Many sand earthenware, soft and hard earthenware decorated pieces have been unearthed from the Beiqiu Relic of the New Stone Age excavation in Hedang, Shiwan. The decorating patterns include string, trellis design, leaf, ladder-shaped trellis, frogs, etc.. According to the carbon 14 dating by the Beijing Archaeological Studies Office, these pieces were made four thousand nine hundred to five thousand years ago. This archaeological finding has overturned the saying that Shiwan’s Pottery Industry was moved from the north in Song Dynasty. An historical perspective has a poetic appreciation of “Shiwan tile, the best in the world”. The surviving dragon kiln “Ancient Nanfeng Kiln”, symbolizes the outstanding technique of Shiwan pottery.
Ancient Nanfeng Kiln – Firing for five hundred years
To open the mysterious mask of an old dragon kiln, to show the legend of an ancient ceramic town, to extend the dragon’s life of five hundred years, the history of Nanfeng ancient kiln is worth studying and researching.
Ancient Nanfeng kiln was built during the Zhengde years of Ming Dynasty (1506-1521), a rare dragon kiln with a history of almost 500 years that is still in use for making ceramics nowadays. It is now the Key Culture Relic Unit of Ancient Kiln in Guangdong Province.
For nearly five hundred years the flame has never died out, with constant custom ceramic candle jar production. Thus the kiln has been kept completely without any damage, which is rare in China. It is the oldest dragon kiln left in China and the important cultural protection site of Guangdong Province.
The opening of Nanfeng kiln faces the south. The far end is under the green shade of banyan trees, which brought cool breeze in summer, so the kiln was called “Nanfeng” as it meant as “south breeze”. During the long years, the production had never been stopped for repairs. The present chimney of the kiln was built in modern times. The kiln has a total length of 34.4 meters. There are 29 rows of fire holes (5 for every row) on the kiln. It is said that one fire for each row totals 29 fires. The fire hole is used to stoke with wood during the firing. There are 4 doors on the side of the kiln, for the loading and removal of products.
Arts of Flame – Mysterious and unpredictable
The composition and heat given out during the wood firing bring limitless changes to the clay and glaze.
The dragon kiln is divided into upper, middle and lower sections with three levels of temperature, low, medium and high, varying from 900 to 1300 degrees Celsius, and operated and controlled solely by the kiln master, to fire different kind of earthenware.
To maintain the reducing atmosphere, the kiln master controls the duration and degree of heating and the changes during firing, making decisions only by his discerning eyes and operating according to changes of circumstance. After firing for 20 hours, and waiting until the kiln cools, it is then ready to open. The resulting produce is in dazzling colors including blue, red, white and green.
Review the whole course of pottery making, which reflects the hardship and intelligence of pottery makers.
The old Shiwan Ceramic Town at the kilns twenty miles south of the city of Canton in Guangdong province. This is the most famous city in China in creating ceramic products nearly 500 years. Most of the National Master-pieces and Museum pieces created there have been being collected in the national museum and by collectors all over the world.