Following the arrival of the railways in 1873, production and distribution opened up and the region soon had around 50 producers.
The earliest Chinese pottery was earthenware, which continued in production for utilitarian uses throughout Chinese history, but was increasingly less used for fine wares.
Stoneware, fired at higher temperatures, and naturally impervious to water, was developed very early and continued to be used for fine pottery in many areas at most periods; the tea bowls in Jian ware and Jizhou ware made during the Song dynasty are examples.
Most later Chinese ceramics, even of the finest quality, were made on an industrial scale, thus few names of individual potters were recorded.
Many of the most important kiln workshops were owned by or reserved for the Emperor, and large quantities of ceramics were exported as diplomatic gifts or for trade from an early date.
The “eight Buddhist emblems” appear fairly frequently, as do the “eight precious things” and a collection of instruments and implements used in the arts and known as the “hundred antiques.” The “lions of Buddha” (often miscalled dogs) are frequently represented, as is the , which is a grotesque mask of uncertain origin, also appears on early bronzes and on later pottery and porcelain.