Jingdezhen: A Name Card of Cultural Tourism in Jiangxi

Ceramic artist Ryan LaBar from the United States works in a workshop. Xinhua Zhou Mi

(MS) - Located in eastern China, Jiangxi Province is a place with abundant resources, rich cultural background, and outstanding people. Jingdezhen, the world's capital of ceramics, is a small city in the mountains of Jiangxi.

More than 1,000 years before the Europeans mastered porcelain manufacturing techniques, the ancient Chinese people in Changnan (The ancient name of Jingdezhen) had already shown their talents in making exquisite ceramics. Over time, through trade and interaction with outsiders, Changnan, or a corrupted pronunciation of the name, came to be used by outsiders to refer to porcelain -- or "china."

There is no doubt that Jingdezhen is a must-visit when you travel to Jiangxi because it will guide you to a meaningful journey of historical culture and ancient art, presenting a unique cultural tourism experience for tourists.

Jingdezhen is a city renowned for its more than 1,700-year history of porcelain making. Every visitor will be amazed by its 1,000-year history of official-run kilns, and 600-year history of imperial kilns.

From the past few centuries to the present, countless porcelain makers have come to Jingdezhen to explore and pursue the ultimate in porcelain making. Ceramic culture permeates every corner of the old city, creating a unique, precious, and complete cultural heritage system of porcelain.

Artists who have come to Jingdezhen to learn porcelain making are known as "jingpiao", and foreigners as "yangjingpiao." To date, there are more than 30,000 jingpiao living in Jingdezhen, including 5,000 foreigners, who have found their dreams and realized their value of life in this precious city.

Camille Grandaty is a French artist. Her first visit to Jingdezhen was 10 years ago, bringing her unforgettable memories. She has moved between Amsterdam, London and Brussels before she settled down in Jingdezhen in 2015.

Camille says the vibrant and free artistic vibe of Jingdezhen made her stay.

"The ancient kiln imbues bricks with a unique touch and spirit, and the ancient ceramic heritage here fills me with creativity," notes Ryan Matthew Mitchell, an American ceramist.

Now, strolling around the alleyways of Jingdezhen to explore the local ceramic culture has become a regular activity in his spare time.

Ryan LaBar from the United States says coming to Jingdezhen is like "a son returning home."

The 43-year-old gentleman set up a studio in Taoxichuan, a renovated porcelain factory that unifies industrial heritage, ceramic and arts-crafts galleries and studios as well as restaurants, cafeterias and hotels.

Partnering with a young Chinese businessman, LaBar established Lab Artz, a 260-square-meter workshop where he plans to house more artists and offer ceramics classes.

With more than a 1,700-year history of porcelain making, Jingdezhen has now shouldered a new mission in the new era. The local government of Jiangxi, last year, issued a new plan of building Jingdezhen into a national ceramic culture inheritance and innovation pilot zone.

According to the plan, the ancient city will hereafter focus on the protection, inheritance and innovation of ceramic culture; innovation and development of the ceramic culture industry; development of ceramic culture tourism; fostering ceramic professionals, and ceramic culture exchange and cooperation.

Taking advantage of its ancient ceramic culture, the new plan aims to build Jingdezhen into a national ceramic culture protection, inheritance and innovation base, a world-famous ceramic culture tourism destination, and an international ceramic cultural exchange, cooperation and trading center.

After the implementation of the plan, Camille felt the great changes of the old city, saying "both the infrastructure and the ecological environment are improving and getting better and better."

"When I first came to Jingdezhen, the Luojia Airport here didn't have as many flights as it does today, and there was no high-speed railway station," says Camille, who has witnessed the fast development of the city.

Jingdezhen saw great improvements in local public facilities and services, as well as the vitalization of its tourism industry, and spots such as Taoxichuan and Sanbao Village, which are now known globally.

"People from all over the world exchange ideas in local cafes and hold exhibitions in the art space. Different ideas collide here, bringing artists with inspirations," Camille adds.

The ecological environment of this ancient city has also improved. Through endless efforts of the local government, Jingdezhen has become the city with the best air quality in Jiangxi province in 2020.

Camille likes to take photos of the blue sky. "Sometimes I go to nearby villages to paint, and villages such as those in Yaoli Ancient Town are mostly clean, neat and beautiful. Many city dwellers also head to the countryside on weekends to get close to nature," she says.

Having a dream of holding solo exhibitions in both France and China, Camille is passionate about sharing her artworks with the world. During the COVID-19 epidemic, she stayed in Jingdezhen and set her mind to work.

"For me, the artistic life in Jingdezhen is a great experience," she says.