Drifters chasing dreams in 'Porcelain Capital'

Updated: 2016-02-16 15:05


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NANCHANG -- Near Jingdezhen's bustling Lianshe Road, Hu Weiping crams into his tiny studio and toils for hours bringing bland china vases to life with delicately painted landscapes.

Eight years ago, Hu left a well-paid job in his hometown Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, to make and sell porcelain paintings in Jingdezhen, a city dubbed China's "Porcelain Capital." But with little reputation, his business is "just so-so" and now he is struggling to make ends meet.

"Sometimes I do not sell a single vase for a whole week," the 53-year-old said with resignation. "Of course life in Nanchang was much better, but this is where my passion lies."

Hu is among the many who have flocked to Jingdezhen to seek success in the porcelain industry. Known as "Jingpiao" - "floating population in Jingdezhen" - this group of people mainly consists of Chinese painters and ceramics graduates.

Around 20,000 "Jingpiao" lead a life adrift in Jingdezhen currently, according to figures released this week by the Jingdezhen government. But making dreams come true proves no easy task in the ancient city. Many Jingpiao are put off by a lack of recognition, poor work environment and low market prices.


Known as the Porcelain Capital, Jingdezhen's history of porcelain-making spans 1,700 years. The city's unique clay resources and time-honored craftsmanship have made it a mecca for porcelain admirers and tourists alike.

With increasing disposable income, government support and a good reputation, porcelain business has soared in Jingdezhen, leading many to settle in the city, according to Li Wei, associate professor with Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute.

"The effect of porcelain paintings can be amazing after being burnt in the kiln, so a good number of Chinese painters come to learn porcelain painting in Jingdezhen, to seek artistic breakthroughs," said the professor.

"Jingdezhen's porcelain is a famous hot commodity throughout the world," Li explains. "Paper painters can make more money by selling the porcelain paintings, while graduates with porcelain-making techniques can also strike gold in the business. That's why so many people choose to become 'Jingpiao.'"

The city government has also set up porcelain markets and hosts a variety of exchange activities to support the porcelain industry.

Each year, 30 to 40 percent of graduates from Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, China's only college centering on porcelain and ceramics, choose to stay in the city to become "Jingpiao," according to official statistics from the institute.

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