Porcelain is occasionally referred to as "china" in some English speaking countries, because until the 17th century China was the sole producer of porcelain.
Jiangxi is the home of Chinese porcelain and Jingdezhen has been the Porcelain Capital of a Thousand Years of China. Jingdezhen porcelain is the pearl in the treasure house of Chinese art and culture. Among its products, the most representative one is the blue and white porcelain.
Known as Xinping in ancient times, the city of Jingdezhen began to make porcelain as early as around 200BC in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). During the reign of Emperor Jingde (1004-1007) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), all the products made here bore the reign mark of Jingde, and the name of the city was therefore changed to Jingdezhen (Jingde Town).
The baking of the blue and white porcelain originated during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). During the Yuan and Ming dynasties (1271-1644), the blue and white porcelain became increasingly popular, and since the 14th century manufacturers have shipped the blue and white porcelains to world markets. The porcelain reached its peak in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Its thin, translucent quality and exotic motifs made it highly prized throughout Europe and the colonies, ranking first among the blue and white porcelains nationwide.
Jingdezhen porcelain has formed its own four special features, that is, white like jade, bright as a mirror, thin as paper, and sound like a chime. Using the same materials, the same artistic techniques, in some cases, the same kilns, porcelain from Jingdezhen is prized for its artistic qualities and function around the world.
The blue and white porcelain belongs to the color glaze porcelain. The coloring agent for it is cobalt oxide. The process is: first, paint on the unbaked mould with cobalt oxide, apply a layer of translucent glaze over it and bake it under a temperature of 1,300oC. The cobalt oxide is reduced under high temperature into a blue color, which is very bright and durable, without poisonous lead. Each monochrome-glazed porcelain has one single bright color with exquisite design. It requires a very good mastery of the control of temperature changes and the composition of contents. The blue and white porcelain is the most famous one of the four traditional porcelains produced in Jiangdezhen, renowned as the ever-lasting blue flower.
In 1979, Jingdezhen blue and white porcelain won the national golden prize. In 1985, it won three gold medals in succession at the international fairs held in Leipzig, Brno, etc. Ever since then, the name of Jingdezhen blue and white porcelain was spread far and wide. By far, it is the best product in the porcelain business with the most prizes and highest standard.
A folk story says that an emperor wanted vessels with the glaze of red, something no one had succeeded making before and the whole guild would be killed if they failed. On the deadline day, to save everyone, a craftsman threw himself into the blazing kiln and the desired products came into being. In the past, Jingdezhen porcelains served the emperors. In the present, they grace China's national banquets and are favourite national gifts.
The long history of porcelain has left its marks on Jingdezhen. The city is described as a huge museum of the craft of porcelain. The ancient kilns, both royal and private, are well preserved though unused revealing the evolution of the production process of the past. People who are interested can visit the old dock where kaolin was transported to the workshops and the once hustle and bustle main commercial street. Old constructions used the side products of porcelain making. Lastly, though porcelain production has been adapted to modern conditions, the aim for the best quality remains the same.