Republican Tangshan (唐山) Porcelain

Hebei Tangshan (河北唐山)emerged as a notable porcelain production centre during the Republican period.  The German Geologist, Dr. Hans Gunther played an important role in developing the Tangshan porcelain industry.  He was appointed as the Chief engineer of the Qixin Cement Stock Company in 1906.  In 1914, the company diversified into production of ceramics wares such as floor tiles, pipes, and household porcelain wares.   The porcelain wares are rough and have grayish paste and was given the derogatory name "cement wares (洋灰瓷)". 

In 1925, Qixin Porcelain factory (启新磁厂) was formed and took over the porcelain production of Qixin Cement Stock Company.  Dr. Hans Gunther was fully in charge of running the factory.  The whole porcelain production process was mechanised using machines imported from Europe.  He was able to improve  the porcelain quality by mixing imported and local raw material.  Visually the paste became finer and whiter. The raw material was processed using specialised machines.  Vessels were formed from moulds using the slip casting method.  Basically, the process involves pouring the liquid raw material, termed slip, into a plaster mould of the vessel. The plaster mould draws water from the slip to form a compact cast.  Vessels made using molding method is distinguishable by the lack of circular concentric marks on the body of pieces formed by potter's wheel.  

The potter's wheel thrown circular concentric marks on the interior wall of this Republican period Jingdezhen hat-holder is distinct.

To speed up decoration of the vessels, transfer print was introduced.  Qixin Porcelain factory is believed to be the first factory to use the transfer print decoration method in China.  The motifs are clearly un-Chinese and commonly found on ceramics from  Europe. The paper prints were imported from Europe.  Such vessels were mainly targeted at the overseas markets.

Vessels decorated with transfer print decoration

For the domestic market, vessels with traditional hand-painted decoration continued to be produced.  The style of decoration is essentially similar to those found on vessels made in Jingdezhen.  The Qianjiang style decoration introduced during the late Qing period continued to be favoured by domestic consumers during the Republican period.  It should be noted that besides Jingdezhen, there are many other provincial kilns that produced such vessels, the more notable being those in Fujian Dehua (德化), Chaozhou Fengxi (潮州枫溪) and Dapu (大埔) in Guangdong. The decoration consisted of landscape, bird/flowers or human figures accompanied by poetic inscription. (For more on Qianjiang procelain, please read this.) The pigments used for drawing are synthetic materials whose colorants include metal oxides and silicates.  The range of colour available is more wide.  Visually, the enamel is thin and colour more even. The pigments were not locally produced but imported from Europe or Japan.  Many of the vessels produced by the Qixin Porcelain company can be identified by a Qixin Ci Chang (启新磁厂) mark on the outer base.  The vessel forms are also similar to those made in Jingdezhen.

Two Republican Qianjiang style vessels made in Chaozhou Fengxi in Guangdong 

Republican Qianjiang style vase made in Fujian Dehua

Old Republican period photo of vessels produced by Qixin Porcelain Factory

Cup with Qianjiang style landscape and a Qixin Ci Chang mark (启新瓷厂)

Qianjiang style landscape with poetic inscription. There is a cyclical date Ding Mao (丁卯) ie 1927 A.D

More Qixin Porcelain Factory examples with Qianjiang style landscape

This jar is rather interesting.  The inscription indicates that it was drawn in cyclical date Yi si (已巳)ie 1929 A.D at Qixin Xuan, most likely name of a workshop in the Qixin Porcelain factory

More variety of Qianjiang style decoration produced by Qixin Porcelain Factory

Besides Qixin Porcelain Factory (启新磁厂),  in Tangshan during the Republican period there were more than 80 other porcelain factories, the bigger and more famous ones included De Sheng (德盛), Xin Ming (新明) and Dong Tao Cheng (东陶成).  When the communist liberated Tangshan in 1949, the factories were nationalised.  


Written by: NK Koh (15 Feb 2014)


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