Taiwan’s Hidden Gem: Chen Ming-Kun’s Art of Iron Glazed Ceramics

The lost art of Jian ware has been revamped by one of the most sought after ceramics artists Chen Ming-Kun

Starry glaze tea bowl, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Chen Ming-Kun)

The art of iron glazed ceramics, also known as Jian ware (建盏), originated from the Tang Dynasty, but reached its peak during the Song Dynasty when Japanese monk diplomats brought the technique back that started the tradition of Tenmoku. In contemporary Taiwan, the lost art of Jian ware has been revamped by one of the most sought after ceramics artists Chen Ming-Kun (陳明坤).

Chen has spent more than 20 years perfecting the precise formula to create various colors with only iron glazing. By using various techniques, he has successfully achieved new heights and created his own style of "starry glaze" (金耀天目) with the mineral abundant clay sourced in Keelung (基隆) combined with his unique iron glaze. Most people visually link the starry glaze with gold, hence it has the nickname of "gold dust glaze."

Oil drip glaze tea basin, 2015. (Photo by Chen Ming-Kun)

When looking at Chen Ming-Kun's tea bowl, it's just like looking through the Hubble Space Telescope, with all the galaxies and nebulas, in one's palm. It takes profound patience to make Jian ware, but Chen's ideology of meditation is what gave him strength. Regarding his approach to making jian ware, Chen said: "To make art one needs inspiration, and one must be clear of all thoughts to be inspired, to clear the mind is to obtain serenity."

As an artist, Chen is always challenging himself, never repeating himself, always going to new heights and away of his comfort zone. His pursuit is not just to go beyond the cultural emblem of over 5,000 years, but to reclaim history to create works that are truly unique from Keelung, Taiwan.

Just returning from a group show in Japan (Art Mirai International Art Exhibition) at the National Art Center in Tokyo (國立新美術館), Chen is determined to show the world what Taiwan's city of Keelung has to offer, with his mesmerizing Jian wares and his philosophy of inner peace.

Starry glaze teapot, 2015. (Photo by Chen Ming-Kun)