Collector’s Guide to Ancient Chinese Artifacts

Did you know that China has a history spanning over 5,000 years? This rich cultural heritage has given us a treasure trove of ancient Chinese artifacts that continue to captivate collectors and art enthusiasts alike. 

The Weisbrod Collection is one of the most exemplary assortments of Chinese artifacts and historical pieces. By studying their selection, you can learn more about the most prized Chinese artifacts.

Let’s explore everything you need to know about the fascinating world of ancient Chinese art.

Understanding Chinese History

Ancient Chinese artifacts are highly sought after by collectors, as they offer a fascinating glimpse into China's rich history. Some of the most valuable artifacts include vases, screen paintings, sculptures, and porcelains. Whole items in excellent condition are especially treasured, while broken pottery and porcelain can still make an incredible part of your collection.

To select the best artifacts for your collection, it's essential to have a basic understanding of Chinese history, which is often divided into three distinct parts: Ancient China, Imperial China, and Modern China. For artifact acquisition, you'll primarily want to focus on both Ancient China and Imperial China.

Ancient China

Ancient China consisted of distinct clans, kingdoms, and societies, each producing unique artifacts that reflected their beliefs. Many intact ancient Chinese artifacts are made of sturdy bronze, pure gold, or carved stone. 

The prehistoric peoples in China often venerated their dead by leaving grave goods, like priceless jewelry, gold ornaments, and fragile porcelain sculptures and vessels, at their burial sites.

Imperial China

Imperial China, beginning around 200 BCE, encapsulates several cultural and technological advances. It was during this time that the warring Chinese kingdoms united under the leader Qin Shi Huang, marking a significant change in Chinese customs, including artwork, writing, and ceramic production.

Chinese Dynasties and Their Artifacts

The majority of Chinese periods are defined by the dynasties that ruled them, each notable for specific artworks and artifacts. Here are some of the most famous dynasties and the most common artifacts.

Xia Dynasty (2100–1600 BC)

During the Xia Dynasty, artisans began creating bronze vessels, jars, and vases, initially with simple designs and plain exteriors. Later, they added aesthetic touches that inspired further experimentation.

Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC)

The Shang Dynasty is known for oracle boxes and bronze wine vessels. Other pieces carved from bone, such as small sculptures or daggers, also tend to hail from this era.

Zhou Dynasty (1046–221 BC)

The Zhou Dynasty marked a crucial leap forward for bronzeworking and artwork. Many artifacts that survived from this period are elaborate vessels, sculptures, and medallions.

Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC)

The Qin Dynasty, known for uniting the warring kingdoms, saw the creation of many bronze works. As well as a handful of painted artworks and sculptures.

Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD)

The Han Dynasty produced some of the most sought-after pieces. These include beautifully carved figurines, expertly designed ceramics, and official coinage.

Jin Dynasty (220-581 AD)

Artisans during the Jin Dynasty built upon the innovations of the Han Dynasty,. This resulted in many mind-bogglingly ornate ceramics.

Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD)

The Sui Dynasty is notable for the prevalence of jade sculptures, figurines, talismans, and jewelry. Ceramic workers also seem to have perfected the glazing process during this era.

Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)

The Tang Dynasty marked an artistic renaissance for Chinese artisans. Many pieces made during this era are hyperrealistic and incredibly detailed.

Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD)

The Yuan Dynasty saw a shift towards more simplistic artwork and sculptures. You'll notice a stark contrast when compared to the Tang Dynasty.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD)

The Ming Dynasty returned to simpler, less detailed pieces. Painted scenes on the sides of lacquered porcelains were common.

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD)

The Qing Dynasty combined bright colors and intricate details in their artwork. This period saw the production of dyed silk clothing, embellished gold cups and vessels, elaborate jewelry boxes, and statues adorned with inlaid pearls.

Exploring Chinese Artifacts

In order to grow your collection of Asian antiques and antique Chinese furniture, it's important to learn about the different types of artifacts you may come across. Let's explore some common categories of ancient Chinese artifacts that you can collect.

Vases and Ceramics

Chinese vases and ceramics are often made of porcelain or mixed materials. These items are popular because of their beautiful painted exteriors or fancy handles. As you buy artifacts, keep an eye out for well-preserved vases that can add value to your collection.

Screen Paintings

Screen paintings are delicate works of art that can be hard to find in good condition. They often show detailed scenes and landscapes from ancient China. If you get a chance to purchase artwork like this, it can be a valuable addition to your collection.


Sculptures have been made for thousands of years in China. Some common subjects include Buddha, lions, and tigers. Collecting these artifacts can help you appreciate the incredible craftsmanship that went into creating them.

Porcelain Art

Porcelain is so important in Chinese culture that people in the West sometimes call porcelain dinnerware "China." Ancient Chinese porcelain is very valuable. Many examples feature white and blue exteriors, which are admired by collectors.

Identifying Ancient Chinese Artifacts

When you look at ancient Chinese artifacts, you'll want to make sure they are authentic. Here are some ways to help you identify real pieces:

Age Signs

Check for signs of age, like wear and tear or patina, which is a change in the surface of metal or wood over time. If an item looks too new, it might not be genuine.


Make sure the materials used are appropriate for the time period. For example, porcelain was not used in China until around the Tang Dynasty.


Look at the craftsmanship. Authentic artifacts will have high-quality work that shows the skill of the artist.

Authenticating Pieces

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if an artifact is real or not. Here are some steps to help you authenticate ancient Chinese artifacts:

Expert Advice

Talk to experts, like museum curators or art historians, who can help you determine if a piece is genuine. They can also teach you more about the history and art of ancient China.


Ask for documentation, like certificates of authenticity or provenance, which show the history of the artifact. This can help you know if an item is real and where it came from.

Find Exquisite Pieces Today

The world of ancient Chinese artifacts offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and artistic expression of a civilization that has endured for millennia. By learning how to identify and authenticate these priceless pieces, you can embark on an exciting journey into the past. 

As you delve deeper into the realm of ancient Chinese art, don't forget to tap into the expertise of professionals in the field. Are you curious to learn more about collecting delicate, priceless Chinese art? If so, be sure to check out this interview with Michael Weisbrod!