Cultural impacts of state interventions: Traditional craftsmanship in China's porcelain capital in the mid to late 20th century

Yawen Xu, Yu Tao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Craft production is essential in maintaining community cohesion and traditional craft knowledge, skills and techniques. In response to the decline of traditional craftsmanship, owing to industrialisation and modernisation, a global discussion on intangible cultural heritage (ICH) arose in the early 1990s. Exploring the roles of different stakeholders, including the state, in sustainably safeguarding ICH has become an increasingly important research topic in contemporary heritage studies. This paper assesses the cultural impact of China’s state interventions on traditional craftsmanship by analysing the state’s role in Jingdezhen’s porcelain manufacturing in the mid- to late 20th century. An analytical framework is developed based on six essential attributes of traditional craftsmanship. This paper then applies this framework to comprehensively assess how Jingdezhen’s state-led porcelain production practice affected various aspects of traditional craftsmanship. The empirical evidence presented in this paper reveals some of the state interventions’ adverse effects on the inherence and development of traditional craftsmanship. In general, the state interventions lowered the involvement of artistic elements in the production and consumption of porcelain crafts, hindered the market’s role in signalling customers’ preferences to producers and terminated the dispersed production in traditional private workshops. However, state interventions, by and large, facilitated the diffusion of crafting skills and had mixed impacts on workers’ agency as well as the transmission and development of accumulative and systematic knowledge in traditional craftsmanship.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)213-231
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Journal of Intangible Heritage
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


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