Glass in Ancient China: Sodium or Calcium?


It is noteworthy that by the XVII century lead glass, apparently, was no longer being created by anyone but the Chinese. The “wear” of the surface of glass products created in the Qing era (1644-1911), according to some researchers (for example, P. Hardie), is associated with an excessive amount of calcium (lime), which was used then to improve the quality of burning.

Jewelry in the Han Era
Jewelry in the Han Era

The term bo-li, according to the modern point of view, was originally used to designate transparent (sodium) glass, products from which came to China in the Han era (206 BC - 220 AD) from Central Asia or the Middle East ( along the Great Silk Road). The production of Chinese soda glass was supposedly established in the era of the Six Dynasties (III – VI centuries) in the areas of the r. Yellow River, had fallen from the IV into the dominion of foreign ruling houses. Local authorities eagerly used to invite foreign masters, who apparently set up the production of this type of glass in China.

Ancient Chinese Glass. Bottle for Snuff.
Ancient Chinese Glass. Bottle for Snuff.
Tiny vessels (height from 4 to 7 cm) of green-blue glass with purple, yellow and red splashes, ornamented on the outer surface with a relief pattern of interlaced strips are now recognized as the oldest Chinese glass products of this kind. They were discovered in the burial of the kingdom of North / Toba Wei (386–534).

During the Sui era (589–816), the production of soda glass entered a qualitatively new stage of development, as evidenced by the green and blue transparent glass vessels relating to this time, replicating monochrome ceramics. In the Tang era (618-907), the range of glass items of this kind expanded greatly - from jewelry(most often bracelets made of greenish-white and amber glass imitating jade and amber, respectively) to various categories of tableware. The best products of this era include, for example, a jug of greenish-yellow glass, equipped with a curved handle and a bird's beak-shaped spout; a green glass bowl in the form of a flower, the contours of which smoothly turn into borders, repeating the shape and ornamentation of early porcelain products.

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