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Purple pottery: the essence of Yunnan’s literati lifestyle

Updated:2019-07-25 18:21:32   Yunnan Daily

If you ever have a chance to stroll in the street of Jianshui, you would likely be fascinated by hundreds of purple pottery workshops spread in its old town. Pots, vases, tea cups, ink boxes and even brush pen holders made of mud and clay can be found here without difficulty.

Jianshui county, located in today’s Honghe prefecture, takes a special role in the history of Yunnan. Seating at the province’s south-central crossroad of commerce and transportation, it used to be a key marketplace where innumerable merchants congregated, and also a center of education which can still be glimpsed from the awe-inspiring 700-year-old Confucius Temple that erects in the town.

Ancient Chinese scholar-officials, also known as literati, were always fond of exquisite pottery wares. And tea pots made of purple clays combined with other colors of mud, such as yellow, red, white and black were among their favorites. Various types of purple pottery wares in the mansions of wealthy officials, together with the soup, wine or tea they contained, formed the essence of Yunnan’s literati lifestyle.

The modern history of Jianshui Purple Pottery rather began in 1953, when it was selected as one of China’s four most distinguished pottery wares on a national exhibition of folk arts and crafts held in Beijing, along with the Yixing pottery of Jiangsu, Qinzhou pottery of Guangxi as well as the Rongchang one of Sichuan.

Nowadays, the making of purple pottery involves processes of moulding, carving, drawing, polishing and so forth. A quality and delicate pottery item normally features with hardness, durability and its ability to resist dampness.

With an increasing number of pottery artists gathering in Jianshui recently, the hand-made pottery artifacts of Yunnan are about to expect a new boom. 

Reporting by Yang Yan and Liu Jianhua; trans-editing by Wang Jingzhong

Keywords:   purple pottery Yunnan literati lifestyle