Colored pottery, a low-temperature glazed soft pottery, is names as “jiao-zhi”, “jiao-zhi doll”, “jiao-zhi zi”. There are many statues in temples that are made by colored pottery, and “doll” in Taiwanese that means “figures”. In the early stage, the colored potteries were mostly employed as decoration by temple architecture, now they have gradually become art works of the civilian collection.
The sculptures of colored potteries mainly focus on mystery or legendary stories or historical literature; the former is mainly used for blessing, while the latter is used as education or cultivation. The traditional creation theme surrounds “human”, matching with other animals or plants, the master and subordinates are clearly to be identified, and each figure get along well. The colored potteries are mainly set up at the higher position of the temple, positions such as wall block (waist block, body block, windmill block, skirt block), ridge, side ridge, ruling belt, gable, bird step, palace steps, surfacing wall, etc.
The feature of colored pottery is of its glazed painting, which is sparkling and translucent; thereof, it has gradually become a living room appreciation rather than being appreciated in the temple. Chaiyi is the hometown of colored pottery, Japanese even called it “Chiayi burning”. All artisans have learned this skill in Chiayi. Yeh Wang's works have ever participated to the worldwide exhibition, whose skills amazed many people from all over the world. His works can be called as “national treasures”.
The first generation of mater, Yeh Wang, with another name of Linchi, who was born in Damao of Chiayi in 1826, where is the Mingxiong county of today. Father, Chinyu Yeh, who was born in Pingho county, Chungcho of Funkiang, immigrating to Mingxiong Taiwan later on. Yeh Wang was his second son, the family moved to Matou of Tainan county after he was born, later the family moved back to Chiayi city. Chinyu Yeh was a pottery worker, being influenced by his father; during the time when the family moved to Matou, Yeh Wang was still a little kid, he usually herded cattle around the tombs or open space. During his leisure time, he learned to make animal figures with earth, and his interest was to decorate those figures based on some story plots.
Someday, a group of artisans from Kungtung who were hired to build Kungtung mansion at Tainan , among them, there was some colored pottery artisan. As he saw Yeh Wang's earty sculptures were so dedicate and lively, he called him as a genius. The colored pottery artisan then discussed with Yeh Wang's father to take him as his fellow. He brought Yen Wang to Tainan , passing on the abstruse skills of colored pottery to him. During the free time of burning colored potteries for the use of the Kungtung mansion, the master passed on all techniques to Yeh Wang. Yeh Wang had later become the founder of Chiayi colored pottery.
Currently, we can only find Yeh Wang's colored potteries works at two temples, they are “Chizhi temple” at Xuecha of Tainan and “Chenhsing temple” at Chili. Some colored potteries at the two temples had been stolen, thereof, we can see not many colored potteries works that Yen Wang left. Yeh Wang's works are with majestic yet graceful characteristics, his coloring skill is firm and steady; in particular the figures posture or gestures are very lively. The figures that Yeh Wang created are with profound styles, simple but elegant. Yeh Wang's creation of glazed color, such as lipstick red and emerald green are both recognized as unique talent. People honored them as “Yeh Wang colored pottery”. are both recognized as unique talent. People honored them as “Yeh Wang colored pottery”.
The remaining works of the early stage (Xianfong & Tunchi of the Ching dynasty) can be divided into two major systems, one is Yeh Wang's diamond glazed system and another is Kao Xun's water glazed system (diamond glazed is melting glaze, the color of the glaze is firm and bright. The water glazed is rare glaze, the glazed color can be seen only after burning. The stick and mild color is of its feature). Yeh Wang used to learn skills with Kungtung pottery artisan, and Kao xun was born in Foshan of Kuntung, he then moved to Xiamen , Fukiang. Kao used to be hired to construct temples in Taiwan and also passed his skills to others. From Kungxu of the Ching dynasty to early 1911, there were many pottery artisans from Minnan districts rose, among the second generation of artisans, including Tushen Chen, Kinglong Ho, Yanshui Su, Kunfu Hong, etc.
This article will take Yeh Wang's diamond glazed pottery and Kunfu Hong's water glazed pottery as representatives to give you a brief introduction to the origins of the two major schools of colored pottery in Taiwan.
Yeh Wang, the master of Taiwan colored pottery, was the first colored pottery artisan born in Taiwan whom had been recorded in the document. His true name was Linchi Yeh, Yeh Wang was born in Damao Chulo (the current Mingshun county of Chiayi county), he was recognized as the “master” due to his one and only skills. People had called him “Wang Master” later, that is the name of what Yeh Wang came from.
