Jianshui Purple Pottery: greatness is within

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2014-07-29

Historical origin

Located in the central part of Yunnan province, Jianshui county is rich in history and cultural heritage. It used to be the educational center of the province, as one of the regions strongly influenced by Confucian culture in Yunnan. Excavation results show that the history of pottery-making in Jianshui dates back 3,500 years, during the Song (AD 420-479) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, Jianshui was the center of pottery-making in Yunnan. Originated during the mid-late stages of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the purple pottery in Jianshui began to take an honorable position and became one the four most famous potteries in China. Interestingly, the first purple pottery that has been found is a pipe for untreated opium, which was imported into China after 1840. In 2008, Jianshui Purple Pottery was listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage and Protected Geographical Indication.

Exquisite craftsmanship

It is noteworthy that artisans only make purple pottery by hand. The process of making a successful product includes six steps. Each step requires much effort and attention.

Step 1: Preparing clay

The clay used for pottery-making in Jianshui is a blend of five kinds of local soil. Compared with Yixin pottery, which is much more well-known, the clay contains less sand and quartz thanks to repetitive, time-consuming precipitation.

Each lump of clay must be kneaded many times in order to get the air out. After all, no one wants to see a bubble on the surface of a teapot.

Step 2: Shaping

Like other kinds of pottery, artisans will put the lump on a wheel to create a teapot, bowl or vase. The potter shapes the clay while the wheel turns. The shaping is a tango between skill and speed.

Jianshui Purple Pottery: greatness is within
A professional artisan shapes wet clay on a potter's wheel on July 25, 2014. [Photo/China Daily]


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