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)

20. Worshipping the God and offering Sacrifice

"Jingdezhen, situated within the jurisdiction of Foliang Hsien, is only some ten or more li in circuit, surrounded by mountains and rivers, so as to form, as it were, an island, yet on account of its porcelain production merchants throng to it from all quarters.

The private kilns, between two and three hundred in number, exhibit a constant succession of flames and smoke the whole year round, and give employment to not less than several hundreds of thousands of workmen and assistants. The porcelain industry gives subsistence to an immense number of people whose life hangs on the success or failure of the furnace fires, and they are all devout in worship and sacrifice.

Their god, named T'ung, was once himself a potter, a native of the place. Formerly, during the Ming dynasty, when they were making the large dragon fish bowls, they failed in the firing year after year, although the eunuchs in charge inflicted the most severe punishments, and the potters were in bitter trouble.

Then it was that one of them, throwing away his life for the rest, leaped into the midst of the furnace, whereupon the dragon bowls came out perfect.

His fellow-workmen, pitying him and marveling, built a temple within the precincts of the imperial manufactory, and worshiped him there under the title of Genius of Fire and Blast.

Down to the present day the fame of the miracle is cherished, and the potters continue to worship him, not a day passing without reverential sacrificial offerings. Theatrical shows are also instituted in his honor, during which crowds of people fill the temple grounds. He is worshiped here as the tutelary gods of agriculture and land are in other parts of the empire."

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.