Worldwide ceramic innovators drawn to Jingdezhen, China's porcelain capital

(Xinhua) 10:15, June 11, 2024

NANCHANG, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Having graduated from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in 2008 and gaining work experience elsewhere, Hao Xiwen never lost his passion for ceramics.

As a result, upon returning to Jingdezhen City, deemed China's "porcelain capital," he wholeheartedly immersed himself in the ceramic sector through continued studies and entrepreneurial pursuits.

"While my arrival in Jingdezhen may have been somewhat accidental, I have come to deeply appreciate the immense charm of ceramics throughout this experience," said Hao, founder of a workshop named Jixiashe. "Now, I want to go a step further and help more people appreciate the beauty of ceramics."

While pursuing his master's and doctoral studies, Hao established this workshop focused on educational tourism. In recent years, ceramic-themed educational tours have gained popularity, which has made it increasingly challenging for him to consider leaving the city.

With a ceramic history spanning over 2,000 years, including more than 1,000 years of official kiln history and over 600 years of imperial kiln tradition, Jingdezhen, situated in eastern China's Jiangxi Province, boasts a distinctive charm and artistic ambiance bestowed by its rich traditional ceramic culture.

In recent years, more than 60,000 non-locals like Hao have moved to Jingdezhen. Among them, over 5,000 are from other countries, including the United States, France, Singapore and the Republic of Korea. They have established studios and organized pottery activities in the city, according to the local government.

Camille Kami from France vividly recalls her initial astonishment upon arriving in Jingdezhen. "How is it possible for a city to specialize in a single industry for a millennium?" she said. With a background in ceramics education spanning France, Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, she discovered an unexpected reluctance to depart from Jingdezhen, ultimately choosing to make it her home.

In contrast to cities primarily exporting labor, Jingdezhen has witnessed a reverse population flow in recent years. This phenomenon of "cultural immigration" not only highlights Jingdezhen's openness and inclusiveness but also reflects the local government's efforts to make non-locals in Jingdezhen feel at home by establishing specialized service agencies and optimizing policies to create a supportive environment.

"In the past, foreigners came to Jingdezhen sporadically, but it has become a trend over the past decade," said Chen You, deputy director of the service center for ceramic talent in Jingdezhen. "To ensure that non-locals pursue innovation and start businesses with peace of mind, we provide comprehensive services in areas such as housing, healthcare, children's education and loans."

The Taoxichuan International Art Center in Jingdezhen hosts a three-month residency program each year, inviting overseas artists to reside in the city and explore their creativity, with all expenses covered. In exchange, participants are asked to leave behind one-third of their artworks.

"Through exhibitions or sales of artworks, we can cover most of the costs. The important thing is to establish stronger ties between foreigners and China," said Wu Hao, head of the art center. "This year, we've already received a record number of over 1,000 applications from foreign artists eager to work on-site here."

In today's era, the collision between traditional ceramic-making techniques and modern design concepts in this city is a constant catalyst for innovation in ceramic products. A myriad of inventive creations has captured the interest of young consumers, injecting fresh vigor into this thousand-year-old porcelain capital.

The openness and inclusiveness of Jingdezhen have endowed this small city with a strong cultural vibrancy. Even young people with little money can come to Jingdezhen, buy some clay and use public kilns to create their works, pursuing their dreams at a low cost.

"The entrepreneurial investment in Jingdezhen is low. I can set up a free stall at the night market and live in a youth hostel for 500 yuan (about 69 U.S. dollars) a month," said Ai Fuling, 36, who quit her job at an advertising company in Beijing nine years ago and moved to Jingdezhen to start her own business.

Ai now has her own shop, with monthly sales of nearly 150,000 yuan. Taoxichuan has incubated over 20,000 entrepreneurs like her, resulting in 2,902 business entities.

Currently, about 150,000 people in Jingdezhen are engaged in ceramics and related industries, nearly a quarter of the city's population.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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