In formal gatherings with senior officials in China, it is always the highlight when foreign diplomats or privileged guests are greeted by the shaking hands and a Chinese gift as a token of appreciation. Though wrapped in lavish at first sight, the gift behind, actually the porcelain wares, more or less contains the toil of labour, the art of cravings and sleepless wait of time. Yet with all these consecutive demands, creators’ endeavour comes to no avail when such Chinese treasure has long been praised as thin as paper, as white as jade, as bright as a mirror, and as sound as a bell throughout the centuries. And there is one typical place, a place where inspiration of those creators flourished and prospective artists nurtured. The home of porcelain wares, beyond doubt, goes to Jingdezhen.
Since Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD), Jingdezhen wares have become popular for its wide array of porcelain types including famille-rose, linglong, blue-white as well as color-glazed ones. Nearly every Chinese emperor gazed with amazement by its tone colour and variations, while the western traders earned a big pot of gold through intense trading in bygone days. Even now, just stroll near to orderly lines of semi-finished white teapots, jars and plates, you will see how translucent and jade-like they are with delicate incising and polishing. The process from transforming from clay mold to extravagant decorations is by no means easy but involves craftsmen’s pair of skillful hands and subtle division of labour. After the cooling of half-finished wares, they will soon be coated with the layer of gilding glaze and baked at a thousand degrees with copper, iron or gold as colouring agent. Here, you will be impressed by the unfailing dedication of workers who are burying their head to clay model, placing the work in care for trimming as well as mastering temperature changes, rain or shine. Equally diligent are some counterparts who are firing white-coloured glasses onto plain porcelain, baking them in a kiln or painting patterns of flowers or dragons as decorations. Had it not been for workers’ consistent tenacity and technique innovation, such masterpieces would not be displaced in lines of shops and would not be in vogue among Chinese citizens, and even the senior officials and Chinese leaders.
Tracing back in the heydays of China, time often elapsed with travellers carrying boxes of porcelain wares from Jingdezhen, through ancient Silk Road or sea routes, to the other side of the globe. The lusterless hue and elegant quality of porcelain just lured everyone, including us in nowadays from different walks of life. It is convicted that there lies a promising future in Jingdezhen, a future that is envisioned with craftsmen’s advancement and tourists’ fascination during the making phrases and graceful final products, from the bottom of their heart. ♦