The art of pottery is one of the earliest human practices, and few other cultures have demonstrated more innovation, craftsmanship and design in this art form than the Chinese. Although there is evidence of pottery being produced in China for around 20,000 years, one of the most important periods for pottery was the Chinese Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Perhaps the most recognizable style from this time is the blue and white pattern, which commonly decorated plates, bowls, vases, jars and other homewares; today, these items can sell for tens of millions at auction. Some 2,000 years ago, China showed further innovation in pottery production, being the first manufacturers of porcelain - hence the use of the name china in some Western countries. Like European pottery, many Chinese pieces are 'signed' with marks - specifically, reign marks - in order to validate their authenticity; however, these marks have been copied over the years, therefore it is crucial to consider other signs of legitimacy, such as shape, cut, glaze and colours.