EN-Episode 57: “The Celadon” vs The Celadon

Original audio (translated transcript below):

Hello everyone, I’m Kaycee.


I bet everyone has heard Jay’s songs, or at least knows Jay the singer. Jay has a song called ‘Celadon’. Let me play you a snippet.


The lyrics were written by Fang Wenshan. I don’t know if you know, but many of Jay Chou’s songs are written by Fang Wenshan, and their relationship is quite romantic, and there are many scandals, bromance kind of romance ha, good brother kind, don’t get me wrong. But we’re not here to gossip, so you can look it up online if you’re interested.


Another interesting point related to this song is that the lyrics of “Celadon” have appeared in the basic aptitude test exams in Shandong Province, the political science subject in Jiangsu Province, the exams in Shandong Province have also used the lyrics of “Celadon” to test the long history of Chinese porcelain, and also in a monthly exam in a secondary school in Wuhan, the topic is mimeographing the lyrics. It all appeared in the exam, and in different areas of the exam, from politics, history and literary genres, so the cultural content and potential of the song is obvious.


Let’s take a look at the lyrics. “The sky is green and waiting for the rain and I’m waiting for you” should be familiar to everyone and is one of my favourite lyrics…the latter part of the song. What I like most is the first line, “I’m writing in the bottom of a bottle, imitating the drift of the previous dynasty, as if I’m waiting for you”.


Let’s start with “The sky is blue waiting for the rain and I am waiting for you”. It is said to come from a legend. Emperor Huizong of the Northern Song Dynasty dreamed of the rain passing and he liked that colour so much that he gave orders to the porcelain makers to make porcelain in that colour. This is the Ru kiln of Song porcelain. This is another type of porcelain that has nothing really to do with celadon. The emperor originally said that the rain was over, but Fang Wenshan reversed it and turned it into the sky is green and waiting for the smoke and rain, both are causal, but the idiom of the rain is over, we have all heard it ten thousand times, it means nothing. But I’m waiting for you is like sky green waiting for smoke and rain. This image is fresh, interesting and retains that sense of mystery of the whole song, which is great.


So, Fang Wenshan borrowed this legend and put it in the song Celadon, although it is not very accurate to put it in the song Celadon, but it sounds very romantic and sensational, so he is forgiven.


Then again, I like the line, “at the bottom of the bottle to write Han Li imitating the drift of the previous dynasty”, but in fact, Han Li was never engraved on the bottom of the celadon bottle. So, no ambrosia, can meet it is even more unknown. After knowing the truth my heart was broken. What about the promised romance, what about the promised I’ll wait for you? Just kidding ha, I’ll still make an exception and carve the Chinese clerical script on the bottom of the celadon vase and wait for you.


And the line, “I was thinking of you when I copied the Song mark”, as you can guess, the Song mark never appeared on the blue and white porcelain.


And “The peony depicted on the bottle is like your first makeup”… Don’t be fooled, the peony… does appear on the bottle. Peonies began to appear between 1271 and 1368 during the Yuan dynasty, when blue and white porcelain had matured and the most distinctive feature was the richness of the composition, which included historical figures, dragons and phoenixes, mandarin ducks, peonies, lotus flowers and so on.


Initially, blue and white porcelain began to be made during the Tang dynasty, and the porcelains were small, with bowls, jars, lids, and so on. They are generally floral and grass patterns, of which there are two main types: one is typical of traditional Chinese flowers and plants, such as stonecrop and plum blossoms, which are more common, and the other is loose leaf patterns sandwiched between geometric figures such as rhombuses, which are typical of arabesque decoration. It is clear from this that Tang blue and white porcelain was sold mainly to foreign countries.


After the Tang dynasty, blue and white porcelain went into decline until the Yuan dynasty. The Yuan dynasty saw a sudden upsurge. At that time, the Mongols of the Yuan dynasty travelled from Inner Mongolia in China all the way to Europe. It is interesting to note that in Persia, which is today’s Iran, a raw material called “Suma Li Qing” was found for painting on porcelain. The blue pigment on porcelain made in China is rather grey, and the effect is much worse compared to that of Suma Liqing. The reason for this is that the Chinese material contains more manganese, whereas the material from Iran contains less manganese, so the colour is much brighter after firing.


After discovering this, the Mongolian army had Chinese porcelain makers and Iranian potters sparring with each other, and China began to use local Iranian cobalt, which was then fired to produce the beautiful blue and white porcelain that is passed down through the world today.


So, although the discussion at the beginning was about Jay Chou’s song, using that as a set up, what I really want to talk about in this issue is not Jay Chou’s song. A song is a work of art, after all, and there’s no need to get too hung up on details that don’t match the production of celadon, but it’s another pleasure to know them, I guess. What I really want to talk about is related to the Iranian ‘Suma Li Qing’. No matter where a culture originates, when it meets, knows and learns from other cultures, it can eventually form a new and more perfect culture. Enriching the original culture

Well, that’s it for this edition, I’ll see you next time.

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