Porcelain Baking Techniques of Yaozhou Kiln

 Porcelain Baking Techniques of Yaozhou Kiln

The original Yaozhou Kiln is located in Yaozhou, present-day Huangbao in Tongchuan, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. Except for Huangbao, the kiln sites in surrounding areas like the villages of Lidi, Shangdian and Yuhua villages and the town of Town also belonged to the Yaozhou Kiln. Yaozhou ware was the biggest of the six major schools of porcelain in northern China during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Exhaustive studies show that Huangbao was an important porcelain-making site established in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Its development continued till the reign of Jingkang (1126-1127) in the Northern Song Dynasty, before gradually declining afterwards. However, the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) still saw the manufacture of Yaozhou ware in Chenlu.

The porcelain school of Yaozhou spread over a wide area, extending east beyond Shaanxi Province to influence the Ruzhou celadon school in Central China's Henan Province; while in the west it spread to Xunyi on the border between Shaanxi and Gansu (Northwest China) provinces. The Xunyi kiln, discovered in May 1977, produced celadon ware from the Yaozhou School.

In its early stages, Yaozhou ware of the Northern Song Dynasty had a rather coarse body and glaze and the vessels were mainly trumpet-shaped bowls. Teapots with a handle and short spout were externally decorated with some roughly incised lotus petals and peonies. Few had impressed (imprinted) designs.

In the middle period most porcelain vessels had thin bodies and were evenly glazed. Fired at high temperatures, they were durable. There was greater variety in shapes-bowls, plates, dishes, jars, saucers, boxes, censers, wine cups and lamps. One type of decoration consisted of bold, attractive motifs of flowers, human figures, and animals engraved in incisive strokes.

Impressed designs were also very popular during the middle period, and those covering the entire vessel inside and out were exquisite. Designs included flowers and grasses, fish, ducks, dragons, phoenixes, ocean waves, and floating clouds. The patterns of interlocking blossoms and plucked sprays of flowers were widely used, the best being peonies, chrysanthemums, and lotus flowers.

The vessels with still thinner bodies of the later period were prettier than those of the middle period. The designs were impressed, mostly at the bottom inside the bowls and plates; the finer ones depicted a phoenix gently touching peonies or a flock of cranes and children at play. The decorative art of Yaozhou ware was very influential in the development of Song arts and crafts.

The Yaozhou kilns produced on a large scale. The kiln site of Huangbao alone extended for five kilometers. According to archaeologists' measurements the kiln furnaces were generally 3.36 to four meters high and 2.16 meters long by 3.36 meters wide.

The traditional techniques of Yaozhou Kiln mainly embody the following seven fields: the collecting, matching, composing and processing of materials, the reserving and blending of porcelain clay, the biscuit molding and trimming by hand, the engraving, appliqué and printing by hand, the collecting, matching, preparing and applying of ceramic glaze, the making of kiln facilities, the loading of porcelain bases into the kiln, the manipulating of fire, and the last, baking. Usually, a finished porcelain ware needs to go through 17 working procedures, each procedure requiring relevant skills.

Since the 1970s, the Yaozhou Kiln's porcelain production has made full revival, and now it is the supporting industry of Tongchuan.