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Ceramic Historical Exhibition Area

This is easily the best of several exhibitions devoted to ceramics, and includes several old kilns, areas demonstrating the production process, and ancient houses and temples. The site is down a winding country lane off an urban main street, providing an abrupt transition from town to countryside. The entrance to the left of the ticket office leads to rebuilt ancient kiln types in reddish brick, and a fine old mansion in local style, with black pillars, white walls, and richly carved and gilded interior beams. Glass cases in its three courtyards hold modest displays of ceramics. English signs guide you around the site.

The Tianhou Gong behind the mansion has been heavily reconstructed and is now just a souvenir shop, but beyond that it is a curious temple dedicated to the three deified founders of porcelain making, venerated as the source of Jingdezhen's past wetitleh -- the discoverer of china clay, the inventor of forming techniques, and the inventor of firing -- worship of whom is unique to Jingdezhen. The temple is about 300 years old and seems not to have been renovated since, giving it a rather distressed charm. Blue and white porcelain panels give an account of traditional production techniques, and there are statues of the founders at the rear. The one with a red face has not been drinking bai jiu, but has spent too much time close to the kiln. Offerings of plastic fruit and fake ingots suggest that the founders are not yet entirely forgotten.

A second entrance to the right of the ticket office leads to an area where, in theory, you can watch the production process in a series of sheds, which begins with pools of clay and continues with racks of pieces in various stages of preparation. But the kiln is no longer fired, there are weeds growing from the clay pits, and this is all for show and shopping.

Behind this area, what looks at first like a dry-stone wall is a large pile of firewood built into the shape of a cottage. Pine wood was carefully cut and stacked this way to guard against rain and spontaneous combustion, and to save the cost of building storage sheds, but the result is a work of art. The duck's-egg-shaped kiln to the right, one of Jingdezhen's oldest, occupies only about a quarter of the area of a large barn-like building. The ground floor is a small forest of curved pillars which seem to be largely unfashioned tree trunks, between which are stacked piles of saggars, the rough ceramic outer cases into which pieces were placed for firing. A series of wall-mounted illustrations shows the process.

At the end of the low-ceilinged hall there's a ramp up through a narrow entrance into the arched brickwork of the kiln space itself, where the firewood would have been stacked in patterns depending on the effect required, and saggars containing porcelain requiring different temperatures would have been placed in different positions.

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