Arts and Crafts during the Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties
The period of the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty was a stage of great prosperity in the ancient society of China. As the reunified multi-national country was further developed and consolidated, the social economy and culture became unprecedentedly prosperous.
During the period of the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty, the government still controlled the main handicraft departments and the administrative setups were more perfect. Te government-run handicraft played a leading role in the respects of scale, organization, division of labor and technology. Many products were sold abroad through tributes, grants and trading and they were also sold at home through the form of monopolized sale. The division of labor was even more elaborate. Artisans of different profession had to receive technical training and study from nine months to four years, for instance, metalsmith for four years; artisan to make musical instrument and chariot, three years; and bamboo artisan, carpenter and lacquerer, one year.
In the Sui and the Tang period, the development of folk handicrafts and the emergency of guild organization further advanced the folk handicrafts with commodity production as their purpose. In addition to farmers’ household handicrafts and the handicrafts run by bureaucratic landlord manor, folk handicrafts concentrated gradually towards the city. Handicraft workshops developed rapidly and the types of work in production involved dyeing and weaving, porcelain, lacquer ware and woodenware, gold vessel and silverware, jade ware, smelting and casting, vehicles and boats, papermaking and printing, and grain processing. In the Tang Dynasty, commercial firm organizations something like guilds also emerged to coordinate the internal relations and stipulate the regulations for production and sale, which were recognized and protected by the government. The guild organization greatly affected the social economy, improved universally the social status of the handicraftsmen and marked a new stage of development for the handicraft of China.
In the Sui Dynasty, the handicrafts of ceramics, dyeing and weaving, and ship-building were comparatively prominent. In the Tang Dynasty, due to the highly developed economy, the liberal state policies, and the frequent exchanges between China and foreign countries, handicraft technology was further developed. Brocade, textile printing and dyeing, ceramics, gold vessel and silverware, lacquer ware and woodenware developed in an all-around way. The ornamental style of this period was different from the simple and unsophisticated characteristics of the Shang Dynasty, the Zhou, the Han, and the Six Dynasties and began to have the style and features of modern ornament. The ornamental subjects differed from the geometrical style of the primitive society and the realistic or imaginative animal-pattern lines of the Shang Dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty and the Six Dynasties and large numbers of plant lines were adopted instead. They were oriented to the nature and life, rich in strong delight of life, and the general style of the ornamental subjects tended to be pure and fresh, splendid and well-shaped. The technique of ornament and the means of technology were rich and colorful. The ceramic craft used various glaze colors and for glaze application there were many methods, such as glaze splashing, glaze flowing, base winding and glaze winding; the dyeing and weaving handicraft also used several techniques, such as wax printing of figured silk fabrics, twist printing of figured silk fabrics, clip printing of figured silk fabrics, soda printing and rubbing printing; and the lacquer ware used the technique of lacquer inlaid with mother-of-pearl, tracing a design in gold, putting ramie fabrics in between two layers of lacquer, and lacquer carving.