-shaped or pyriform ; cubical, hexagonal, etc.

Shape: refines this general classification.

Beaker. The Chinese beaker is a trumpet-shaped vase, having neither handle nor spout nor beak.

Bottle. A vase with spheroidal body, long neck and narrow mouth. The gourd-shaped Oriental bottle may be double, having three bodies diminishing from the bottom upwards.

Saucer. The old Chinese form of the plate is always saucer-shaped. The flattening of the rim produced the dish and plate. Raising the sides gave the bowl, basin, and cup. By adding a handle we have the tea-cup.

Basket: Bowl with a handle across the top

Bowl: Low vessel with big opening

Effigy: A pottery with human or animal shape, literal or implied

Jar: Bowl with constricted lip opening

Pot: Usually (any) round and deep vessel appropriated to any of a great variety of uses; often with a handle and lid.

Jug: A container for liquid, with a handle and an opening for pouring or drinking from.

Vase: A pot taller than it is wide, often decorated, adapted for various domestic purposes and anciently, for sacrificial uses.

Urn: Usually a vase furnished with a foot or pedestal, employed for different purposes, as for holding liquids, for ornamental uses, for preserving the ashes of the dead after cremation, etc.

Baluster: Sinous contoured shape of a turned vertical post supporting a rail of a staircase.

Miniature: Small piece unusable for anything other that collecting

Cache pot: A French term used to identify a decorative jardiniere designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.

Caddy: A container for tea, usually silver but also ceramic, wood or enamel.

Cadogan: Lidless, peach-shaped teapot which is held upside down to be filled a the base. A tube leading up from the base ensures the contents do not spill when it is upright.

Compote: A dish on a supporting stem or a stand usually used to hold fruit ,candy or sometimes relishes, in which case the dish or bowl may be divided or segmented.

Tazza: Wide but shallow bowl on a stem with a foot; ceramic and metal tazzas were made in antiquity and the form was revived by Venetian glassmakers in the 15th century. Also made of silver from the 16th century.

Tyg: Mug with three or more handles

Jardinere: A French term used to identify a decorative cache pot designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.

Cavetto: The sloping sides of the inside of a bowl or a deep dish. Also called the well. A concave molding with a cross section that approximates a quarter circle. From; Italian, diminutive of cavo, hollow, from Latin cavus.

Dry Edge: Underglazed area around the base of figures

Foot-rim: Projecting ring around the base of a plate, bowl, etc.

Luted Joints: Joints sealed with fluid clay slip.

Shoulder: Outward projection of a vase under the neck or mouth.

Mouth: Top opening of a round ware such as a bowl, jar or a vase.

Mouth-rim: Topmost edge of the neck of a round ware such as a bowl, jar or a vase.

Neck / neck form : Section part between mouth-rim and shoulder on a jar or a vase. In the bottle, flagon, and flask, the neck is of different length and form. The throat may be narrow or wide, inclining inwards or outwards, or even perpendicular.

Well: The hollow interior bottom of a bowl, plate or dish - cf. cavetto

Rim / rim form / Interior Rim / Exterior Rim

Bevel: The edge of any flat surface that has been cut at a slant to the main area.

Lip: The outer edge of a rim

Handle / handle form: Protruding structures there to simplify lifting and handling, on the outer side of a vessel. Either ornamental, functional or both.

Finial: An ornament used as a terminating motif usually in the form of a ball, flame, flower, acorn, pineapple, or vase.

Lug / where handles or lugs are attached

Body / body form / Lower Body; The parts of a vase which corresponds with the body in the human figure. The shape may be simple, or two or more forms combined. Also The substance from which a pot is made. A mixture of one or more clays, grog, feldspars, etc., to give a material suitable for shaping and firing.

Base / Underside Base; The solid support or bottom of any vessel either simple or ornamentally shaped.


Lid, top of / side of Lid


Descriptions of patterns should be detailed as the syntax of the decorative schema, a description of the manner in which decorative patterns are distributed on portions of the vases... (just thinking so far).

