Travel in Jingdezhen: Porcelain & Yaoli Ancient Town
Porcelains are everywhere in China. These delicate chinaware are working as tableware, ornaments, handicrafts, containers and thus become a fundamental part of Chinese culture. Thousands years ago, our forefathers began to make them by heating clays through trials and errors and gradually developed an industry based on it. Among those successful kiln sites, Jingdezhen stood out for its elegant works and imperial recognition.
Nowadays, this city is still striving for producing fine works through modernized technologies. Machines have replaced people's hands, and smart controlling systems have taken over hand operating. But today, we are going to show you how to make a porcelain manually, which is a primitive way of creation and a special manner of making unique china.
Manmade Production Process
In Jingdezhen, there are many artisans making porcelains by their hands still. Following are general steps for making simple chinaware:
1. Stone processing. China stones are collected and smashed into pieces by heavy hammers. Then the fine stone powders screened from bigger pieces are mixed with water, shaping them into initial materials.
2. Wheel throwing. The mud is put on pottery wheels to be further shaped into various outlines. Similar to ceramic making, this step requires the same wheels and techniques as ceramics do. The major difference between the materials is contraction ratio. The ratio here is 18% - 20%, hence builders are adjusting it properly to make sure that the final ware will not lose shape from contraction.
3. Molding. When the prototypes have been made, they will be exposed to sunlight until reaching medium dryness. At this point, manmade moldings with certain figures will be printed under the bottom of the containers.
4. Re-shaping. The prototypes need to be re-shaped for adjustment in thickness, coherence as well as brightness. Skilled craftsmen use bamboo knives to fix those containers' shapes, according to their experience in clay properties, contraction ratio, and size control.
5. Air drying. Raw porcelain containers are been drying under sunlight.
6. Carving. When they are totally drained of water, artisans use tools made from bamboo or bone to carve decorative patterns on the body of the containers.
7. Glazing. The purpose of glazing is to make those porcelain wares resistant to oil and dirt, meanwhile, glazed ware are more splendid than blank ones. Several glazing techniques, such as dipping or blowing, can be applied based on those wares' shapes or sizes. It's difficult to control the thickness and direction as the working conditions are always changing, and there are no standard guidelines for workers to observe.
8. Firing. After above procedures, porcelain ware will be put into special kilns with fire-resistant containers to accept heating from fire. Normally, the temperature for firing shall be around 1300 degrees centigrade, with the best firing time be 24 hours.
Until now, the real porcelain ware have been made from 3 or 4 specialized artisans' cooperation. Every single step requires practices year after year. To obtain better looking or additional functions, some extra steps can be implemented.
9. Drawing (optional). Some porcelain will be glazed for a second time after firing. Glazing on a finished ware can increase the brightness and pureness. Generally speaking, china ware from pre-firing glazing can get more stability in color, while those from post-firing glazing can get more richness in color.
10. Re-firing (optional). This time, the firing temperature will be controlled at 700 - 900 degrees centigrade, which is lower than that of step 8. Firing from lower temperature can keep the pigment inactive so that final colors do not change too much after heating.
Besides watching delicate porcelains, we can easily find another vision for this city.
Yaoli Ancient Town: Old Towns and Natural Sceneries
Yaoli is an ancient town located in suburb area of Jingdezhen. Many towns there have been existed for hundreds of years, and are still dwelled by local citizens, which are greatly reflecting traditional Chinese life style.
In addition, there are several resorts for sightseeing. Meiling district is one of the best for natural sceneries. Famous for plum blossoms, beautiful ponds, and colorful butterflies, it is a perfect rural village for its idyllic landscapes.