Ceramists said on Monday that they have produced 3,000 porcelain items using a replica of an ancient kiln in east China's "porcelain capital" of Jingdezhen.
The move is part of the city's efforts to revive historic porcelain-making practices.
"The firing (of the ceramics) proved successful," said Lai Dequan, a Beijing-based state-recognized Master of Fine Arts, adding that the color and sheen of the porcelainware matched artifacts made 700 years ago in the same type of kiln
The "dragon kiln," which gets its name from its dragon-like shape, was widely used in China's Song Dynasty (960-1279) to produce greenish-white porcelain, a landmark achievement in China's porcelain-making history.
Ceramic archaeologists and antique experts from Jingdezhen and China's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, inspected the items after they were fired.
"It is amazing to recall the splendid times of China's porcelain by looking at this 'reborn' porcelainware," said Lai.
He said that the wares have a gentle and mild glaze, marking the successful return of dragon kiln craftsmanship after its centuries-long disappearance.
To protect and continue the legacy of Jingdezhen's ceramic craftsmanship, the local government started the dragon kiln reproduction project in June.
Top ceramists conducted an investigation of ancient kilns from the Song Dynasty before creating the new dragon kiln.
"With the development of the porcelain industry and improvements to the shape of kilns, the Song Dynasty witnessed the peak period for building dragon kilns," said Zhou Ronglin, director of the Jingdezhen Municipal Ceramic Cultural Heritage Research and Protection Center.
The replica of the kiln was built on a hill near Jingdezhen, a city in east China's Jiangxi province that has a 1,700-year history of producing porcelain.
"With the reopening of the kiln, we can study how ancient people loaded the kiln, how they controlled the temperature and duration of the firing and how they handled the airflow within the kilns to affect the appearance of the finished wares," said Zhou.
To ensure that the firing was done in the same way ancient ceramists did it, the kiln's attendants relied on experience, rather than measurements taken by instruments, to monitor the baking process, according to 69-year-old Hu Jiawang, who was responsible for overseeing the furnace's temperature.
"Temperatures vary in different parts of the kiln, allowing the creation of multiple types of ceramics, an advantage unmatched by modern kilns," said Hu.
In accordance with ancient practices, the replica was heated by burning 15 tonnes of pine wood.
"The dragon kiln was used in Jingdezhen for about 700 years and played a unique role in China's porcelain history. Many ceramic treasures that were handed down for centuries came from it," Zhou said.
The replica is not the first of its kind in Jingdezhen, which in 2009 recreated a 300-year-old wood-fired kiln, the largest of its kind. In 2010 and 2011, the city successfully created replicas of a centuries-old gourd-shaped kiln and steamed bun-shaped kiln, respectively.
"The rekindling of the ancient kilns will help tourists understand the city's porcelain-making history more clearly and aid in the protection of our intangible cultural heritage," said Chen Wuping, director of the Jingdezhen Ceramic Culture Exhibition Zone.