Longquan Celadon Baking Techniques

 Longquan Celadon Baking Techniques

Longquan is an ancient cultural city famous for making celadon in southwest Zhejiang Province, East China. Abundant in porcelain clay and pinewood, used for baking porcelain, the area has over 500 ancient celadon kilns, of which over 360 sites are densely distributed throughout Longquan.

All these sites historically belong to the ancient Longquan Kiln, which has the longest manufacturing history, widest site distribution, highest quality, largest celadon production and export scales in China's porcelain history.

The Longquan Kiln began to make porcelain in the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) and fully developed in the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It reached its peak during the late Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). During this period, the kiln mainly produced daily commodities, such as plates, bowls and kettles. A high degree of technique was used in these pieces: encasing flowers supplemented with dots and waves and floating clouds. The glaze used on Longquan ware was thin, almost translucent, and of a cyan hue mixed with yellow. Some of the most famous representatives include the pale, blue-glazed and plum, green-glazed wares that were created during the late Southern Song period. Wares from this period were rich in variety, including the ones imitating jade or bronze wares. The Ge Kiln of Longquan was known as one of the Five Famous Kilns in the Song Dynasty, together with the Ru Kiln, Jun Kiln, Guan Kiln and Ding Kiln.

Due to the popularity of its celadon wares during the Song and Yuan (1271-1368) periods, the Longquan Kiln's techniques had great influence on the porcelain development in other areas, especially in today's Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces. Its celadon products were also exported abroad.

But in the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a large number of potters left Longquan due to the thriving porcelain industry around the country, especially with the development of the porcelain capital, Jingdezhen, which triggered the decline of the Longquan Kiln.

There are eight steps involved in making Longquan celadon, namely, matching materials, molding, biscuit trimming, decorating, glaze application and plain baking, box installation, filling in the kiln, and burning. Glaze application also has several steps. The plain baking can be done at a relatively low temperature of about 800℃, but the glaze baking needs a temperature of about 1,200℃. The temperature needs to be raised slowly.

The burning of celadon is not only a skill but also an art. Superior celadon is reputed to be as beautiful as jade. Famous worldwide, Longquan celadon was not only used for every dynasty's royal courts in ancient China, but has been exported to many other countries and regions of Asia, Africa and Europe since the early Song Dynasty. Celadon wares have been excavated at ancient harbors and sites in Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Egypt.

Modern Longquan celadon has inherited features of the traditional Longquan Kiln and has been innovating and developing. Many celadon products made by local masters and craftsmen have won top honors and prizes in various pottery-making competitions.