Description of the Twenty
Illustrations of the Manufacture of Porcelain

By Tang Ying, Director of the Imperial Factory at Jingdechen,
in obedience to an Imperial edict... (1743)

10. Molding the Porcelain and Grinding the Color

"After the large and small round pieces have been shaped on the wheel and have been sufficiently dried in the air they are put into the molds which have been previously prepared and are pressed gently with the hands until the paste becomes of regular form and uniform thickness.

The piece is then taken out and dried in a shady place till it is ready to be shaped with the polishing knives. The damp paste must not be exposed to the sun, as the heat would crack it.

With regard to the preparation of the color for the artists, it must be ground perfectly fine in a mortar; if coarse, spots of bad color will appear. Ten ounces of the material are put into each mortar, and a special class of workmen grinds it for a whole month before it is fit to be used.

The mortars used for grinding it are placed upon low benches, and at the sides of the benches are two upright wooden poles supporting cross-pieces of wood, which are pierced to hold the handles of the pestles.

The men, seated upon the benches, take hold of the pestles and keep them revolving. Their monthly wage is only three-tenths of an ounce of silver. Some of them grind two mortars, working with both hands. Those who work till midnight are paid double wages. Aged men and young children, as well as the lame and sick, get a living by this work."

This page is based on an original translation from Chinese by S.W. Bushell, 1899, of a text written on Imperial command in 1743 by Tang Ying, the celebrated superintendent of the porcelain manufacture in the province of Jiangxi. It is widely reprinted. The version most likely to be authentic is the version found in the official annals of the province of Jianxi, Book XCIII, folio 19-23. The first draft seems to have been written in 1735. The version above was added to a set of 'twenty illustrations of the manufacture of porcelain' in 1743. The actual illustrations have never been identified. The text as it appears here is illustrated with photos taken on location by Jan-Erik Nilsson in 1991 and 1992.