Why the Depiction of Children on Ceramics was important during The Qing Dynasty (1636-1912)
Ceramics featuring children in their design is an interesting aspect of Chinese pottery. Originating with Rāhula, the son of Buddha, it later evolved into pictures of children at play which held the promise of blessings. The gender of the children featured are predominantly boys, indicating the popular prayers offered up for the birth of a son – not least because boys were the labourers in agricultural communities. In Taoist beliefs (where Tao is the root of heaven and earth, mother of everything, and the origin of the world), children are presumed innocent, unadorned, wushen [without self-restraint], and unselfish. Returning to a childlike state was in accordance with the ideal of uniting nature and heaven, adding to the popularity of children being featured in the decoration of ceramics. They first appeared during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-901), developing further approval in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and reaching its zenith in the Qing dynasty (1639-1912). By the time of the latter there were over a hundred depictions of children being used, all in different narratives, providing us with an insight into the culture and society of China of that time.