Cup Making in the Home of Porcelain - Yingge

Article Date: 12-08-2017

Yingge is a town in northern Taiwan famous for the production of porcelain. The history of porcelain making started there 200 years ago when Wu An (吳鞍) emigrated from Guangzhou to Yingge to become the first potter in the area. A few years after Wu An had immigrated, a brick layer by the name of Chen Kun (陳昆) also immigrated to Yingge and together the pair strived to make Yingge the centre of ceramics in Taiwan.

Fast Forward 200 years, and Yingge still remains the largest centre of ceramics in Taiwan, with over 800 ceramic-related businesses in the area. With this knowledge tucked away, I hopped on the scooter and headed to Yingge to replicate Wu An (吳鞍) by making a cup.

Getting to Yingge by scooter depends on where you intend to travel from, I went from Shulin in New Taipei City and it took me roughly 20-30 minutes (including getting lost). If you’re going there by train from Taipei Main Station, it should take you only 40 minutes roughly and you have to make sure that you get on the local train. The faster trains won’t stop at Yingge Station. It costs 37NT dollars one way from Taipei to Yingge. You can check train times at the Taiwan Railways Administration website - Taiwan Railways Adiministration

Cup making may not sound like the most enthralling adventure you will ever engage in, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time. The idea of making something (albeit with the help of the staff) was very appealing.

I headed to the main attraction of Yingge, The Ceramics Old Street. This is where you’ll find most of the shops selling a wide assortment of porcelain items and knick-knacks. As previously mentioned I got lost as I’ve not been back to Yingge since I moved to Taiwan in 2010. Weirdly and oddly I have been having urges to go there once again…so 7 years later I finally returned, and it wasn’t as busy as I remembered.

 

I arrived in Yingge at lunch time and where I parked, I luckily managed to stumble upon a great restaurant. The interior décor made you feel as if you were sitting in 1960’s Taiwan. Surrounded by old movie posters including the mighty Bruce Lee. The menu incorporated Taiwanese classic dishes, the likes of: pork chop rice, chicken leg rice, braised meat rice and dry noodles amongst a host of gems.

    

I ordered the pork chop rice, and it was delicious. I highly recommend if your tummy is giving you hunger pangs while you’re in Yingge that you check this place out. The clue is in the magnitude of customers during the lunch hour; that it’s worth frequenting and its proximity to the ceramics old street make it an ideal destination for lunch.

taiwanese pork chop rice

With lunch done and dusted, the time had come to decide which pottery shop to give my custom to. Off I waddled up the street, not really knowing how to judge who is a good potter and a bad potter. With zero experience of pottery to call upon the strategy used in picking a good restaurant was deemed to be a sufficient tactic. Simple, and straightforward, look for one that is busier than the others!

As I took up my mission with militant gusto, I managed to step right into the middle of a school drawing club. One of the girls asked if she could draw me (there’s always a first for everything!) I replied that it would be no problem, to which she instantly became really shy. The picture she drew was very good, if a little on the thinner side. Many thank-you’s were said, as I deemed my prior mission of more importance. At which point I came across a shop called Pottery Angels (no. 71 on the old street) that was busier than others with people who looked to be enjoying the activity.

drawing of me

I decided there and then…this is where my piece of art is being made. The staff were excellent and helpful, with the shop offering a couple of options on what can be made. You can make something small and insignificant for 150NT or make a cup or a bowl for 300NT. I wanted the artwork that I made to be practical and useful, so I opted for a cup.

The staff really helped out a lot and made everything really easy for a beginner like myself. They taught me some basic techniques: how to widen the cup, how to make it narrower, how to make it a fat or a thin cup and how to put pretty rings inside and such like. Generally they make it as easy and as enjoyable as they can for adults or kids alike.

Once I’d finished with my cup on the potter’s wheel, I then moved over to scribbling on the side of it with something closely resembling a chopstick and picking a colour. It took as long to scribble on the side, as it did shaping it on the wheel. It was tough to decide which colour to make the cup, as the examples they showed me weren’t printed out so clearly. I went with yellow and they will post it to my apartment at an extra cost of 150NT.

A very enjoyable day out. It may not be for thrill seekers, but go and give it a try and you might be shocked at how much fun it is.