How to Identify Antique Asian Vases

It’s been 4,000 years since Chinese potters experimenting with locally mined white clay fired their wares at a temperature of 1,280 degrees Centigrade to produce the first true porcelain. The secret quickly made its way across China and it wasn’t long before artisans began experimenting with their own decorative designs and materials. Gorgeous plates, serving vessels, bowls and teapots emerged from this indigenous craft and among the most graceful were beautiful vases that continue to intrigue collectors. If you are a collector you might want to get accurate data on your vases, if only to make certain they’re properly insured.

Look to the bottom and foot of your vase for clues on the age of your Asian art. After the deterioration of production quality in China, the bottoms of vases were not finished with care so if surfaces feel rough and abrasive rather than smooth and finished, you likely own a piece made in the 19th Century.

Evaluate the enamel and under glaze decoration of your vase. Colors should be harmonious--soft pastels that have stood the test of time thanks to excellent manufacturing practices and quality glazes. Expect newer pieces to feature orange rather than rose-colored patterns but if your vase is designed in shades of blue, look for inconsistencies in the colors due to the way cobalt paint reacts in the kiln. Examine the artistic features on the vase. If the detail and composition can only be described as exquisite, your chances of owning a piece of Asian vase history increase.

Photograph all angles of your Asian vase, including the bottom. Submit the photo to the Asian Arts Forum (See link) to solicit the help of experts in the field. Ask scholars, dealers and serious collectors of Asian vases for their collective opinions on the origin, style and estimated value of your piece. Expect to be subjected to a validating process when you visit the site since Asian Arts has experienced assaults from spammers.

Peruse books on Asian antiquities to see if your vase offers manufacturing, location or other details. Find vase appraisal and identification guides on the topic by visiting your library, peruse websites specializing in books or try a chain such as Half Price Books that specialize in used books and remainders. Check antique shop book shelves to see if you can locate an out-of-print book on the subject.

Consult a local antiquities appraiser if your previous efforts have proven unsuccessful. Find one specializing in Asian collectibles and décor by checking the Internet as well as Yellow Pages directories. Make certain the appraiser you choose is certified and offers references so you can feel confident in the findings.

Things You'll Need

  • Photos
  • Books on porcelain antiquities
  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Appraiser


  • Don’t rely upon "marks" to identify your Asian vases. Calendar dates, studio names and artist notations on the body of a vase may not be accurate, so rely on an expert to interpret such clues.