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September 27, 2009

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Cracks in the porcelain no mistake

GE Yao kiln was one of the five most prestigious porcelain-making kilns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) but it also has an air of mystery as the location of the kiln has never been discovered.

The porcelain items made in Ge Yao were quite distinctive from those of other kilns.

The patterns featured in the glaze consisted of a network of cracks that looked like the item was about to shatter into pieces.

Cracks are a normal character of porcelain works because of the different degrees of expansion of the glaze.

By taking advantage of this process, Ge Yao contrived the cracks deliberately to form a unique style.

The colors of the cracks are golden, yellow or black, so they are nicknamed "Jin Si Tie Xian," meaning "golden silk and iron thread" as a metaphor to depict the different shades.

There is a legend behind the inspiration for the unique patterns and it involves two brothers surnamed Zhang who were believed to be expert at porcelain-making.

Each of them owned one kiln but the older brother was more famous. His kiln was known as Ge Yao, meaning "kiln of the elder brother." With his fame growing stronger, his pieces became appreciated by the emperor.

The younger brother felt jealous and one day he secretly mixed some clay into his brother's glaze, aiming to destroy the pieces.

When the elder brother used the glaze, he was disappointed to see the surface of his works cracked.

However, smart and talented as he was, he managed to add colors into the cracks and create the special patterns of "golden silk and iron thread."

Ge Yao's porcelain basin displayed in Shanghai Museum is a priceless item for its unconventional shape of five "feet" that inspires its name "Ge Yao Wu Zu Xi," meaning "basin with five feet made in Ge Yao kiln."

The yellow glaze enhances the graceful look of the porcelain basin and the cracks of dark brown and light yellow all over the surface enhance its special elegance.


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