1.3.1 Ancient Town of Chen Ceramics Kiln, Xian

Xian Ancient Town of Chen Ceramics Kiln
Xian Ancient Town of Chen Ceramics Kiln

On top of a mountain, 15 km southeast of the Yintai District of Tongchuan City stands a small town named “Chenlu.” It is called "Town," but actually it is an ancient ceramic village in the mountainous area of Shaanxi Province, between the GuanZhong Flatlands and the North Shaan'xi Plateau. The town was named such because of its importance in the history of porcelain. Chenlu, the only well preserved Yao porcelain base, can be called a living fossil of an oriental porcelain town.

The ancient town is rich in porcelain culture and history, porcelain art, and folk customs. Wandering about in the town, one can still sense the past with its ancient kilns and artifacts and their fragments scattered all around. Chenlu is about 30 km from the Yanzhou Kiln Museum. Chenlu is regarded as the capital of celadon in the north of China. With many kiln sites, Chenlu, an ancient ceramic town, is approximately 20 kilometers southeast of downtown Tongchuan in the mountainous area of Shaanxi Province, about two hours' driving from Xi'an. In Chinese, "Chen" means "display" and "Lu" means "oven" or "kiln". So Chenlu is a town for displaying kilns. The kiln sites have been laid one after another since the Song Dynasty. About 1,000 years ago, the first kiln was built in the town, while now there are still some ancient kiln sites preserved and most of the residents here are engaged in ceramic business.

Chenlu has been the most important ceramic industry base in Northwest China. For a thousand years, traditional porcelain manufacture technique has been passed down generation by generation. The fire flames from the kilns have never been extinguished. Chenlu has made a miracle in the history of China Ceramics. Nowadays almost every resident at Chenlu is a ceramic artist. Every family opens a ceramic workshop. Each dwelling house is enclosed by abandoned pottery molds, abandoned ceramic utensils. These ceramic utensils walls in brown, white, and yellow form a huge oil painting.

At the entrance of the town lies a museum, telling the history of Chenlu and exhibiting typical porcelain and pottery objects made in Chenlu. Its products at present are mainly used for daily utensils, display, worship, and ornaments in various glazed colors such as blue-black, white and tea leaves color, etc. The folk customs are closely related to pottery making. The living houses are unique in this part of China. The style is called YaoDong. Yao means kiln, Dong means cave. The brick-built houses usually are built halfway into the hillside. The ceilings are usually curved like an arch. This design is cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The bed the residents use is called Kang, which is a brick-built bed with a fireplace underneath. The walls around the yards are usually made out of broken jars or pots.

Travel Tips:

1/ Visiting Chenlu pottery-making town, one can visit the porcelain workshops, realize the folk pottery art and the local lifestyle of people who still live in cave-dwelling houses on the loess plateau in North Shannxi province.

2/ Chen Lu Town is in the same town of Yaozhou Kiln Museum, so you might want to spend the morning in the town, take a lunch at the restaurant nearby the Tongchuan bus station, then visit the museum in the afternoon, take a train back to Xian at the late afternoon.

3/ Take about 2-3 hours to visit the town, bring water and an umbrella.