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Imperial Kilns in Zhushan of Jingdezhen

Jingdezhen, a city in east China's Jiangxi Province is often called the 'porcelain capital of China'. It has been renowned for its porcelain since the Song Dynasty. It was here that archaeologists discovered two important sites during a 788 square meter excavation of an imperial kiln location that had been in use through the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Some of the porcelain and pottery treasures they unearthed are so rare that it would not be easy to find their likes today even in museums or in private collections.

The relics unearthed included walls and kilns together with many houses and other buildings. There were six kilns grouped together, four of which had already been excavated. All the kilns had been built according to the same 'gourd-shaped' pattern. They stood facing west in a straight line. The distinctive features of these brick-built kilns are their gates, fire chambers, front compartments, back compartments and supporting walls.

'Gourd-shaped kiln' technology had been developed from 'dragon kiln' technology and had already been adopted in the folk kilns of the Yuan Dynasty in Jingdezhen. However this was the first site in which it had been found among the imperial kilns.

One of the sites contained relatively recent relics from the Jiangxi Porcelain Company of the late Qing Dynasty. Founded in 1902, the company was the first modern enterprise to be run cooperatively by officials and businessmen at Jingdezhen. The older of the two sites comprised a group of kilns dating back to the early Ming Dynasty. This was the largest group of kilns at an imperial site ever discovered in China and is providing valuable evidence for research on imperial porcelain making techniques in those days.

One remarkable red glazed cup has attracted the attention of many archaeologists. It stands 10 centimeters tall and is 16 centimeters wide at the mouth. In the center it bears a seal in the zhuanshu style of calligraphy proclaiming it was 'Made in Reign of Yongle', a Ming emperor. It is by far the best example of its kind every found and the experts say that the quality of its vibrant red glaze could not be replicated using any known modern technique.

Covering an area of 50,000 square meters, Jingdezhen boasts the largest of the imperial porcelain workshops, with the longest history and which produced the most exquisite workmanship of all the feudal empires. So far over 3,000 treasured porcelain pieces have been restored from the fragments unearthed at Jingdezhen. Many other relics of great importance were also discovered. titleogether they are providing researchers with important new sources for their study of the porcelain making skills practiced in the imperial kilns of the early and middle Ming Dynasty.

The discovery was selected one of the Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries of 2003 in China.

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