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Four famous porcelains in Jingdezhen, a world-renowned porcelain city

By Liu Ying (People's Daily Online)    10:17, September 30, 2020

Jingdezhen, a city in the Southeast China's Jiangxi Province, is known as the “Porcelain Capital of the World.” For centuries, the city was considered as one of the most important centers for porcelain production.

Jingdezhen porcelain is widely known for being "as white as jade, as thin as paper, as bright as a mirror, and as sweet-sounding as a chime stone." Blue and white porcelain, linglong porcelain, famille rose porcelain and color-glazed porcelain are seen as four famous types of porcelain in Jingdezhen.

Blue and white porcelain is a kind of underglaze colored porcelain, which is regarded as the most representative of the four famous porcelains. Blue and white porcelain products look brilliant and clear, its blue coloring on a white base gives the designed patterns an elegant and magnificent appearance. In Chinese families, blue and white wares are common in daily life in forms ranging from dinner sets to vases.

Feng Xia, an inheritor of blue and white porcelain, told People’s Daily Online that “the raw material of blue and white porcelain is mainly cobalt oxide, and the cobalt oxide turns a blue color in high temperatures. A good piece of blue and white porcelain must be proficient in controlling temperature changes and content composition. ”

Linglong porcelain is well known as a "porcelain inlaid with glass", and is world famous for its exquisite carving patterns and glittering, translucent appeal. To make linglong porcelain, grain-sized holes are hollowed out in the thin roughcast and the glaze is applied several times to cover them. This requires exquisite craftsmanship, which is why linglong porcelain is rare.

Famille rose porcelain first appeared in the Qing Dynasty, and is an over-glazed product. The color of famille rose porcelain is soft and gorgeous but not garish.

Chen Xiaojun is an inheritor of famille rose porcelain, she points out that the raw materials of famille rose porcelain contain metal oxides, and “after going through the reduction reaction at a medium temperature, different colors will appear, such as yellow and green. After firing, we can see the texture of glass.”

High-temperature colored glazes are also called "artificial gems”. These have the longest history and the lowest output of the four traditional famous porcelains in Jingdezhen.

“In our decades of work, we have never been able to make a flambe porcelain product that is identical to another... ” Deng Xiping is now 78 years old, the unique charm of the colored glazes made Deng devote 50 years of her life to it. She is known as the "queen" of colored glaze, and is the only national representative inheritor of Jingdezhen high-temperature colored glaze.

Deng restored many lost techniques, and has created more than 40 new types of colored glazes, many of which have won the National Prize for Progress in Science and Technology, and even won the gold award at the World Fair for Invention.

“The creation of a colored glaze porcelain product needs to go through three important steps. The first step is the formulation because it uses more than ten kinds of natural ore, its composition is extremely complicated. The second step is glazing, that is, the color glaze is applied on the ceramic bodies. The last step is firing, because porcelain products have to go from colorless to colorable. Finally, it becomes a gem structure. When all these three steps of the work are done, the colored glaze porcelain products can be completed,” said Deng.

Jingdezhen traditional high-temperature colored glazes are fired at over 1,370 degrees Celsius. The colored glaze changes into gorgeous colors after flambe.

Deng said, “The change is wonderful, every high-temperature colored glaze product is colorless when it is placed into the kiln. When it comes out of the kiln, many colors and patterns will appear.”

Deng has students from all over the world, and she considers it her mission to promote colored glazes, she said, “Color is universal, there is no barrier between cultural communications.”

With modern science and technology leading to the improvement of the craft along with the explorations of artists, contemporary high-temperature colored glaze porcelain painting has emerged as a new force. Now, Jingdezhen is home to many artists who have received good art education and devoted themselves to this field.

Artist Zhao Yongli, said “Porcelain painting is created by painting with ceramic materials, and it presents the beauty of ceramic materials and artistic works through firing.”

High-temperature colored glaze porcelain painting places high demands on the artistic quality of its creators.

After studying oil painting in Ukraine, Li Dehui came to Jingdezhen to create porcelain paintings. Applying his understanding of oil painting to the creation of porcelain paintings, he believes that art is interlinked.

“High-temperature flambe is highly unpredictable. Every time the ceramic products come out of the kiln, there will be both surprise and regret. Therefore, it requires artists to learn about ceramic materials and kiln fire for a long time. Without believing in the work we do, it would be hard to persist,” said Li. 

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(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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