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07-01-2020 | Materials Technology | News | Article

The Masters of Longquan

Leyla Buchholz
1:30 min reading time

It shimmers in a variety of shades of green and blue, looks back on a tradition of over a thousand years and is currently experiencing a new flowering: celadon porcelain from the Chinese province of Zhejiang. An exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich offers insights into the history, technology and knowledge of the craft in the celadon metropolis of Longquan.

China has a variety of porcelains, which have been produced with local clays and earths for centuries by specialized craftsmen. These include the green-blue shimmering celadon from the Zhejiang province in southwest China. The new exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich is dedicated to this jade-like porcelain and the skills of its masters. The sinologist and ceramist Anette Mertens from Berlin was invited as guest curator. She will present the results of her celadon research on the basis of exemplary masterpieces, and will give masters from Longquan and their students a chance to speak. In collaboration with them and with the sinologist Mareile Flitsch, who teaches and researches craftsmanship at the University of Zurich, a synopsis of traditions, technologies and knowledge has been created.

Just as interesting as the change and modernization of the craft, the curators found the question of the criteria by which the masters today measure the value and quality of celadon to be of equal interest. What spectrum of clays, glazes and decors offers them room for their skill and creativity? "The craftsmen focus their attention on historical pieces and styles," explains Anette Mertens.

"The celadons of the Song Dynasty, for example, are still regarded today as unmatched." The corresponding knowledge has been preserved in ceramics, but also in fragments of shards in the vicinity of historic kiln sites. They serve as a source of inspiration for the ceramists in today's Longquan. "The pottery we are showing in the exhibition represent the repertoire of these modern celadon artists," says Mareile Flitsch. "Visitors should get to know them as glaze lovers who relentlessly strive for the perfect celadon."

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