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Cultural Heritage

Reviving porcelain industry of Jingdezhen

By Xinzhu Xiao

May 9

The traditional porcelain industry of Jingdezhen is being revived from the roots up.

The traditional porcelain industry of Jingdezhen is being revived from the roots up.

Legend has it that China owes its name to the old city of Jingdezhen (景德镇) in Jiangxi Province, which used to be called Changnan (昌南), birthplace of the most exquisite and precious porcelain. As the industry grew, pronunciation among porcelain traders morphed from “Changnan” to “China.”

A craftsman paints a porcelain vase. [Image Credit: VCG]
For roughly 700 years, porcelain was regarded as objects of great rarity and luxury and introduced to Central Asia and Europe via the ancient Silk Road. When Europeans first encountered Chinese porcelain, it seemed so fine, elegant and superior to anything they could imagine that they concluded it must have been made by magic, calling it “white gold”. They eventually discovered the secret to making porcelain and began to produce their own Chinese-inspired wares during the 15th century, though Jingdezhen retained its global leading position. By the late 19th century, Chinese export porcelain, especially blue-and-white wares, had achieved a status above the merely utilitarian.

A display of vases at Qing and Ming Ancient Pottery Factory, Jingdezhen City, Jiangxi Province. [Image Credit: VCG]
However, the fall of the Qing dynasty, alongside war and revolutions in the 20th century, hit the porcelain industry hard. After World War II, the Chinese government restored Jingdezhen’s porcelain industry by opening state-run factories. However, after drastic drops in profit during the 1990s, employees were laid off as plants shut down.

Since 2014, the traditional industry has been revived under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with old factories renovated into shops and galleries that are now part of an art zone called Taoxichuan (陶溪川) Culture Park.

A view of Taoxichuan Cultural Park [Image Credit: people.com.cn]
More and more young people have become interested in producing porcelain and studying at Taoxichuan. In order to give young artists a chance to show off their works, the local government hosts an art fair every Saturday, with around 500 booths available to artists to present and sell their creations.

Night view of Taoxichuan [Image Credit: people.com.cn]
Studios and workshops have popped up across the area. Besides, a growing network of vocational and liberal arts institutes now train Chinese students and offer fellowships as well as residencies to artists from abroad.

People from different cultures and backgrounds are now gathering here to enjoy an art atmosphere that far outweighs that of commerce. Jingpiao, or “Jingdezhen drifters,” refer to those who have travelled to Jingdezhen to fulfill their dreams of becoming an artist.

Over 450 million yuan has been invested in Taoxichuan so far, turning it into a cultural community bustling with workshops, cultural centers, galleries, museums, restaurants and hotels. The local government has designated porcelain as the city’s formal brand, ensuring the influx of high quality clients and artists.

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