Jingdezhen is the porcelain manufacturing centre of China with some 60% of the city's residents employed in the production of porcelain. This apparently has been the case for almost a century, as potters discovered the strength of the local clay in the Song dynasty during the 12th century.
Strolling through the town, we quickly came to the conclusion that this is a town that revolves around pottery. Virtually every shop was full of varying styles of pottery, from the traditional blue and white pottery with traditional designs to the multi-coloured free-form glazing of more modern times. The usual wooden handcarts were packed with brightly coloured vases, stools and tabletops while the market stalls were full of evey imaginable vessel in every imaginable colour. Whole dinner sets with rather anonymous designs could be had for the price of a dinner while highly prized teapots made by famous potters sold for the price of a airplane ticket.
Unfortunately for us, the factories where this dizzying array of porcelain are created were all closed, so we threw in the towel and went to an amusement park instead (not a seatbelt or a restraint in sight!). Everything was closed because we were in the midst of the week long Mid-Autumn Festival. This annual holiday is family time,the time when everyone goes home. It's also the one time of year when the famous moon cakes are made and sold. Moon cakes are to the Mid-Autumn Festival as fruitcakes are to Christmas -- they are both the expected and the traditional gift, they are both acquired tastes, and they both make excellent doorstops! Moon cakes are hockey puck-sized sweets that consist of a sweet outer crust surrounding a thick gluey filling, and are treated almost reverentially by the Chinese. We have been able to identify some of the fillings as 1) red bean paste, 2) a brown-sugar carmel-ly filling, and 3) kind of nut and glutinous stuff filling. The rest of the fillings remain a mystery.
Jingdezhen, and our transit point from Wuhan, Jiujiang, don't appear to see many Western travellers. We were an eye-popping, jaw-dropping, stand and drool sight for many of the residents of both cities. It was the first time we actually drew a crowd of both children and adults while awaiting a bus, although Dan and I were used to it from previous travels in India. All I can say is that it's got to be a slow news day when the sight of 4 foreigners stops you in your tracks!
We've left the massive cornfields and pomegranate and persimmon orchards of the north behind and are firmly in rice paddy country now with terraced fields and irrigation systems everywhere. The care and attention lavished on the fields is evident although I have yet to see any signs of mechanization; agriculture appears to be fully manual in this part of China. Huge, muscular bullocks pull wooden plows through the small paddies and the rice crop is being harvested now by hand.We have seen a few paddies newly flooded and planted while crops of sweet potatoes, cucumbers, red peppers and greens cover every available bit of land.
Next stop is Huang Shan, the site of some of China's most beautiful mountain scenery which has attracted Chinese artists and tourists for some 1200 years.