Porcelain exhibition highlights skillful stacking techniques of Wuzhou Kiln

Wu Huixin
The Wuzhou porcelain exhibition at Zhejiang Museum features 83 antiques by skilled artisans who thrived during the Tang and Song dynasties.
Wu Huixin

Celadon has long overshadowed other porcelain varieties in Zhejiang Province, which is home to ancient kilns that have historically produced high-quality pottery.

One of them is the Wuzhou Kiln, and the Zhejiang Museum is co-hosting a Wuzhou porcelain exhibition with Wuyi County in Jinhua City, which is home to the Wuzhou Kiln.

The exhibition, which runs until August 27, includes 83 antiques and 34 contemporary works.

During the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), ancient Wuzhou artisans used fire to create porcelain. By raising the temperature, the glaze finish became smooth and clean.

The Wuzhou Kiln was at its peak during the Tang (AD 618–907) and Song (960–1279) dynasties. However, during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, it saw a decline and almost disappeared from the porcelain industry.

archaeological excavations have uncovered over 600 Wuzhou Kiln sites that have been buried for centuries. These kilns were mostly found in what is now Jinhua and Quzhou cities in Zhejiang Province.

Porcelain exhibition highlights skillful stacking techniques of Wuzhou Kiln

A Northern Song Dynasty vase embellished with acrobatic performers, animals and ceremonial scenes

Ancient artisans created unique shapes that were not present in other genres, using a technique known as “stacking” which involves placing small containers on a larger vessel.

A pot from the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220–280) at the exhibition is accompanied by four figurines, all of which are connected to the main body. It has an exotic style seen in Western countries, indicating historic cultural exchanges.

Another vase built using stacking techniques was fired during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). It is embellished with acrobatic performers, animals and ceremonial scenes, reflecting the peak of stacking skill at the time.

Wuzhou Kiln produced ivory-colored porcelains with an opaque glaze during the Tang Dynasty. Historians attributed it to the high concentration of phosphorus in materials.

Visitors to the exhibition can also check out various varieties of Tang Dynasty wine jugs. Jinhua was a winemaking center, especially for huangjiu (黄酒), a traditional Chinese alcoholic beverage brewed from water and wheat grains.

The thriving wine industry was the reason for the use of a significant number of containers. This explains why archaeologists have discovered heaps of wine container fragments at the Wuzhou Kiln sites.

Porcelain exhibition highlights skillful stacking techniques of Wuzhou Kiln

A pot created during the Three Kingdoms period

Fortunately, some wine casks have survived even after being buried underground for centuries. A Song Dynasty wine bottle adorned with a black dragon is on display at the exhibition.

Coins were kept in several of the vessels. Puman (扑满), which means “money box,” was designed with a narrow opening into which coins could be dropped. When the box was full, the owner broke it and took the money. The exhibition includes a puman from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

Wuzhou porcelains began to export to overseas markets as maritime trade flourished during the Song Dynasty. Craftspeople began using modes when firing items to increase productivity. This showed the brisk trade of the time.

The exhibition features contemporary sculptures that incorporate skillful firing techniques as well as current aesthetics.

Local artisans have been imitating the intricate, centuries-old craftsmanship by spending years researching and learning the firing procedures and clay composition, in an effort to resurrect historical traditions.

In 2004, some artisans restored Wuzhou Kiln after four generations’ hard work, incorporating modern aesthetics to produce new patterns.

Today, the works of Jinhua’s local masters are regarded as among the best modern-day replicas. They’ve spent years training apprentices to pass on the skills.

Modern Wuzhou porcelain has intricately engraved designs and many shades of sandy beige. To generate distinct shades of beige, artisans changed the clay mix and glazing procedures. Their exquisite shapes and jade-like textures represent the pinnacle of modern porcelain production.

Porcelain exhibition highlights skillful stacking techniques of Wuzhou Kiln
Ti Gong

A contemporary jar created by Yang Dong, featuring exquisite carving and jade-like texture

Date: Through August 27 (closed on Mondays), 9am-5pm

Admission: Free

Venue: West Lake Art Gallery

Address: 25 Gushan Rd


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