Chinese dinnerware is also referred to as china in reference to the material used to make the tableware. Porcelain is the material used to make this dinnerware which is ceramic in nature and is produced by heating kaolin at very high temperatures. The glass and mullite formed during this heating process is what gives porcelain its translucence, strength and toughness. Dinnerware can be made from porcelain, bone china, stoneware or earthenware which are all ceramic or can be made of wood, plastic, acrylic, silver, pewter or gold.
Chinese porcelain dates back to the era of the Han Dynasty. Its export to Europe can be traced back to 1338, where the first object of Chinese porcelain reached Europe as a gift for Louis the Great. The export of Chinese porcelain led to the eventual rise of European porcelain manufacturing. This was as a result of the increased demand for china cups as well as saucers. With the rise in popularity of different beverages, there was a need for different cups, pots and accessories for use for each drink.
France became the main manufacturer of soft paste porcelain while the German factory of Meissen is credited for true hard paste porcelain manufacturing. English potteries are credited for the production of bone china.
Chinese dinnerware usually appears delicate although it is very strong. Traditionally, dinnerware in a Chinese table setting is used to emphasize food in a way that is pleasing. For a formal setting, the dinnerware would include a center plate, a rice bowl, a small cup of tea, a chopstick rest for holding the chopsticks, a long-handled spoon, small dishes for the condiments and a soup bowl with a soup spoon placed inside it.
There is a difference between dinnerware and fine china in that dinnerware is used for casual everyday meals while fine china is used for formal occasions. This is because of the material used. Fine china has delicate elaborate patterns and is sold in sets by the piece as well as by the replacement piece. The most sought after is the white and blue fine china which has come to represent the high quality china used by royalty. Most dinnerware is less expensive than china dinnerware because it is made from inexpensive material. It is sold in sets and come in various shapes, sizes and styles. For this reason it would be less confusing to say china than to say Chinese dinnerware.
Fine china usually has gilded edges and floral patterns. Today these pieces of dinnerware, vases and sculpted pieces are collected by enthusiasts. They can be used as functional pieces but not very often. They require caution and precision when handling especially antique pieces. You should not use strong detergents or extremely hot or cold water when cleaning. If Chinese dinnerware pieces break, any repair that is done you should use glue suitable for porcelain or bone china. It would be better to let a professional make any repairs for better results.
Chinese dinnerware can be a unique and valuable gift. The most elegant Chinese porcelain comes from Jingdezhen. The techniques used to decorate the porcelain are more traditional and elaborate.