Was born in Damao of Chiayi in 1826 and died in Yacho Lane of Chiayi city in 1887, 62 years old. Yeh Wang's family used to move to Maotou Tainan after he was born, the family then moved back to Chiayi city.
Yeh Wang's father was born in Pinho county, chongchou, Fukiang, he immigrated to Chiayi in 1805 and settled down here, making potteries for living. He also left some works after death. Being influenced by his father, Yeh Wang had learned pottery sculpture and glazed skills from Kungtung pottery artisan. With his gift in pottery and his lively employment about glaze materials, Yeh Wang's had gradually formed a unique local features within his colored potteries, which differed his works from colored potteries of Kungtung.
When coming to the age of 20, Yeh Wang mastered the repairing construction of Chenhuang temple in Chiayi, many of his works can be seen in northern Taiwan . But it is pity that many of his works were gone because of duplication. The classified third-level historical spot, Chengcha temple of Hsingchu , is one of the remaining works of Yeh Wang.
Yeh Wang's works emphasize both on quality and quantity, the themes of his works are quite broad, ranging from figures, flowers & birds, and scenery, all sculptures are with fine gestures and different styles, which make those works lively and with freely expression. His skillful techniques make him a master of the era. Among his works, the “lipstick read glaze” that presents elegant and shining look of rose, which regarded as the speciality of Yeh Wang system. People recognize Yeh Wang as the father of Taiwan colored pottery.
According to Yeh Wang's great grandson, Chinshu Yeh's evidence, Yeh Wang had had 3 fellows, only Zhilan Hsu can be recognized. Hsu was a fine talent of the Ching dynasty, whose didn't make potteries for living. As to the other two fellows, one is Jian while another's name is unknown, and the document only recorded that one of them lived in Peshewei of Chiayi. Some fellows of the system had obtained the ingredient of diamond glaze and whom passed on the skills to artisan Tienmu Lin. It is not accurate to say that Tienmu Lin is Yeh Wang's fellow; however, because Tienmu Lin inherited Yeh Wang's spirit of pursuing learning and improving in producing colored potteries, he could expand and glorify Chiayi colored potteries.
Kunfu Hong was born in Xiamen whom was the fellow of Kao Xun. He had come to Taiwan to produce colored pottery and cutting, for the sake of good at making figures, people called him “figures Fu”. “Luchiang Hong Kunfu” is what we can still see the autography of Hong. Had stayed in Taiwan for 14 years, Hong's works spread over all temples of south and north Taiwan , such as Poan temple at Dalong tung of Taipei , Longshan temple at Moncha, Chaotien temple at Peikang, Fongtien temple at Hsinkong, Daitien fu at Nan Kunshang. Currently, the windmill block of the walls of Machu temples at Peikong and Hsingkong still have kept Hong's works .
During the Chianan earthquake that happened in 1906 , Fongtien temple at Hsinkong and Chaotien temple at Peikong were both destroyed in the earthquake and had been reconstructed, local people hired Kunfun Hong coming to Taiwan to hold cutting and colored pottery repaired construction. AT that time, there was a vendor who produced and sold noodle figures in front of Fongtien temple of Hsinkong , Chinyuan Mei, who followed Kunfu Hong to learn the skills. He was the first fellow of Hong after he came to Taiwan . This also directly pushed Hsinkong of Chiayi becoming the major city of colored potteries and temples cutting.
During the 14 years as Kunfu Hong came to Taiwan , he had traveled around all major temples in the southern and the northern Taiwan , and he accepted 8 fellows consecutively. His fellow's fellows spread all over the northern, central, and southern of Taiwan . Their works have become the main stream of temples cutting and colored potteries. The traditional artisan (colored pottery category), Zaihsing Lin, who was Chingyuan Mei fellows' fellow.
The cultural concept of colored pottery employs in the decoration of traditional architecture that mainly combines the spirits of Confucianists, Dao, and Shi School as well as ethics order. The works emphasize exploring kindness yet degrading evils and the direct blessing conventions to the public. As what aesthetics scholar Zeho Lee said that “Decoration is the production of spirit and consciousness”, and such traditional cultural meaning and consciousness are the most important resource of architecture decoration.
The arts demonstration of colored pottery has not only been displayed on architecture decoration, but also widely reflect the concept of traditional drama literature, painting, mud sculpture, pottery, folklore legends, as well as religious philosophy. Of all these have fully demonstrated regional and lively nationality, which concretely reflects and interprets ethics order of traditional spirit and blessing conventions.