In Chinese city of Jingdezhen where the first porcelain clay is extracted, that's famous for its blue and white porcelains and called the mecca, the capital of porcelain, tradition and innovational practices are feeding cultural tourism. Jingdezhen Ceramics Industry Heritage Museum which reflects the region's cultural heritage, is an institute with UNESCO Innovation Award.
PROF. ZEHRA COBANLI
China is carrying out incredibly innovational projects in recent years in its cities and centers with thousands of years porcelain history. Porcelains which have been produced for many years to come in these cities, have their unique forms, colors and decorations. One of these well-known cities is the city of Jingdezhen of China's Jiangxi state where the first porcelain clay is extracted, that's famous for its blue and white porcelains and called the mecca, the capital of porcelain. With its image as a center producing ceramics for about 1.700 years, this city has a global reputation and a rich ceramic art and is a source of cultural tourism.
The city combines traditional ceramic art in the region with modern technology, design, industry, thinking, education, trend and aesthetics, and this approach attracts various people related with ceramics around the world to the city today and has started a tourism mobility. There are several factors such as ceramic museums, ceramic art centers, traditional ceramic shopping centers, traditional and modern artist workshops, ceramic art galleries and production workshops which are taken as the significant determinants of cultural tourism in the city of Jingdezhen and support the social development. The city also has a ceramic university and with the joint projects and studies of universities, local administrations, artists, ceramic sector and art centers, the city is being designed all over again today and as city's most important cultural value, the reflections of ceramics and ceramic art on tourism are growingly getting bigger day by day.
Ceramic production in the region dates back to 6th century
Porcelain production in the Jingdezhen region known as Xinping has begun in Han Dynasty Era. It's indicated in the written sources that there was ceramic production in the region around 6th century. The city has become a big center with increasing number of workshops and kilns producing ceramics during the Emperor Zhenzong period. When it comes to 14th century, it becomes one of the biggest production centers of porcelain in China. But during the Taiping Rebellion in 1855 in Jingdezhen, Taiping forces destroys all of 9.000 kilns. These kilns have been built again after the war in 1866. Jingdezhen being a district in the 19th century, becomes a state level city in 1953. And in 1982, it's selected as one of the best 24 national history and culture city of Public Republic of China. In 2019, the State Council of Public Republic of China approves the foundation of Jingdezhen National Ceramic Culture Heritage and Innovation Pilot Region which represents the expediting visions and strategy for the development of country's ceramic culture. For the purpose of establishing a new platform to promote the development of Pilot Region and cultural exchange with other countries, Jingdezhen Municipality, Self-Government and Jingdezhen Ceramics University jointly establish the Jingdezhen International Ceramic Art Biennial. The biennial is intended to introduce Jingdezhen and ceramic art to the outer world and contribute to the development of ceramic culture in the world.
Ancient porcelain kilns are protected
Old tunnel kiln Kiln ruins of the old factory
There are three ancient porcelain production centers in the city. First of these is the Hutian Ancient Porcelain Kiln Site located four km away from the city. The second important ancient porcelain kiln site in Jingdezhen is the Nanshijie Ancient Porcelain Kiln Site and the other is the Imperial Kiln Site. These sites have been renovated, improved by the Chinese government and remained as well-protected areas. In this sense, it's also possible to say that the city hosts an industrial heritage tourism.
I visited Jingdezhen for the first time in 1997 then intermittently at different times and was invited as a guest artist in 2019 and in the course of time the city now hosts the most well-known and visited ceramic museums in the world with the support and the charge of the state. One of the most important projects of these improvements, the Taoxichuan is a mixed project that's based on protecting and utilizing the ceramic industry's heritage and combines industrial development and improvement with urbanization. It covers one square kilometers of environmental area and more than 10 industrial businesses such as the Yuzhou, Weimin and Wannengda porcelain factories. Being China's main exporting porcelain production base with its several industrial heritages and rich historical memories, Taoxichuan is a typical inner old city industry zone. the project takes the original Yuzhou porcelain factory as its starting area and aimed at building the Taoxchuan Art Boulevard with a 89 square meters construction site. The recovery, protection and renovation of 22 old porcelain factory buildings, coal-burning round kilns, tunnel kilns and other facilities have been completed and Jingdezhen Ceramic Industry Heritage Museum, Taoxichuan Art Gallery, Taoxichuan Jingdezhen International Studio, boutique hotel, other art galleries and creative buildings have been built. Those who visit the region are not forgotten as well and with their needs in mind there are also restaurants, cafeterias and other service facilities.
