Kansu Painted Potterry
ca. later 3rd mill. BC

The Kansu Yang-shao Neolithic pottery culture derives from the later phases of the Yang-shao culture. This finer western Yang-shao group is more artistic and by any standards the more technologically, advanced. It consists of both funeary wares and pottery for general use. Most come from cemeteries at Pan-Shan and Ma-Chang in Kansu Province. They are difficult to date accurately, but a date in the 3rd millennium BC is generally accepted.

The painted funerary urns are the most refined and richly decorated of all Yang-shao wares. The fine textured body is buff or reddish-brown. The pots were built up by hand by the coiling method, and in order to rotate them, especially in the final stages when the lip was finished, they were sometimes set on a piece of matting which could easily be turned on a flat surface of earth or on a large flat stone. Pieces exist with impressions of these rotating mats on their bases. However the fast potter's wheel was never used. The urns are all ovoid or globular, some quite imposing forms. Most are brush painted with bold, abstract, swirling patterns in black, white, red, and purple-brown pigments. Other good examples of Kansu painted ware found in graves include jugs, jars, bowls and cups in made in fine quality clay then painted and burnished. These pots were fired in simple updraft kilns to about 1020°C.

Kansu painted ware is superior in technique to much of the later pre-Han pottery of dynastic times so far known. Kansu is the gateway to China from the West, and urns related in style have been found as far west as the Ukraine and intereseting, if superficial, resemblances to the painted pottery found at Anau, Susa, and other Western Asiatic sites of later neolithic date.