Penyao Village, an Eden of Ceramics
As a village famous for its pottery art, Penyao Village’s history of pottery making dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).
If the name of a place contains the “窑( yao)” character, it means that the place has or once had something to do with kilns, such as Dabeiyao and Liujiayao. There are also special basin kilns in Beijing, and our destination Penyao (“basin kiln”) Village in Yanqing District is a place related to making pottery basins.
A huge painted pottery basin is placed at the entrance of the village. This artwork was made from moulding, painting, drying, repairing, glazing and firing. Guo Jie, the village leader, told us that Penyao Village has a pottery making history of over 500 years, with many skilled craftsmen such as bricklayers and painters adept at repairing ancient buildings.
Pointing to an antique pavilion by the roadside, he said proudly, “Look at this pavilion was built by our villagers. Every brick and tile was made by us.”
As a village famous for its pottery art, Penyao Village's history of pottery making dates from the Ming Dynasty ( 1368– 1644). Legend had it that a couple surnamed Guo came here from Shanxi to make a living. They found the clay here suitable for making pottery, so they settled down and began to live there. After generations of development, the place they lived in soon became a village. During the past several hundred years, villagers made a living by making pottery. The clay basins, articles of daily use and tiles for antique buildings have been sold to other places. Nowadays, over 80 ancient kiln sites remain in the village. According to archaeologists, most of these kilns were built during the Ming and Qing ( 1611– 1911) dynasties.
The clay used for making pottery comes from Dushan Hill east of the village. Black pottery is burned from red clay, while red pottery from yellow clay. Dushan Hill became a scenic spot early in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and one legend tells that the Ming emperor Zhu Di (1360–1424)
once stayed at Penyao Village during his northward journey in 1414. He climbed the mountain to appreciate the moon at night, and was impressed by the beautiful scenery. The scene was later named “Appreciating the Moon on Dushan.”
The entire village was built against the mountains, and its ancient pottery production process was finished in the caves, with the cave's temperature determining the pottery's quality.
With rapid urban development, the ancient craft of Penyao Village also acquired prosperity. Aside from flowerpots, tiles and other daily necessities, the village also produces craft ceramics, with a pottery garden open to visitors.
“Pottery is a process with which you can use your imagination and creativity. You can create your pottery as you want.” A pottery teacher taught the process to kids, saying, “Put your clay on the potter's wheel. When the machine turns, hold the clay and change its form now and then. Mould the clay with pressure from your thumbs and index fingers and keep turning it in your palms. In this way you can shape the clay however you want. The clay shapes vary with the use of the fingers and the pressure you give.”
With these instructions, some kids soon made their own pottery bottles, pots, bowls and pen containers. Some creative pottery articles sat on the potter's wheels. With mud- stained clothing, the kids grew satisfied with their own creative masterpieces.
One parent praised the process of making pottery, saying, “Pottery can strengthen children's imagination, creativity and ability, enabling them to gain both a sense of accomplishment and fun in creating something. I look forward to taking my kids back here to make more pottery articles during winter vacation.”
Visitors were attracted by a piece of black pottery with Yanqing's local characteristics in the pottery exhibition room. Various products with different shapes are placed on exhibition shelves, such as characters with exaggerated facial expressions, lifelike animals, beautiful pottery bottles, and pen containers. Sixtyyear-old Lai Dongshan from Shandong Province has been working in ceramics for over 20 years, with works based on scenes of rural life.
Guo added that Penyao Village has established a pottery art school, pottery garden and company in recent years to pass down pottery making and to better manage the pottery making industry. The village has also invited pottery masters from Shandong Province to develop and produce craft ceramics, combining traditional skills with modern technologies. Pottery workshops not only provide practice for nearby schools, but also become a good place for city dwellers to learn pottery crafts and relax.
“Penyao Village was identified as the National Leisure Agriculture and Tourism Three-star Park in 2015. The village now spares no effort in building a pottery village integrating production and tourism, as well as traditional skills and modern technologies, in hopes of carrying forward and further developing the pottery craft from ancestors,” said Guo.