Section of the workers’ photos
Jingdezhen Ceramic Industry Heritage Museum
The total planning area is two square kilometers in Taoxichuan and the one of the most important structures drawing my attention is the Jingdezhen Ceramic Industry Heritage Museum. I would like to tell about this museum a bit for being different and giving the chance to watch the industry. Located in A2 Ceramic Art Street, No. 150, Xinchang West Road, the most important feature of this museum is that it's not a collection museum comprised of works procured from different fields, regions and artists but the first industry museum in China with the main theme being the ceramic industry. The museum creates a symbolic and cultural value such as "cultural backbone" and "cultural passage" through innovation and renovation of old kilns left in the Universal Porcelain Factory and a unique and genuine cultural experience area and an objective cultural platform through renovating its buildings and a new innovation. It narrates the ups and downs and the development of the modern and contemporary ceramic industry of Jingdezhen in an emotional way.
The methods of "history exhibition by objects" is adopted throughout the whole museum. The objects are supported with modern new materials, new graphical expressions, photographs, sound and light while being placed in the exhibition area and stories of the past in the factory are tried to be narrated using several auxiliary objects such as stage reproductions involving old factory photos, valuable objects and pictures.
It exhibits the socio-economic structure in Jingdezhen
There are four exhibition areas in the museum. First of these four exhibition areas is determined as the "hard path, recovery and improvement", second is determined as the "twists and turns, ups and downs", third is determined as the "reform and transformation, commitment to improvement", and the fourth is determined as the "reconstruction and transformation born from fire". These courses is showing the transformation of Jingdezhen ceramic industry since 1903. Every area is separated with a door from the old factory and in every separated section there are the machinery, items, memories, products, belongings of workers, photographs, notes and tools existing in the production process of the factory.
Workers’ belongings Pieces of workers’ bicycles
It's possible to clearly view the courses and difficulties gone through by Jingdezhen ceramic industry, the productions and ups and downs of it from 1903 to 2015. In the museum building that was brought back to life with an English architect's renovation and renewal project, various production differences in Jingdezhen porcelain industry are also explained in detail. The content in the places is more vivid, dynamic and emphasizing. I can say that the verbal video looped in the big screen is very touching. The featured video has valuable information to understand the local culture, people, social and economic structures of workers in the old Jingdezhen.
UNESCO Innovation Award winning
The museum allows us to recognize and view the development story of Jingdezhen modern ceramic industry and scan the heritage of Jingdezhen ceramic industry until 2015 and has been granted the UNESCO Innovation Award for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Asia-Pacific Region. The "Multitude Wall" in the museum is the most meaningful and emotional area of the museum.
There are also examples in the museum from the products of porcelain factories founded in 1950s, producing for state, people and abroad with several color, decoration and formation characteristics different from each other such as Xinping, Renmin, Guangming, jiangxi, jiangu, Yishu, Yuzhou, Hangqi, Hongguang, Shuguang, Diaosu, Hangxing, Xinhua and Dongfen.
While the skills of the porcelain workers in the ceramic industry is transferred from generation to generation in the museum, the kiln fire that's digitally projected to the wall, is keeping this tradition for thousands of years. I can say that the museum constitutes a new way of expressing the ceramic history that reflects and supports Jingdezhen's development in the ceramic industry. The "Multitude Wall" is erected as a monument for them. China's important tv channels has prepared documentaries about the museum and made significant contribution in the promotion of museum in and out China. A quite interactive 3D virtual reality exhibition has also been designed in internet for those who wish to visit the museum at their homes. It's said that visitors viewing the exhibition in digital environment, substantially enhances the efficiency of museum promotion.
Having museums like Jingdezhen Ceramic Industry Heritage Museum in our country may be an important memory in terms of protecting our cultural heritage, transferring it to future generations and being aware of the industrial conditions of the era and can also be thought as a substantial investment in terms of cultural tourism. The Yarimca Porcelain Factory that have been in production in our country under the roof of Sumerbank for 30 years, privatized in 1998 and then closed, could be turned into the Istanbul Ceramic Industry Heritage Museum for the same reasons.