Across Poyang Hu from Nanchang and not far from the border with Anhui province, JINGDEZHEN has been producing ceramics for at least two thousand years. Lying in a river valley not only rich in clay but also the vital feldspar needed to make porcelain, the city’s defining moment came in the fourteenth century: China’s capital was at Nanjing, and Jingdezhen was considered conveniently close to produce porcelain for the Ming court. An imperial kiln was built in 1369 and its wares became so highly regarded – “as white as jade, as thin as paper, as bright as a mirror, as tuneful as a bell” – that Jingdezhen retained official favour even after the Ming court moved to Beijing fifty years later.
Today, in spite of attempts to smarten up the place with ceramic lampposts and public bins, Jingdezhen remains a scruffy, heavily polluted city, mostly as a result of the scores of smoky kilns that still employ some fifty thousand people. Nonetheless, Jingdezhen is worth a day-trip to visit the expansive Museum of Ceramic History, and maybe even pick up some pottery.