Foreword

The Song and Yuan dynasties were known as the golden age of ancient Chinese ceramic production in history, when both official and private kilns were built in large numbers. In particular, five of them, namely, Ru, Jun, Guan (official), Ge, and Ding kilns, stood out from their counterparts. With their products featuring glorious glaze colors, elegant styles, and exquisite craftsmanship, they represented the superb skills of the ceramic industry at the time. Part I of the exhibition will display more than 70 artifacts produced by these five kilns and hand-picked from the collections of 12 museums and archaeological research institutions in China, which will allow visitors to feast their eyes on the treasures of the previous Qing court and to get a glimpse of the latest achievements in archaeological excavation in the kiln sites.

Through thousands of years’ ups and downs, the firing techniques of the top five kilns have faded into history. After the founding of New China, related authorities, based on the research of excavation documents, have put great effort into resuming and studying traditional craftsmanship and made remarkable achievements in integrating traditional techniques with cultural innovations. Part II of the exhibition selects more than 90 pieces of the research and innovation results conducted by contemporary representative heirs from the top five kilns to present the achievements in ceramic research and resumption in contemporary times.

How time flies! After thousands of year, the past treasures are brought together with present innovations. Though with a long time span, they all epitomize the sense of belonging and cultural identity of the Chinese nation, which testifies the historical truth that the Chinese culture has always been developing on the basis of continuation and inheritance of the traditions.

 
PartⅠ Exhibition of Selected Artifacts from Top Five Kilns
 

The concept of the “Top Five Kilns was gradually developed in the long time of ceramic collection starting from the Ming Dynasty. And the one we are talking about today was finally formulated by scholars in the second half of the 20th century.

Products of all the five kilns feature fine raw materials, gorgeous glaze colors and exquisite craftsmanship. Be it elegant fine-textured white porcelain or magnanimous blue-and-white porcelain, they basically represented the scholar-officials’ aesthetical pursuit of elegant art.

Though they cannot present a full picture of porcelain production or show all characteristics and technical advances of porcelains in the Song Dynasty, they shed light on the highest craftsmanship of porcelain making at the time.

 
 
 
 
Part II Road of Rejuvenation: Exhibition of Contemporary Innovations of Top Five Kilns
 

Through thousands of years’ evolution, the Top Five Kilns developed into the most representative ceramic production base in China. They have always introduced innovations while following the traditions of predecessors. In the 1950s, they successively set up institutions to resume studies and production at the call of the central government. Up till now, the Top Five Kilns has become an important category of traditional craftsmanship among the intangible cultural heritage. The representative heirs to different porcelains have devoted themselves to studying varied technical characteristics of Ru, Jun, Guan, Ge and Ding kilns and capturing the essence of their predecessors’ spirit, and made great contributions to preserving the source of inspirations for China’s porcelain-making. While continuing the traditions, they have also intensified effort to explore a way to modernize traditional ceramics, and boldly incorporated modern cultural elements into their works, which therefore mirror the spirit of our time.

The contemporary works of the Top Five Kilns function as a bridge to link traditional and modern ceramic cultures, and source of inspirations for modern development of ceramics in China.

 
 
 
 
Postscript
 

In the ancient times, workshops of the Top Five Kilns were mainly scattered in mountains or by rivers, where it was easy for people to use clay for producing glaze, to fetch water for smashing ores, and to chop wood for making fire. When clay met fire, they kindled sparks and created the brilliant ancient ceramic civilization. In contemporary times, these kilns have made innovations and breakthroughs in their technical systems such as the texture of glaze, shape and design, furnace structure and fuels. Their technologies are undergoing great changes with each passing day.

Inheritance of traditions aims at better preservation, and intangible cultural heritage protection is a fundamental cultural program vital to promote the Chinese culture that has integrated diversified elements in the process of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Inheritance is the cornerstone, while innovation is the lifeline. Based on the protection of traditional techniques, proper production and development can drive the intangible cultural heritage of ancient Chinese ceramics to fuse into society, the public and daily life in a better way, and to play an important role in enriching and nourishing modern people’s cultural life.

 
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