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)

"In the manufacture of the round ware each several piece
has to be repeated hundreds or thousands of times."
Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson, 1992

5. Preparation of the Molds for the Round Ware

"In the manufacture of the round ware each several piece has to be repeated hundreds or thousands of times. Without molds it would be most difficult to make the pieces all exactly alike.

The molds must be made in accordance with the original design, but the size can not be so precisely measured; they must be larger than the model, otherwise the piece will come out smaller than the pattern.

The raw paste, which is expanded and loose in texture, becomes during the process of firing contracted and solidified to about seven or eight tenths of its original size, a result following from the natural laws of physics.

The proper proportionate size of the unbaked piece is fixed by the mold, and therefore the molders use the term 'prepare' instead of 'make'. Each piece must have several molds prepared, and the size and pattern of the contents when taken out of the kiln must be exactly alike.

A good practical knowledge of the length of firing required and of the natural properties of the paste is necessary before it is possible to estimate the exact amount of shrinkage, so as to fashion the molds of the proper form. In the whole district of Jingdezhen there are only three or four workmen reputed clever at this special handiwork."

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.