Chinese antiquities of the Neolithic Period and later cultures

Neolithic Period: 6000 - 2000BC
and later cultures: 2000 - 221BC

In this section we have grouped together the Neolithic period and the cultures that appeared later. These cultures include the Qija, Xiandian, Siwa and the Warring States period. As the latter suggests, this period was a time of unrest which affected the entire country until the first Emperor Qin brought stabilty in 221BC.

A very rare vase with geometric pattern, Majiayo Culture, Majiayo phase (3200 - 2700BC) 30 cm high.

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A double handled vase, 24 cm high, Siwa Culture, C1400BC.
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A very rare vase with geometric decoration, Majiayo Culture, Majiayo phase ( 3200 - 2700BC) 21 cm high.

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An extremely fine and rare twin handled vessel made during the early Banshan phase (2700 - 2300 BC) of the Majiayao culture which lasted from about 4000 - 1800 BC in Gansu Province.
This very large example is 47.5 cm high and 43 cm . The swirling, intertwining patterns are much rarer than the designs seen on the later Machang examples.

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The Majiayao Culture is a general term for the painted pottery cultures of the Gansu and Tsingha region in north west China. The culture has been dated to approximately 4000 - 1800 BC.

It can be divided into four, distinctive phases:

1. Shilingxia phase 4000 - 3200 BC

2. Majiayao phase 3200 - 2700 BC

3. Banshan phase 2700 - 2300 BC

4. Machang phase 2300 - 1800 BC

The painting on Shilingxia and Majiayao ware is almost exclusively executed in black with loose, fluent lineation and a range of designs including zigzags, chessboard patterns, circular dots and birds.

On the Banshan and Machang ware the painting is executed in red and black and the decorated design is far more complex than that of the previous two phases with whorl patterns, circular scroll patterns, diamond patterns and woven patterns frequently occuring.
A special feature of the Banshan type decoration is that it often uses a black, serrated pattern, much like rows of sharks teeth, while on the pottery of the Machang phase it is common to see a predominence of human figures, frogs shapes (with and without heads), shell shapes and square, coiled "thunder"pattern motifs.

In general, the production techniques used in painted pottery of the Majiayao culture are superior to those of painted pottery of the central plain.
It has been estimated that the firing temperature was between 800 - 1050 degrees celcius producing a thin but hard body aready amost vitrified.
As the potters wheel had not yet been invented, the vessels were made by heaping coiled clay into the desired shape and then smoothing it with a wooden paddle.

There are a number of common features on Banshan and Machang painted pottery;
1. The painting is mainly executed in black and red, and although examples painted only in black are known, there are no examples of painting only in red.

2. The handles on double-handled jars are never very large, just large enough to admit just one finger. The handles decline downwards and are positioned at the broadest point of the belly of the jar.
These types of jars were used for carrying water and were designed to be carried on top of the head so, no matter how large the jar was (they range in size from 20 cm to 48 cm) the base always closely matched the crown of a mans head. The handles decline downwards so as to be more easily gripped by the hands from below.

3. Decoration on this type of vessel always terminates level with the lower end of the handles, with no design on the lower half. The interior and top of the mouth rim are both decorated.

4. Black serrated patterns are unique to Banshan pottery and are not seen on painted pottery of other cultures.

5. Banshan pottery is generally far superior to Machang type in terms of colouration and lustre. The Banshan red pigment is much more brilliant than that used on Machang examples which tend to be dull, almost brown.

A burnished, twin handeld vessel, Siwa culture.
C 1350 BC, 25 cm high. (excluding stand)

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A rare, small example of a bottle amphora made during the Banpo period, 4500 -3500 BC. 20 cm high.

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A medium sized jar made during the Majiayao Yangshao culture, Machang phase, C 2300 - 2000 BC. It is 28 cm high and 23 cm wide.

Price: 2250 Euro