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)

15. Putting the Finished Ware into the Kiln

"The kiln is long and round, and resembles in shape a tall water-jar (weng) turned over on its side. It measures a little over ten feet in height and breadth, about twice as much in depth. It is covered with a large, tiled building which is called the 'kiln-shed.' The chimney, which is tubular, rises to a height of over twenty feet behind, outside the kiln-shed.

The porcelain, when finished, is packed in the saggars and sent out to the furnace men. When these men put it in the kiln they arrange the saggars in piles, one above the other, in separate rows, so as to leave a space between the rows for the free passage of the flames.

The fire is distinguished as front, middle, and back; the front of the fire is fierce, the middle moderate, the back feeble.

The different kinds of porcelain are placed in the furnace according to the hard or soft quality of the glaze with which they are coated. After the kiln has been fully charged the fire is lighted, and the entrance is then bricked up, leaving only a square hole, through which billets of pinewood are thrown in without intermission.

When the saggars inside the furnace have attained a silvery red color (white heat) the firing is stopped, and after the lapse of another twenty-four hours the kiln is opened."

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.