Octogenarian builds porcelain palace in east China

Updated 2016-12-23 17:01:11 Xinhua
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Photo taken on Sept. 21, 2016 shows the porcelain palace in Xinping Village of Fuliang County in Jingdezhen, east China's Jiangxi Province.

Photo taken on Sept. 21, 2016 shows the porcelain palace in Xinping Village of Fuliang County in Jingdezhen, east China's Jiangxi Province.

They say it is never too late to chase your dreams, and Yu Ermei, 86, is the perfect example.

The octogenarian from eastern China's famed ceramics capital Jingdezhen, spent the past six years working on what she proudly dubs "a porcelain palace."

Located in Xinping village close to Jingdezhen, the palace is a dazzling three-story circular building.

The ground floor and outer wall are covered in bright shiny mosaic patterns firmly nodding to Chinese culture -- a dragon, a phoenix, signs of the Chinese zodiac, Tai Chi symbols, -- created with massive quantities of jagged pieces of broken porcelain.

Inside, the effect is simply magical: windows formed in the shape of a porcelain vase, ceilings decorated with delicate porcelain bowls, shimmering walls embedded with unique pieces of porcelain, and paintings showing classic Chinese folk stories. It is a building of breathtaking beauty.

The palace takes up more than 1,200 square meters, using around 80 tonnes of broken porcelain for building and decoration. Mostly collected by Yu over about 30 years.

Why take all the trouble building a porcelain palace when you can enjoy a relaxing old age? It was a question much on the mind of Yu's family. They did not understand what she was going through, even thinking that she must be going senile when she first brought up the idea.

But for Yu, the palace is a meaningful way to wrap up her lifetime career as a porcelain craftswoman and dealer -- a gift for Jingdezhen, the holy city in the heart of porcelain lovers.

Coming to Jingdezhen aged 12, Yu was first an apprentice in a porcelain workshop before working in two state-run porcelain factories.

After sharpening her craft and gaining experience, she opened her own kiln and porcelain factory, making and selling porcelain products and objets d'art around China, even for foreign countries.

Over the years, she made a huge fortune and collected over 60,000 pieces of porcelain.

She was not sure what to do with her huge collection until she saw a unique porcelain house in northern China's Tianjin Municipality, which was built and decorated with copious amount of porcelain.

It inspired her to create her own porcelain palace in Jingdezhen.

"Jingdezhen is well known as China's porcelain capital, but there was not a palace in the capital. I wanted to build one here and leave something in the history of the city," she said. The palace also serves as a museum for Yu to exhibit her personal collection.

She started in 2010, at the age of 80. She not only designed the palace, but even moved into a small house near the construction site, living there for five years to oversee the building process.

She used almost all her savings, about seven million yuan (one million U.S. dollars) and even had to sell her jewelry and some of her precious porcelain artworks to fund the project. But she has no regrets.

"Time waits for no one. I fear that when I pass away, no one will finish this. Completing the palace and seeing that my precious porcelain collection has a place is a dream comes true. My life is full," Yu said.

Now the palace is complete, it is open to the public for an admission fee of 25 yuan (3.7 U.S. dollars), and has attracted many people.

"I wish everyone can appreciate the charm and beauty of porcelain here," Yu said.

Jiang Qin, a tourist, said the palace was splendid but what moved him most was the old lady's love and passion for porcelain.

A second palace is also under construction close to the first one. It is expected to be completed next year.

Known as the Porcelain Capital, Jingdezhen's history of porcelain-making spans back 1,700 years. The city's unique clay resources and time-honored craftsmanship make it a mecca for porcelain admirers and tourists alike.

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