China Focus: Rural gallery sheds light on ancient Chinese ceramics in Europe

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, November 2, 2015
Adjust font size:

Until recently the tiny village of Jinkeng was like many rural settlements in east China: a dwindling population, and those that remained worked in the informal sector. However, this changed for the better when some of the oldest, most well-preserved examples of pottery production methods in China were discovered during an archeological survey last June.

Among the discoveries were kilns, water-powered hammers and craters. The facilities are around 1,000 years old.

Jingdezhen, which administers Jinkeng, is known as "the capital of porcelain," as it was the main production center for China's iconic blue-and-white ware. The type of pottery made at Jinkeng, however, was bluish-white ware, which predates the more popular style by hundreds of years. It is extremely rare and Jinkeng boasts healthy deposits of the particular stone needed to make the clay.

Rose Kerr, a European expert on Chinese ceramics, will give a lecture on Nov. 9 at Dongjiao Center, a small but important gallery in Jinkeng.

"Few enthusiasts here have had the chance to see collections containing the bluish-white porcelain of the Song Dynasty. Kerr is an authority in this respect and we are looking forward to her lecture," said gallery founder Huang Wei, who teaches at Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute and led the Jinkeng archeological survey.

The honorary research associate of the Sir Joseph Needham Research Institute will share her unique experience of the ceramic collections of European museums with ceramicists and academics.

Kerr is one of 17 speakers invited to take part in academic exchanges with ceramic experts, college students, ceramic makers,collectors and chinaware enthusiasts in Jingdezhen next Monday.

During her first visit to Jinkeng last October, Kerr said she was impressed by the passion she saw for porcelain. The Dongjiao Center is a shining example of this. Established a year ago as a private non-profit organization to promote porcelain research and to protect the objects found during the Jinkeng dig.

"These relics are very precious. We even found the tracks left by wheelbarrows on the stone trail as well as abandoned china stones neatly stacked beside ancient craters," Huang said, recalling the Jinkeng survey.

Jingdezhen porcelain is world-renowned. In the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Jingdezhen was not only the home of imperial kilns, but also a center for porcelain exports. It is estimated that some 100 million pieces of china were sold to Europe from the 16th to the 18th century.

Cao Xing, a Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute student, talked highly of the foreign experts asked to speak at Dongjiao Center. She said they often brought new ideas and insight that influenced local research.

One particular event, on Sept. 25, was a talk by Teresa Canepa, a European porcelain specialist from Holland's Leiden University. Canepa spoke at length about Kraak porcelain, which was manufactured by the Chinese for the Portuguese and Spanish in the mid-16th century.

As Chinese scholars rarely used personal documents and records to inform research into ancient ceramics, Cao said she was particularly interested in Canepa's research, as it was based on the files of royal and noble families.

"It's fascinating -- her research unveiled what many Chinese don't know," said Cao.

The most amazing part, Cao said, was Canepa's discovery of the English origins of "bluish-white porcelain" in an European noble house's family record.

Inspired by the audience's keen interests in her study, Teresa thanked Huang later for the opportunity to lecture in Dongjiao.

"The exchange is very casual but effective. People get together to ask questions and share what they know and mutually inspire, with the common goal to safeguard the soul of the porcelain town," said Huang Wei.

Earlier this year, London's Sir Percival David Foundation Trust, which holds the best-known collection of Chinese ceramics, decided to sponsor Dongjiao Center 1,000 pounds annually for its contribution to the protection and promotion of Chinese ceramics.

"It is not a huge amount, but we cherish the foundation's recognition and encouragement," said Huang.

Huang and her husband, Huang Qinghua, received local government funding and, along with public donations, used it to renovate the village and transformed an abandoned house into a gallery.

A code of conduct has been agreed upon by residents which ensures everyone is aware of the need to not damage any of the village's relics.

Villagers also act as rangers to protect the artifacts and prevent any other damage.

"In my mind, Jingdezhen is mecca for global porcelain enthusiasts. We hope the center will evolve into an academic model and continue to attract researchers from across the world," said she. Endi

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from