is a ceramic material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F).
It combines well with both glazes and paint, and can be modelled very well, allowing a huge range of decorative treatments in tablewares, vessels and figurines. The European name, porcelain in English, come from the old Italian porcellana (cowrie shell) because of its resemblance to the translucent surface of the shell.
Properties associated with porcelain include low permeability and elasticity; considerable strength, hardness, toughness, whiteness, translucency and resonance; and a high resistance to chemical attack and thermal shock.
Porcelain has been described as being "completely vitrified, hard, impermeable (even before glazing), white or artificially coloured, translucent (except when of considerable thickness), and resonant." However, the term porcelain lacks a universal definition and has "been applied in a very unsystematic fashion to substances of diverse kinds which have only certain surface-qualities in common".
Traditional East Asian thinking only classifies pottery into earthenware and porcelain, without the intermediate European class of stoneware, and the many local types of stoneware were mostly classed as porcelain, though often not white and translucent.
Terms such as "porcellaneous" or "near-porcelain" may be used in such cases.
A high proportion of modern porcelain is made of the variant bone china.
A useful working definition of porcelain might include a broad range of ceramic wares, including some that could be classified as a stoneware.
Kaolin is the primary material from which porcelain is made, even though clay minerals might account for only a small proportion of the whole.
The word "paste" is an old term for both the unfired and fired material.