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Jingdezhen, The “Porcelain Capital“

Updated: Jun 25

One οf the important places for Babs and the evolution of her career is Jingdezhen, known as the “Porcelain Capital“ of China. Babs wanted to go the Cradle of Porcelain ‘ China’. She spent several years living and working in this city , where she had her own studio in the house of Chinese potters. This city has a long and fascinating history in ceramic production spanning over a thousand years.

In Jingdezhen Babs developed her Flow collection and created a limited edition of porcelain lamps. Besides she started to make her Turbulent Vessels and Scholar’s Rocks. That is why I wish to share with you the history of how this city became the “Porcelain Capital”.  

Image 1: Flow Lamp - Jingdezhen

The journey of Jingdezhen porcelain began during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279) and evolved through the Yuan (1271 to 1368), Ming (1368 to 1644), and Qing (1644 to 1912) dynasties, with each era adding its unique touch to the art. 

During the Song dynasty, Jingdezhen became renowned for its Qingbai ware, a type of porcelain with a clear, jade-like glaze and delicate designs. By the end of this period, Qingbai ware had become more popular than the Northern Ding ware, marking Jingdezhen as a major porcelain center.

Image 2: Guan Lin Wang and Babs Haenen in the kiln department in Jingdezhen

In the Yuan dynasty, Jingdezhen started producing Shufu ware, which had a thick white glaze with a subtle blue-green tint. This period also saw the birth of underglaze blue porcelain, which Jingdezhen began mass-producing. These blue and white porcelains were highly prized both at home and abroad. This was the type of porcelain that the VOC Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) transported from China to the Netherlands and was then spread to the global market. 

The Ming and Qing dynasties saw even more variety in Jingdezhen’s production. Restrictions on designs relaxed, leading to more diverse motifs, including human figures and landscapes. This trend continued, with the Qing dynasty introducing even more styles to meet various market demands. The private kilns during this time produced some of the finest pieces, often matching the quality of imperial wares but with more adventurous designs. 

Image 3: Unique Flow Lamp, collection Simone Haenen

Jingdezhen’s kiln technology also evolved significantly, from the traditional dragon kilns to more advanced gourd-shaped and egg-shaped ones. These advancements allowed for higher temperatures and better control, leading to high-quality and diverse porcelain products. 

Image 4: Up left, Song Lidded plum vase. Up right, Yuan Shufu Stem bowl. Bottom left, Ming Dish with underglaze blue dragon and yellow enamel. Bottom right, Qing Rose dish with peaches and bats - Jingdezhen

Jingdezhen porcelain eventually made its way to Europe, greatly influencing Dutch potters. Inspired by the intricate designs and craftsmanship of Chinese porcelain, the Dutch began producing Delftware, known for its blue and white designs similar to those from Jingdezhen. 

Babs was fascinated by the labour intensive method, the different glazes, the ethereal beauty and fine details of Jingdezhen porcelain. In my opinion her ‘Shan Shui ‘ Mountains capture the essence of Jingdezhen’s landscapes and the delicate beauty of its porcelain. So it is no wonder that this ancient  city’s rich history and exquisite craftsmanship provided the perfect inspiration for her artistic evolution.

On to the next journey….. ⧽(•‿•)⧼

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