Standard pattern as defined elsewhere (Roman numerial)

Pattern Sort Number (Integer)

Description of pattern

Motif variant of pattern type

Text Description of motif

Fluting: A border that resembles a scalloped edge, used as a decoration on furniture, glass, silver and porcelain items. Repeated pattern of parallel concave vertical grooves.

Gadroon: Border pattern, usually a series of convex, vertical or spiraling curves or reeding. A border or ornament comprising radiating lobes of either straight or curved form, used from the late Elizabethan period on.

Impressed: Patterns created in the clay using primitive tools

Ornaments. These are very varied. They may be in relief, reticulated, impressed, engraved in the paste ; or they may be arabesque, grotesque ; or they may be lines in angles, lozenges, zigzags, ribbons, and paintings of every kind.

Polished: Traditionally done with a stone or antler, the more hours the potter spends polishing, the deeper and richer the sheen

Reeding: Converse of fluting; parallel, vertical pattern in the form of reeds.

Sgraffito: Ornamentation etched into the slip to show the base color of the clay

Sprigging: Application of small low-relief, mould-case ornaments onto the body and attached by thin slip.

Camaieu: Porcelain decoration using different tones of a single color

Cartouche: An oblong shaped panel surrounded by a border, or by scrollwork and foliage acting as a frame, enclosing an entirely different decorative motif from the ground pattern.

Deutsche Blumen: Painted naturalistic flowers, single or in bunches, used as porcelain decoration at Meissen in the mid-18th century.

Diaper: Surface decoration composed of repeated diamonds or squares, often carved in low relief.

Famille Jaune: "Yellow Family"; Chinese porcelain vessels in which yellow is the predominant ground color.

Famille Noir: "Black Family"; Chinese porcelain in which black is the predominant ground color.

Famille Rose: "Pink Family"; Chinese porcelain in which pink to purple is the predominant ground color.

Famille Verte: "Green Family"; Chinese porcelain in which green is the predominant ground color overlaid with yellows, blues, purples and iron red.

Gilding: Process of applying an ornamental coating of thin gold foil or gold dust to a surface. Also known as bronze dor.

Grisaille: Monochrome decoration, usually gray, used on ceramics and furniture during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rocaille: Shell and rock motifs found in rococo work.

Rosette: A round floral design ornament.

Transfer Printed: Ceramic decoration technique perfected mid 18th century and used widely thereafter for mass produced wares. An engraved design is transferred onto a slab of glue or gelatin (a bat), which was then laid over the body of the vessel, leaving an outline. This was sometimes colored by hand.

Trefoil: Three-cusped figure which resembles a symmetrical three lobed leaf or flower.

Quatrefoil: Four-cusped figure which resembles a symmetrical four lobed leaf or flower.

Willow Pattern: A popular decoration of Nankin blue services. There are several varieties, but all have the weeping willow.

Chinoiserie: European adaptation of Oriental designs popular during late 17th century French, Rococo and Regency periods. Motifs used include Oriental personage, exotic birds and animals, pagodas, fretwork, landscapes, and rivers

Embossing: A process of stamping, hammering or molding a material so that a design protrudes beyond the surface.

Festoon: Renaissance and Neoclassical motif in the shape of a suspended loop of drapery or a garland of flowers and fruit.

Fleur-de-lis: The conventionalized iris flower used by the former kings of France as a decorative motif symbolizing royalty.

Fretwork: Interlocking geometrical designs used ornamentally.

Incised: A pattern or carving produced by cutting into a hard surface. The reverse of relief carving.

Intaglio: Incised or sunk decoration.

Lattice: An openwork criss-cross pattern.

Luster: A thin metallic glaze used on pottery to produce a rich, iridescent color

Palmette: Fan-shaped pattern derived from the shape of a palm-tree leaf. Neo-classical motif.

Repouss: Ornamental relief work on sheet metal. The design is pushed out by hammering from the reverse side, similar to embossing.

Scallop shell: A semi-circular shell with ridges radiating from a point at the bottom. This ornamental motif was common in furniture design during the Queen Anne and Georgian periods in England and America. It was also extensively used in the early Spanish Renaissance.

Measurements for round wares

Height in cm. / remarks

Rim Diameter in cm. / remarks

Max Diameter in cm. / remarks

Base or foot diameter in cm.