Porcelain (陶瓷) was one of the most famous Chinese arts of all time, indeed porcelain objects were often referred to as ‘china’ in some parts of the world. The Chinese porcelain was made from clay containing kaolin, a form of clay material found in China. When heated to sufficient temperatures of above 1,200 degree centigrade, kaolin changed its physical composition and became translucent and impervious to water.
Porcelain, together with silk and tea, were popular items traded along the Silk Road that connected ancient China to the outside world. By the 11th Century, Chinese porcelain-making technique began to find its way to Persia and then to Arabia, Turkey and Egypt before establishing itself in Europe by the 15th Century.
The first Chinese porcelain was brought back by Marco Polo to Italy in 1295 which was currently kept in the San Marco Treasury. The first sample of kaolin clay was brought to Europe by the Portuguese in the 16th Century. The Portuguese thought that if they could find similar deposit of kaolin they would be able to manufacture porcelain as well. A frantic search was undertaken to locate kaolin deposits in Europe.
However, the making of porcelain also required high temperatures and crafting skills that the Europeans lacked. It was not until the early 18th Century that European scientists produced a breakthrough in porcelain production.
Jingdezhen (景德镇) in northeastern Jiangxi Province had become the center of porcelain production since the Ming Dynasty era. Jingdezhen possessed the important porcelain-making raw material, kaolin. In addition, Jingdezhen was home to many traditional pottery kilns and had abundant skilled craftsmen staying there. It was also conveniently connected to major cities and in particular to the capital Beijing via waterways
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