For my 21st birthday a family friend who has lived in Beijing for several decades, gave me a pendant made from a fragment of porcelain found after the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Fascinated by the concept of a piece of jewellery holding so much cultural and historical significance, I stumbled upon it as a perfect object for investigating making and breaking narrative.
The Shard Box:
Ceramics are one of China’s most significant and early art forms that have been created in China for over 20,000 years. It is home to some of the oldest examples in the world. Ceramics evolved to become porcelain during the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD) and quickly became desirable across the globe.
Traditionally, porcelain was reserved for the Imperial household, however during the Ming Dynasties (1368-1911) they were mass produced for export to Europe. The use of the word ‘china’ to describe ceramics originates during this period.
China saw much revolutionary and cultural upheaval during the 20th C, namely during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Antique porcelain was made illegal to keep at home as it symbolised the excess and injustice of the old regime. Many collectors destroyed their porcelain as a symbolic rejection of old customs and much of traditional Chinese artistic heritage was lost.
However, the Hu family began collecting the fragments in an attempt to preserve what he regarded as part of China’s history and culture. In 1986 they founded the Shard Box, a workshop and shop that makes jewellery and objects out of the found porcelain that carries so much social and cultural weight.
The Chinese Cultural Revolution:
Launched by Mao Zedong, its stated goal was to preserve Chinese communism by purging remnants of the capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society.
The other fragments on the right are similar pieces of porcelain I found on Cramond Beach which led me to think about how they might have got there, how old they could be and where they might have come from.
I intend to go back to the beach to find some more and makes something out of the pieces I find, whilst also creating a narrative around them.