Why Jingdezhen

When we mention Jingdezhen we directly think of the fine white kaolin, porcelain, and its history of making porcelain for thousands of years. But what made this porcelain city so unique of producing porcelain other than the natural sources. It is believed that owing to various historical reasons and the vigorously promoted of economy during the Yuan Dynasty (1271AD -1368AD).

After defeating the Song Dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty (Mongolia) inherited the virtuosity skills and techniques passed on from the Song which famous for producing monochrome glazes, such as celadon, crackled glaze, purple splashes glaze, and qing-bai glaze (white opaque glaze). The monochrome glazes were continue produced in the meantime copper red underglaze was developed. The people of Yuan were especially fond of qing-bai-ci, a porcelain ware usually decorated with low-relief from press mould and glazed in opaque white. The ware of this kind was highly valued since the Mongolians regarded white as pure and it was their lucky colour.

Years of war between the Mongolia and the Song Dynasty (960AD -1276AD) led to many artisans fleeing from the northern part of China to the south and many had put down their roots in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province in southern part of China. Jingdezhen has a long history of making ceramics and was named “the porcelain city” because of it produces a fine quality of kaolin, the main ingredient for producing white and translucent porcelain.

Up to Kublai Khan (1215AD – 1294AD), grandson of Genghis Khan and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty, who defeated the Song Dynasty and developed the “Great Yuan” in 1272, he vigorously advocated for foreign trading and ceramics accounted for the highest profit from the commercial activities. He developed the “Fuliang Porcelain Bureau” in Jingdezhen to undertake the supervision and management of porcelain production. The extensive mining of kaolin was undertaken proceeded in Jingdezhen. The Yuan government also deployed the captured craftsmen to Jingdezhen to join in the production that led to exquisite techniques and skills from different regions that were brought to Jingdezhen. As a result, Chinese porcelain experienced a revolutionary innovation during this period and made the city a unique place for producing fine quality porcelain.

But the greatest contribution was the maturity of blue and white porcelain during the late Yuan Dynasty. It became one of the most dominant porcelain artifacts in Chinese ceramics history and is it highly acclaimed and valued not only in China but also throughout the world since it had been introduced to other nations.

Blue and white porcelain can be found as early as the Tang Dynasty (618AD – 907AD) but the use of materials and techniques for making this porcelain were not yet fully developed and tended to be coarse with very simple decoration.

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Porcelain dish with cobalt underglaze blue decoration, North China, Tang Dynasty, 9th Century

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