Art Endures

September 23, 2010
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An ancient Chinese pottery tradition perseveres against the odds.

Life and art will persevere. That seems to be the message behind the appearance of traditional black pottery at the World Expo in Shanghai this week. Only a handful of skilled artisans have the know-how anymore, and nature did its best to destroy what was left of the craft in a 7.1-magnitude earthquake last April. Despite these great obstacles, black pottery-making endures.

The ancient Chinese craft of black pottery-making dates back more than 4000 years. Until recently, only one Tibetan man was pursuing this unique art. Tawang, the sole master craftsman, practiced the same primitive methods of black pottery-making that have been used for many generations. He has accepted only one pupil in the last decade; Padma Qunjia, another Tibetan craftsman, has been studying the special process for almost 10 years now. Last year, he decided to create a school in order to teach the pottery-making lessons to more students. This year, disaster struck.

On April 14, 2010, nearly 100 black pottery pieces (including many made by Padma himself) were destroyed by the earthquake that demolished the area of Nangchen County in China. Although he calls the quake a "heartbreaking" experience, Padma still managed to create almost 30 new pieces for this week’s World Expo in just a few short months. With the new collection and the new school going strong, it is clear that the tradition will continue into the future.

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