It was not until the Yuan dynasty, however, that underglazed blue decoration began a rapid rise in popularity. It was applied on fine white porcelains of the shufu type and combined with Islamic decorative taste. These blue-and-white wares soon became the most popular of all Chinese ceramics, both at home and abroad. A pair of richly ornate temple vases dated 1351 (in the Percival David Foundation in London) are proof that the technique had been fully mastered by that time.
The finest Jingdezhen examples were reserved for the court, but coarse varieties were made in southern China for trade with Southeast Asia or for export to the Middle East. Ming wares generally are fairly easily recognizable.
Porcelain replaced stoneware as the usual medium, and polychrome decoration became widely employed. The largest single group of Ming porcelain is that painted in blue underglaze.
Much of the pigment used was imported from Middle Eastern sources. Supplies of this so called Mohammedan blue (huihui qing), which came from the Kashan district of Persia, were not always obtainable and were interrupted on more than one occasion. The quality of the blue-painted wares, however, remained to a great extent dependent on its use until the end of the 16th century, when methods of refining native cobalt were devised.
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