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Dragon Fire†††† a visit to China by Geoff Jones

Wood fired kilns are exciting things to use, but it is hard to imagine anything more dramatic than a Chinese dragon kiln towards the end of firing, especially if you get to help fuel one, which I did.

The idea of a visit to China arose out of my helping to fire the experimental kiln at Wytham on two occasions, which left me wanting to experience more firing of wood fired kilns. The possibility of a trip to China to experience a dragon kiln firing was too exciting to resist. The

excuse for it was partly to see if there was anything to learn that would be useful in the Oxford Kilns Project.

There is evidence for dragon kilns in China from around 300 AD, Iíve been told. They also claim the dragon kiln never died out completely at any time since then. The design has also remained broadly the same with ware always in saggars. However, modern dragon kilns are slightly simpler than in some excavated examples, for example lacking internal cross walls.

The dragon kiln I helped to fire nearing the end of its firing and the end of my shift at about 06:00.

My visit was to the province of Zhejiang Ė about the size of the UK. I flew into its capital, Hangzhou, which is not far south of Shanghai. The province and in particular the area around the town of Longquan was and still is a key area of celadon production with 12 dragon kilns.

Celadon refers to both the glaze and the ware with its predominantly transparent, jade green glaze that is sometimes crackled. However the colour can vary towards blue or towards yellow and transparency most visible if the glaze is thick and there were periods in the past when it was thin. Here I met professor Xu, who is a ceramicist and lecturer at the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou. Her husband is also a ceramicist but concentrates on wood firing and has built a number of kilns to various designs including his own. Professor Xu and Mr Xu were my hosts.

The excavated dragon kiln in Longquan Archaeological Park.