Rizhao craftswoman brings porcelain back to life

By Liu Chuan| (chinadaily.com.cn)| Updated : 2022-05-24

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The traditional Chinese handicraft known as ju ci is used to restore damaged porcelain in ancient China. In the past, competent porcelain restoration craftspeople were known for their ability to repair even the smallest of objects without the use of glue.

They would drill tiny holes on both sides of a crack in broken household items before bending metal staples to hold the pieces together. Though the method may appear simple, it was very effective.

Rizhao porcelain restoration technique dates back over 170 years to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Qin Huimin is a seventh-generation Rizhao porcelain restoration technique inheritor who has been practicing the craft since childhood.

To encourage traditional handicrafts, Qin opened an intangible cultural heritage workshop. Her ju ci work has already earned her respect and recognition in the field. One of her porcelain mending artworks, "parties within the outer circle," won the gold medal for innovation in arts and crafts design in Shandong province.

The Rizhao porcelain restoration technique, according to Qin, has approximately 10 procedures, including matching, marking, creating suitable nails, drilling, sealing, and polishing. Punching holes is the most crucial step of them all because too much force might cause irreparable damage. Given the porcelain's fragility, the technique requires extreme accuracy and control.

Making nails and determining where to drill and mend are equally significant challenges for Rizhao ju ci craftspeople. The mending nails should be selected based on the materials of the broken wares.

There are a variety of nails in all shapes and lengths on Qin's working table.

"I made these nails myself. The nails we use are generally between 0.5 and 0.8 millimeters long, with the tiniest being 0.3 millimeters long, which can be utilized to repair some little jade products," she explained.

Furthermore, the Rizhao ju ci technique has merged several various porcelain restoration techniques throughout the crack sealing process, including the Japanese method of kintsugi, which involves filling the gaps with lacquer and finishing with a fine gold lining.

Tea sets composed of porcelain, purple sand, and pottery are among the most typical items handled by Qin. She claims that some are relatively thin, having a surface thickness of only 1 millimeter. As a result, the drilling depth should be managed to guarantee that no nail marks are visible in the pot. Otherwise, it may cause water to seep out.

The technique of ju ci differs from typical repair methods in that it is not aimed at restoring to get the perfect look, and this is where its beauty lies, Qin said. The Rizhao ju ci technique was recognized as a district-level intangible cultural heritage in 2019.


Qin Huimin, an inheritor of the Rizhao porcelain restoration technique, repairs the lid of a tea pot. [Photo/WeChat account: rzrbs0633]


Tea sets repaired by Qin Huimin [Photo/WeChat account: rzrbs0633]


Porcelain restoration technique tools [Photo/WeChat account: rzrbs0633]


Nails for mending porcelain [Photo/WeChat account: rzrbs0633]