Longshan Ancient Asian Pottery: Traditions and Techniques

TitlePottery StyleOriginCharacteristic FeaturesHistorical Firing TemperatureModern Firing Temperature
Longshan PotteryBlack potteryChina (2500 BC – 2000 BC)Finely polished black surface, intricate geometric designs, use of molds and fast wheels, some ritual vessels1000°C – 1100°C1100°C – 1200°C

The Longshan culture, also known as the Black Pottery culture, was a Neolithic culture in central China, particularly in the Shandong province, and existed from about 2600 to 2000 BCE. It is recognized for its significant contributions to the development of Chinese civilization.

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Characteristics and Features

  1. Pottery: Longshan is renowned for its fine burnished black pottery, notable for its glossy sheen and angular outline. This pottery often lacked decoration, indicating a focus on form. The thin walls of the pottery are evidence of advanced skills and the use of the potter’s wheel. Common shapes include jugs, tall stemmed cups, handled cups, slim beakers, and tripod bowls. This pottery was primarily found in elite tombs, suggesting it was used for ritual purposes.
  2. Agriculture and Domestication: Agriculture was a crucial aspect of the Longshan culture. The main crop was foxtail millet, supplemented by broomcorn millet, rice, and wheat. The culture also saw the domestication of animals like pigs, which were the most common source of meat, along with sheep, goats, and dogs.
  3. Social Structure and Settlements: Settlements were often fortified with packed earth walls, indicating a sophisticated social system with a strong sense of identity and perhaps the need for defense. These settlements showed signs of social stratification and the emergence of elite classes.
  4. Artifacts and Craftsmanship: The culture produced a variety of artifacts, including carved jades, polished stone axes, and metalwork. There is evidence of early sericulture (silk production) and the presence of luxury goods in elite tombs, suggesting trade and wealth.
  5. Ritual Practices: Rituals, including divination practices and human sacrifices, became more common in the late Longshan period. This indicates complex religious beliefs and practices within the culture.
  6. Urban Development and Technology: The culture saw the development of urban centers with advanced features like well construction and rudimentary plumbing. The introduction of specialized tools and weapons, including the dagger-axe, signifies advancement in technology and possibly increased warfare.


The Longshan culture represents a critical phase in ancient China’s history, marking the transition towards more complex societal structures. It laid the groundwork for subsequent historical developments, including the rise of Bronze Age cultures. The craftsmanship, social organization, and agricultural practices of the Longshan people were significant contributors to early Chinese civilization.


1. What are the characteristics of Longshan pottery?

  • Longshan pottery is most famous for its fine, burnished black pottery.
  • The pottery is characterized by a glossy sheen and often lacks decoration, emphasizing form over ornamentation.
  • Common shapes include jugs with pouring spouts, tall stemmed cups, handled cups, slim beakers, and tripod bowls with hollow legs.
  • The thin walls of the pottery indicate advanced skill in pottery making and the likely use of the potter’s wheel.

2. How was Longshan pottery made?

  • The precise method for creating Longshan pottery isn’t fully known, but the thinness and uniformity of the pottery suggest the use of a potter’s wheel.
  • The black color was achieved through a firing process in an oxygen-reduced atmosphere.
  • The pottery was then polished to create a smooth, shiny surface.

3. What is the history of Longshan?

  • The Longshan culture existed in central China, primarily in the Shandong province, from about 2600 to 2000 BCE.
  • It succeeded the Yangshao culture and bridged the gap to the first Chinese states in the Bronze Age.
  • The culture is known for its advanced pottery, sophisticated social structures, and early urban development.

4. What is the religion of Longshan?

  • The specific religious beliefs of the Longshan culture are not fully understood, but archaeological evidence suggests complex ritual practices.
  • Divination practices, particularly scapulimancy (divination using animal bones), were common.
  • There is also evidence of human sacrifice in the late Longshan period, indicating ritualistic and possibly religious practices.
  • The presence of oracle bones suggests that diviners interpreted cracks in the bones caused by fire to predict future events.

The Longshan culture represents a significant phase in the development of ancient Chinese civilization, marked by technological advancements, social complexity, and distinctive cultural practices.

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