A little place in China called Jingdezhen has made some of the most revered porcelain pieces the world over. But it’s no mistake; this town once made porcelain items and tea sets just for the royal families. Emperors, empresses, princes and the like all ordered porcelain from Jingdezhen.
This lesser-known history of making imperial porcelain finally set the town up to produce some of the most refined porcelain we celebrate to this day. And it is surely a history every fan of Jingdezhen porcelain should know.
In 1278, Mongol emperor Kublai Khan built the first imperial kiln in Jingdezhen. Jingdezhen then made a type of porcelain that was celebrated for being as white as snow. The Mongols revered the color white.
His successors continued to build their own kilns in the following centuries. And at its peak, there were 58 imperial kilns in total. Orders from the imperial palace came in everyday, and the towns porcelain industry was booming.
There was so much work to be done that Ming dynasty emperors decided to set up a post to oversee the making and shipping of their orders. They sent their best henchmen to fill the post, who were expected to bring back the most beautiful porcelain the world had ever seen.
These royal administrators were to make sure that no one other than the emperor and his family even saw the porcelain produced by the imperial kilns. If any piece was deemed unworthy of the royal palace, it was smashed into pieces and buried. The techniques were also closely guarded. If any potter was caught teaching others how to make such great porcelain, he could be executed.
To make the best of the best, sometimes extra effort had to be made. Emperor Yongle was a great fan of blue and white porcelain, which required a special pigment to be used. However this pigment couldnt be found within China. With the most advanced navigational knowledge in the 14th century world, the emperor sent out his best sailors to Persian Gulf countries to get this rare color pigment.
Empires rose and fell, but these royal kilns continued to operate till the 1900s, the last years of imperial China.