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)

11. Painting the Round Ware in Blue

"The different kinds of round ware painted in blue are each numbered by the hundred and thousand. If the painted decoration upon every piece is not exactly alike, the set will be irregular and spotted.

For this reason the men who sketch the outlines learn sketching, but not painting; those who paint study only painting, not sketching; by this means their hands acquire skill in their own particular branch of work, and their minds are not distracted. In order to secure certain uniformity in their work, the sketchers and painters, although kept distinct, occupy the same house.

As to the other branches of work - embossing, engraving, and carving in openwork - they are treated in the same way, and each is entrusted to its own special workmen. The branch of decorating in underglaze red, although really distinct, is allied to that of painting.

With regard to the rings round the borders of the pieces and the encircling blue bands, these are executed by the workmen who finish the pieces on the polishing wheel while the marks on the foot underneath and the written inscriptions, are the work of the writers who attach the seals.

For painting flowers and birds, fishes and water-plants, and living objects generally, the study of Nature is the first requisite; in the imitation of Ming dynasty porcelain and of ancient pieces, the sight of many specimens brings skill. The art of painting in blue differs widely from that of decoration in enamel colors."

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.