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Research Proposal

Chris Wang
TOPIC: I am studying Chinese ceramics
RESEARCH QUESTION: because I want to find out rhetorical meaning of color,
pattern, shape of Chinese ceramics.
AUDIENCE& SIGNIFICANCE: This research is planned to help historians and
people who are unfamiliar with Chinese Culture to understand different meaning of
design of Chinese ceramics, and what culture meaning is reflected through Chinese
CONTEXT: This issue is worth studying because the world is becoming more and
more cultural diverse. Knowing some Chinese culture is helpful when working or
talking with Chinese.
EXHIBIT: To illustrate my discussion of design detail of Chinese Ceramics, I plan to
focus on Chinese Ceramics reserved for Chinese royal family, mainly Emperors.
MLA citation

Type of source

What does the source offer

Dallas, Sada. The Romance of

Chinaware. Los Angeles: De
Vorss & Co, 1940. 13-19.
Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Online book

Background of Chinese
Ceramics/Early history

"Antique Chinaware." The

Decorator and Furnisher, 15.4
(1890): 101.


Example of different color

used in Chinese Ceramics in
different dynasties

Stone, G S. "Importance of
Good Design in
Chinaware." American
Ceramic Society Bulletin, 11
(1932): 153.


Example of different design

Haddad, John R. "Imagined

journeys to distant Cathay Constructing China with
ceramics, 17801920." Winterthur Portfolio-a
Journal Of American Material
Culture 41 (2007): 53-80.
Web. 21 Oct. 2014.


Example of detailed design

about shape, color, pattern
on Chinese Ceramics

Valenstein, Suzanne.
"Highlights of Chinese
Ceramics." The Metropolitan
Museum of Art Bulletin, 33.3
(1975): 115-164.

Bartholomew, Terese
Tse. Hidden Meanings in
Chinese Art. San Francisco:
Asian Art Museum of San
Francisco, 2006. Print.

Wang, Bo University of
Arizona. "A Survey of
Research in Asian
Rhetoric."Rhetoric Review,
23.2 (2004): 171-181.


Example of detailed design

about shape, color, pattern
on Chinese Ceramics


Example of Symbolic
meaning of Chinese Ceramics


Argument of importance of
studying Asian (Chinese)

Exploratory Draft
I plan to present the reader an overview of cultural and rhetorical meaning of
design of Chinese ceramics. The shape, color and pattern of Chinese ceramics all have
different cultural meanings. Specifically, pattern design on the ceramics largely
involves symbolism. I have worked in local history museum in my city, Nanjing,
introducing people the story of different pieces of ceramics for over years. Those
exhibits really fascinate me. I have learnt a lot about the development and cultural
meaning of design of ceramics there. Thus I want to choose this as my research topic.
From my experience, visitors pay large attention to the overall beauty of Chinese
ceramics; however, they dont know a lot about neither history nor meaning of design
of them. I have introduced foreigners the story and meaning of some signature pattern.
Surprisingly, they all found really interesting. I assume most people want to know
This topic is important for two main reasons. Firstly, the world is becoming
more culturally diverse: different relationship going on between different countries.
Therefore, studying something about Chinese culture is timely. Indeed, Chinese

ceramics are great objects to be used as lens to examine Chinese culture. They are not
merely artifacts for their aesthetic quality, but reflect cultural meaning of different
color, pattern and shape design evolved during a long period of time. Secondly,
growing amount of people are interested in Chinese ceramics. On April 8, 2014, in the
Sothebys Hong Kong Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, the Meiyintang
Chicken Cup is sold for US$36.05 million, setting a World Auction Record For
Any Chinese Porcelain. This is a good time to introduce cultural meaning and
rhetorical meaning of Chinese Ceramics to people who are interested. Audience for
this research can be both Chinese and foreigner. As for Chinese, they may learn more
about the history of Chinese ceramics and cultural meaning behind different type of
Chinese ceramics. On the other hand, foreigners can know something about Chinese
culture through ceramics, experiencing the interesting cultural diversity. Historian
may also want to know more. I have notice that few American scholars are working
on this topic. I want to persuade them that Chinese ceramics can tell a lot of cultural
meaning, rather than pure aesthetic work.
I plan to divide my research into three parts, examining color, shape, and
pattern separately, convincing people of their rhetorical and cultural meaning. I will
utilize different sources and present picture of specific Chinaware to persuade my
reader of my claim. So far, I have found articles, journals, and a book to provide me
with background information of Chinese ceramics, and symbolism in design of color
and shape, together with legends behind specific shape and pattern. I eagerly want to
find more about discussion of color of Chinese ceramics. My audience would expect
more reliable source of evidence, and also some background story about development
of different pattern. Others might argue that Chinese ceramics are pure aesthetic work,
rather than demonstration of Chinese culture. I would offer a general pattern of
signature Chinese ceramics design and difference between different ceramics in
different dynasties to disagree with them. I will present them the legend behind some
design, together with evidence from credible scholar. They may point out that
difference between ceramics in different dynasties may merely reflect the change of
aesthetic standard. However, I will aim to provide them the development and origin of
signature pattern in different dynasties, providing cultural meaning beneath those
My main concern is this topic may not be argumentative. Secondly, some
evidence is based on my experience. I will work on finding more credible source.

Thirdly, because of the limitation of studies of Chinese ceramics in America, English

source is hard to find.

Tentative outline
Opening paragraph:
1.Background: History and development of Chinese ceramics. Production process
2.Argument: Chinese ceramics are great objects to be used as lens to examine Chinese
culture. They are not merely artifacts aiming for their aesthetic quality, but reflect
cultural meaning of different color, pattern and shape evolved during a long period of
Body 1: Color of Chinese ceramics
1.Different dynasties have different signature color; people can date the time of
Chinese ceramics from its color based on the paint it used
2.Different colors have different meaning, and different purpose
Yellow for royal family, exclusive for emperor
Red for wedding, etc
Other examples of different colors have different purpose through other
Body 2: Shape of Chinese ceramics
1.Different dynasties have different shapes, development of shapes. Signature shape
2. Romance behind some specific shape: legend, history background
3. Function behind each shape: decoration or practical purpose
Body 3: Pattern of Chinese ceramics
1.Different dynasties have different patterns, signature pattern
Legend behind pattern
2.Differnt patterns have different meanings
Symbolism: Dragon, exclusive for royal family, different claws for prince and
emperor; Phoenix for Queen. Different flowers represent different characteristic
1.Restate argument: Chinese ceramics are not only antique purely for appreciation,
but also can be used as lens to examine Chinese culture. The rhetorical meaning and
cultural meaning behind it is worth studying.
2. Importance: culturally diverse world, large amount of people interested in.
Learning the past, appreciate history.