My Dragonware...

I plan on having a gallery of my personal dragonware and hopefully other collectors will submit some of their peices here too. What I currently have below are placeholders and you can find them for sale in my Mostly Dragons shop.

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Dragonware Gallery,


All about Dragonware...

The information in the article below was gathered from the internet by Patrick Coleman, Founder of the Dragonware groups on Facebook and yahoo.

Dragonware is the term used to describe porcelain items with a raised decoration that depicts an oriental dragon and is a form of moriage pottery or also known as slip work/slip clay which gives the piece a three dimensional appearance.
– Most were made in Japan. The raised white designs are applied to the ware – most in the form of a dragon usually surrounded by wisps of smoke but other designs were also produced. White dragons are the major raised decorations on the moriage called dragonware. The background can be one of many different colors. It is still being made today but is not as nicely made. Depending on the manufacture of the collectible product more detail was applied. This can be seen in some of our pictures. The items I collect were produced in Japan from the end of the 1800’s until the mid 1900’s. Over that time period, styles and materials changed dramatically.” I have included into my collection what are called newer pieces because the color was very nice and the dragons were fairly well placed on the items.

Dragonware originally was made by Nippon in the late 1800’s, and is still being made today. However, there are very large differences in the quality of the pieces, so with practice, the era’s are pretty easy to distinguish. The original Nippon pieces have extremely ornate and very detailed large dragons that wrap around most of the piece. They usually have lots of enamel work around the edges of the item. They also originally had glass beads for the dragon’s eyes, rather than the typical slip work ones. The new Dragonware is also easily recognized, as the dragons are extremely un-detailed and appear slapped on and hardly wrap around at all compared to any of the older Dragonware pieces. The souvenir pieces fit into the new category. There are many little differences and changes to the dragons as the years went by, which helps make dating them a little easier. Pieces that have enamel work around the edges are typically older than pieces that do not. They slowly stopped the enamel detail as the years went by. You may also find some Dragonware that has Occupied Japan stamped on the bottom that makes these easier to identify and that adds value to those products.

Typically Dragonware was made as table items, smoking sets or for decoration. This includes many pieces such as vases, tea sets, saki sets, ashtrays, plates, cups and saucers, condiment sets, wall pockets, incense burners and lamps to name a few. Many different colors were used on Dragonware items. The most common color used was the Smokey Grey with white or black with white. Other colors include: Deep Blue, Pastel Blue, Red, Orange, Pastel Green, White/Gold, Brown and Chocolate. There are also some colors that are always the newer low-quality un-detailed Dragonware, and were not made in the older pieces. These include: Pink, Bright Green, Purple and Yellow. There are also some new pieces made in a few of the older colors.

Some of the teacups will have a lithophane inside the bottom of them. This is a raised design, usually of a woman’s face or full body, known as a Geisha. It can be seen clearly when held up to the light. The Geisha adds value to a teacup, with the nude Geisha being harder to find and the most valuable.
The pieces decorated with Lithopanes or Lithophanes (both are actually acceptable) are pictures that are created with the thickness of the porcelain. The pictures show when the porcelain (almost always in the bottom of tea cups) is held up to light. Lithophanes went out of style because of their cost to produce sometime in the late 50’s or early sixties and were for the most part discontinued. Almost all Lithophane tea sets have lustrious inside finishes that are truly beautiful but that finish was created with lead and therefore you should not drink from them.

Here are some rules that I got from the Internet on these which you can use to determine the quality of the lithophanes:

Quality Level 1: Highest quality would have clear and is very detailed, with highlights, such as lighting effects and subtle strands of hair. Areas have a real contrast between the light and dark areas.
Quality Level 2: Good quality. Detail to face and hair, somewhat less defined than level 1 but still distinguishable. Less contrast between light and dark.
Quality Level 3: Low quality. Can hardly tell there is a lithophane present. Minimal detail and almost no contrast between light and dark.
Quality Level 4: Poor quality has obvious flaws in stamp. (Bug eyes or gouging around the rim).

There are also other design techniques that are used on Dragonware instead of the more common moriage. They include: Satsuma pieces with the moriage dragons – they look just like the moriage Dragonware, but have a Satsuma design as well with enameled handles, Coralene – tiny glass beads are applied to an enamel design and then heated, making the finished design look like coral, Enamel – a hard glossy paint, and finally a flat dragon design of either gold or colored paint that is also considered Dragonware and appears the same as other Dragonware pieces, except that the dragon design if flat instead of raised.

Some neat stuff about dragons, A Dragon in the orient has many great importances to the people. Most of the Dragonware has 3 toes. Why are those toes important? In the Old days only the emperor could have a 5-toe dragon, his supporting commanders and other people of high importance could have a 4-toe dragon. All others could only own a 3-toe dragon. If any regular person were caught with a dragon of more then 3 toes they were executed.

The dragon can mean a number of things in Japanese culture. The most significant meaning being fetility, humility, procreation and warding off evil spirits.

We hope this information will give you an incentive to think about collecting Moriage Dragonware Porcelain. It is fun and can become a showpiece in your home as it has in ours. Through the years I have given almost 50 pieces to charitable auctions and family and friends as gifts or just for a thank you.

If you know of anyone or if you have any information you would like to share here, please feel free to leave the information below in the comment area or contact me at Thanks!

I have listed some collector’s guides on Made in Japan and Made in Occupied Japan where you can find photos of Dragonware scattered throughout the guides with approximate values. There are no guides that I am aware of that is exclusive to just the Dragonware china. Each guide listed below has a lot of other interesting Japanese collectibles besides the Dragonware.

I have a few of the books below and do reference them quite a bit. Unfortunately tho, a majority of the guides below are rather dated so please be aware of this when checking out the values.


About Dragonware,