Traditional ju ci technique revived in Hongqiao
The ancient technique of ju ci, a means of repairing pottery and porcelain, is staging a cultural comeback in China, notably at Shanghai's Hongqiao Antique Mall.
Ju ci is a process of mending a variety of objects from porcelain cups to wooden benches without the use of glue, one that has been increasingly replaced by modern techniques. However, attitudes in certain parts of China are changing with many consumers becoming willing to spend good money to have treasured objects repaired using this old-school manner.
Gu Yu is one Shanghai resident well-versed in the subtle arts of ju ci. She now runs a pottery repair studio with two apprentices at Hongqiao Antique Mall. Despite only having been in the trade for two years, her professionalism and workmanship has already earned praise from countless clients. In fact, as Gu's name has spread, so too has her waiting list with some customers having to wait several months to collect their wares.
An example of a pottery bowl that Gu repairs in her workshop at Hongqiao Antique Center in Shanghai. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
To date, one of Gu's trickiest assignments has been repairing more than 100 jian zhan teacups from the Shanghai Jian Zhan Collectors Club. Originally made in Jianyang, Fujian province, about 1,000 years ago, the funnel-shaped cups are highly prized in the antique market and often command huge prices at auction.
Liao Chengyi, head of the Shanghai club, offers one example explaining why Gu's trade continues to be in high demand. He revealed that collectors used to send their damaged cups to restoration workshops in Fujian, only to discover the workmanship was far from satisfactory. An added problem was the use of glue as a sealant that meant cups could no longer be used for drinking.
Conversely, Gu uses traditional techniques and materials such as lacquer and pure gold. After mending the cups, Gu places them in a humidifier for several weeks and allows them to dry properly, a process that means the cups are safe for everyday use.