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September 11, 2023

Merging me in the origin of Jun Ceramics

by Chenxi Wang

The view out of my train heading to Shenhou, Henan.

Long-distance travel from Baoshan, Yunnan to Shenhou, Henan.

The travel from Conggang, Yunnan to Shenhou, Henan is crazy and intimidating. it was such a long distance starting from the southwestern broad of China to the central plain of China. I traveled by motorbike, bus, and train from Conggang to Shenhou County, Henan, where I will be implementing my proposal for art and ceramic education. It was a true adventure. This intensive comparison educated me about the polarization, complexity, and diversity of this country with rapidly growing economic levels. Even though we are focusing on art education in Chinese rural areas, it remains a bold and challenging endeavor to efficiently and practically implement these educational activities. Nevertheless, the potential, talents and creativity still surprised and empowered me after witnessing the actual teaching in Conggang, Yunnan. 

To be honest, the arrival of me at Shenhou bewildered me. Skhenhou is much more urbanized and developed than where I came from, especially in people’s recognition of the arts. I looked forward to starting my field study of the residents and having a connection with this county.  My collaboration with Miao, the leader of Rye Wave, who is a native of Shenhou, Henan, greatly facilitated my integration into the Shenhou community. In addition to knowing the basic rituals, arts, ceramic market and even folk cultures, I exploited the resourcefulness of Miao’s family ceramic industry Song Royal Kiln. They gave me a brief and clear introduction to the general ceramic world in Shenhou, plus a vehicle – an electronic motorbike – to help me hang around in the county. Besides, I gained big privilege to profoundly dive into every step of this huge ceramic industry, including design, production, marketing, administration and delivery. Song Royal Kiln is like a cat’s eye on the mysterious Mansion, allowing me to quickly glimpse into the secretary world of traditional Jun ceramics.

The help from Song Dynasty Royal Kiln

Location of my Chun ceramic workshop: Shenhou, Yuzhou

Song Dynasty Kiln helps me fitting in the Jun ceramic industrial smoothly

This whole county is all about Jun ceramic making

Tranditional wood-fire process

You might find Jun ceramcis EVERYWHERE…

Except for the teaching and administrative part of my job in this fellowship, all communication between me and the residents is becoming my largest gaining in the process of my practicing. I enjoy this kind of old-fashioned way chats with the neighborhood on the street, purposelessly. Some of them take a walk after eating dinner, and some of them cool off under trees in this little county. Everything goes slowly and peacefully, while everyone slows down their steps. After talking with some local parents and elementary students, I found the absence of professional art education. The Chinese government has implemented nine years of compulsory education, but art classes in actual schools have often been overlooked or crowded out by other subjects such as math and literature.

Even though people are surrounded by traditional Jun ceramics, most of them have no concept of generic ceramic arts or the arts. To the public, Jun ceramics have become an iconic symbol in the historical culture. Nevertheless, one of the essential distinctions between parents in Henan and Yunnan is that they were more than willing to send their children to participate in the non-profit program. They were aware of the demand for art education in rural areas. So the advertising and enrollment of local students have been very smooth and successful, and some parents are fully supportive of our public education organization. However, most of the parents in Yunnan just considered us as babysitters for their children’s summer vacation.

Family and studio visit with the local residents.

The advertising and enrollment of local students have been very smooth and successful

Potteries, vessels, pots, jars, and cups are everywhere. 

In conclusion, conceptual thinking and creative art education are notably absent from their elementary schools, particularly in Shenhou County, as evidenced by my street interviews with local residents. In Shenhou, most of the children and families I interacted with are living in a more developed, urbanized, and open-minded environment, especially when compared to the situation we encountered in Yunnan. They have access to relatively abundant art materials, convenient transportation, and favorable living conditions. However, I can clearly discern a lack of support for arts and cultural education.

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