Jingdezhen: the Porcelain City
Imagine a city where the street lights, traffic lights and just about any other public amenity are made of porcelain: this is Jingdezhen, one of China’s foremost Porcelain Cities! Here, crowded street markets flog almost anything imaginable, from plain crockery to huge, tacky vases and life-size Buddha’s, all made of porcelain, while the chimneys of the kilns belch black smoke into the sky.
Porcelain from the Imperial Kilns is what converted Jingdezhen into a household name in China and worldwide too; at least for those in the know. Production dates back well over a thousand years. In times past, the finest pieces would be sent to the palaces of China’s emperors and the ruling elite. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe discovered the quality of the porcelain produced at Jingdezhen and, as a result, a huge export market sprung up, which only added to the city’s prestige. While location and river transportation may have contributed to Jingdezhen’s growth, it is the reputed quality of the eponymous clay found at Gaoling village, just a few kilometres outside the city that has turned it into the centre of China’s porcelain industry.
Today, the business is still thriving with factories continuing to pump out a haze of dirty smoke. While most of these factories have now been moved to the outskirts, the occasional hidden kiln can still be found in what remains of the dwindling, historic old town. Street markets sell the bulk of the cheap and roughly made porcelain goods, while plusher shops deal in the more exquisite pieces. If you are not an expert, the rule of thumb is caution, as there are apparently many fakes that abuse the trade mark ‘made in Jingdezhen’. However, there are plenty of cheap curios that make good souvenirs.
Whether you are interested in buying porcelain products or not, we certainly weren’t, as a backpacking overland trip to Tibet is hardly the ideal way of transporting a fragile vase, a visit to Jingdezhen is well worth it. For one, [Read more →]