Ancient kiln highlights Chinese cultural celebration

Ancient kiln highlights Chinese cultural celebration
Spectators in Beijing look at a pair of locally handcrafted toys at the ninth annual China Cultural Heritage Day. The celebrations take place all over the country with Jiangdezhen, Jiangxi province, as the main host city.

As the ancient porcelain kiln blazed in Jingdezhen, high temperatures added to the warmth at this weekend's summertime festival.

China's main celebration for the country's ninth Cultural Heritage Day was in the spotlight in that city in Jiangxi province on Saturday.

The one-day celebration, co-organised by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Jiangxi provincial government, was highlighted by the ignition of the ancient Zhenyao Kiln in the afternoon and also included a traditional porcelain-making and restoration demonstration, a quiz competition on porcelain and numerous special cultural relic exhibitions.

Also, a 50,000-square-meter yuyaochang, which literally means "royal kiln", was designated by the State agency as a national archaeological site park on Saturday morning. This porcelain kiln complex, established in 1369, was used to produce items for emperors in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

First built in the early 18th century, Zhenyao Kiln is the only one remaining of about 100 egg-shaped furnaces built in Jingdezhen. The kiln is able to produce 10,000 kilograms of porcelain at one time, consuming 35,000 kg of timber. Jingdezhen is the country's most celebrated hub for porcelain since its founding about 1,700 years ago.

"Thanks to this event, the young generation got a chance to know the almost forgotten old-time kiln using timber as fuel, which is highly demanding for artisans' power of observation and experience," said Hu Jiawang, 70, who has operated kilns for over 50 years. "Temperature and timing are important, as the porcelain can easily be ruined in the fire."

According to historical records, the traditional porcelain-making process in Jingdezhen included 72 steps, and artisans only participated in one step throughout their lives, but Hu said wider usage of modern techniques has endangered some of them.

Hu said revered inheritors of old porcelain techniques now have studios in a park provided by the government to show their skills and simultaneously make ends meet.

There are 52 unearthed ancient porcelain-kiln relics in Jingdezhen. The discovery of the Nanyao Kiln relic of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was listed among China's top 10 archaeological findings of 2013 by a panel led by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in April.

"We expect to bring new experiences and feelings (on cultural relics) to the public via today's event," said Li Xiaojie, head of the administration. "This is also a good opportunity for all sides concerned to fulfil their responsibilities to protect relics, promote their capacity to exhibit items and better serve society.

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