The Song dynasty (960-1279) witnessed the flowering of China's ceramic art. With the country's elite made up largely of scholars, who had acceded to rank through merit rather than birth - as before -, a new class dominated the country's cultural scene. A dramatic change of direction took place in the arts as well as the crafts, from the opulent luxury of the Tang (618-907) to a much more subdued aesthetic in the Song, from arduous colourful painting styles to minimalist calligraphic black ink sketches, and from works of art made of precious metals to luxury wares made of earth. The concentration on form and material, and the deliberate reduction of anything ornamental were revolutionary at the time, comparable to Bauhaus and similar movements towards functional design in the Twentieth century, and give Song ceramics a striking modernity. They have remained the point of reference for artisan potters until today.