Porcelain maker revives lost art from Song Dynasty
Li Yuening (960-2019) introduces his porcelain work. [Photo/zjol.com.cn]
Hangzhou-born porcelain maker Li Yuening (1960-2019) was known for his successful replication of triple glazed porcelain products used in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
Porcelain products retrieved from the Imperial Kiln of the Southern Song Dynasty were crafted for daily use in the imperial court and for sacrificial rites. They were elegant and simple, and representative of China's changing aesthetic standards.
Porcelain was often used to ornament the imperial court, so craftsmen would work hard to produce beautiful glazes. Many of the pieces were glazed at least twice to showcase different decorative patterns.
However, the multiple glazing technique did not survive the collapse of the Southern Song in 1279 and previously could only be found in books and documentaries.
Things started to change when Li was assigned deputy director of the Hangzhou Imperial Kiln of the Southern Song Dynasty Research Institute in 1990. In possession of several tattered pieces from the Imperial Kiln, Li swore to restore them to their former glory.
A task force led by Li was formed in July 2001. From ancient kilns to advanced laboratories, the team spent 10 hours baking porcelain, conducted research when the porcelain was cooling down, and performed some 70 procedures, many of which were highly complicated.
After eight years of efforts and 3,000 attempts, a double glazed porcelain bowl with beautiful patterns was finally crafted in 2009, marking a milestone in China's porcelain history and reviving a skill that had been lost for over 700 years.
After the breakthrough, Li managed to successfully bake triple glazed porcelain, and his crafts proved popular among collectors. Dajizun, one of Li's works, was appraised at a price of 50,000 yuan ($7,735) in 2006, traded at a price of 300,000 yuan in 2011, and was estimated to be worth at least 500,000 yuan in 2021.
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