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Yaozhou Kiln Ceramic Firing and Manufacturing Skills

Yaozhou Kiln Ceramic Firing and Manufacturing Skills

Yaozhou kiln, located in Yaozhou City, Shaanxi Province, was a famous porcelain-making site in Tang Dynasty (618-907). Developed continually in Song Dynasty (960-1279) , it reached its peak and become the largest one of China's six major kiln schools, and its products are representative of northern celadon. Taking Huangpu Town, Tongchuan City as a center, Yaozhou kiln factories spread along Qihe River and were called "shi-li (ten miles) long ceramic workshops". Also, there were kiln factories arranged in proper order in Lidi Villiage, Shangdian Village, Chenlu Town and Yuhua Village, stretching for hundreds of miles. After the wars in Jin and Yuan dynasties and upheavals in the following dynasties, all the kiln factories stopped kiln ceramic firing and manufacturing except factories in Chenlu Town which still exists, becoming an important town of ceramic manufacturing in the northwestern region of China. Almost all households in 11 villages in Chenlu Town were engaged in ceramic firing, thus Chenlu Town was regarded as "an ever-bright town." After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the ceramic workshops in Chenlu Town were incorporated into a state-owned ceramic factory. In the 1970s, with the help of Li Guozhen and other experts, the traditional skills of Yaozhou kiln were recovered, producing ceramics of six major categories, that include Yaozhou celadon, black-glazed carved ceramics, white-glazed carved ceramics, blue and white porcelain, iron rust ceramics and fancy glaze. Yaozhou kiln ceramic became the most important industry in Tongchuan City.

The traditional crafts are reflected in seven aspects, known as, the preparation, proportioning and processing of raw materials, storage and kneading of clay, hand throwing and trimming, hand carving, engraving, incising, decaling and stamping, the selection, preparation and application of glaze, manufacturing of saggar and kiln furniture and loading, and flame atmosphere and firing. A finished product has to go through 17 processes including material selection, screening, weathering, proportioning, clay mixing, aging, finished clay material making, kneading, hand throwing, trimming, glaze selection, preparation, application, hand decoration, (carving, engraving, decaling and stamping), kiln furniture manufacturing, loading of kiln and firing. There are relevant technical requirements for each process and people mastering these skills are called "crafts man."

In the recent 20 years, under the impact of modern industrial products, the ceramic industry of Chenlu Town was in downturn period. The outgoing of young people to seek job elsewhere and death of old crafts men have made over 1,000 years' of traditional ceramic firing and manufacturing skills. Due to the lack of people to inherit this skill there is a danger of it being nonexistent in future generations.