Hejin, previously known as “Longmen,” was renamed in the Northern Song Dynasty due to the presence of the Yellow River crossing its territory. Hejin is located in Shanxi Province at a triangle where the Yellow River and the Fen River meet, and it is surrounded by the Lvliang Mountains to the north. It has rich china clay and coal resources. Porcelain has been produced here since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and a large number of handed-down porcelains remain today. During the Song and Jin dynasties, around the 12th century CE, Hejin's proximity to the political centre, Kaifeng, led to an increase in population and economic prosperity, and porcelain production reached its peak. With the booming commodity economy of the Song Dynasty, the organization of production at the Hejin porcelain kilns was greatly enhanced and commercial mass production was achieved, with products being exported to Shaanxi, Gansu and Henan provinces by virtue of convenient land and water transport.
The 2016 rescue excavation of the Song and Jin porcelain kiln site at Guzhen, Hejin filled in gaps in our knowledge related to porcelain production sites in this area, identifying the firing site of relevant domestic and foreign porcelain artifacts. It also revealed a complete porcelain industry chain, providing rich information for the study of the porcelain production process, kiln technology and firing methods of the Hejin kiln during the Song and Jin periods. These findings are considered a major breakthrough in Chinese ceramic archaeology and were selected as one of the “Top Ten New Archaeological Discoveries in China” that year.
“Legacy of Longmen: Archaeological Finds from Kilns in Hejin, Shanxi Province” is hosted by the National Museum of China and the Shanxi Cultural Relics Bureau. The exhibition features more than 150 artifacts from the Hejin kiln site, as well as more than 80 handed-down porcelains from renowned collection institutions across the country. The exhibition is divided into four sections to present a comprehensive overview of the archaeological excavations, porcelain-making techniques, decorative techniques and humanistic connotations of the Hejin kiln site, as well as the rise and fall of the porcelain-making industry and the distribution of commodities.
The most striking exhibits are the porcelain pillows of different shapes and unique decorations, especially those decorated with poetic and calligraphic motifs, with elaborate calligraphy and elegant content, which fully combine the exquisite firing techniques and elegant aesthetic taste of the period. The striking contrast between the simplicity and elegance of the fine white glazed porcelain of the Northern Song Dynasty and the colorfulness and vibrancy of the decorated pillows of the Jin Dynasty visually demonstrates the sudden change in style between Song and Jin porcelain making. At the same time, the exhibition also reproduces scenes of porcelain workshops, kilns, wells and other archaeological relics through various means, such as dioramas and multimedia presentations. It aims to create a panoramic, academic and aesthetic presentation and achieve a new exploration into the combination of academic promotion, social publicization and artistic appreciation of Chinese ceramic archaeology.
We sincerely hope that this exhibition will guide audiences to understand the history and culture of the porcelain kilns in Hejin and appreciate the remarkable achievements of the Chinese people. It is also hoped that the exhibition will enable the general public to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the vast and profound Chinese civilization and archaeological work.