Old Version

Can a Master Releasing her Secret Formula Save China’s Pottery Industry?

A Chinese pottery master has released her treasured glaze formula to the public in the hope that it will help save her craft

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Oct.13

In ancient China, the passing on of the skills involved in traditional handicrafts was a closely-guarded secret to ensure ancestral skills would not be passed to outsiders. Yet with the younger generations showing little interest in the traditions and many crafts people dying without passing on their skills, some of China’s crafts are beginning to disappear. In order to avoid such tragedy happening to Yixing celadonware, traditionally from Jiangsu Province, Zhan Xingdi who inherited the production knowledge has selflessly donated her treasured "glaze formula" to the public, the Shanghai-based news portal The Paper reported.   

Different glaze formulae generate different colors of glaze, and more importantly the glaze type determines whether the color of a piece of celadon is glossy.

According to Zhan, the most prized glaze formula is made with painstaking care, and the learning process is difficult and boring, meaning not all young apprentices persist in their training.

With Zhan releasing her glaze formula, there are no technical difficulties in making celadonware. As The Paper emphasized, the threshold of entering the pottery industry has been greatly lowered, and the cost and the period of apprenticeship are also accordingly reduced. Positively speaking, a youngster should easily be able master such craftsmanship, and the Yixing celadon-making technique should survive.  

The Paper also warned that the protection of intellectual property (IP) of traditional handicraft is generally overlooked. When more and more masters’ formulae enter the market in the future, a clear and detailed set of regulations for this kind of IP protection will be necessary.