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Shiwan, known for its lifelike ceramic figurines, has won the high prestige of the “Ceramic Capital of Southern China. Shiwan is a town located in the southwest of the city of Foshan with a 5000 year long and rich history of ceramic sculpture. Ceramics from Shiwan accounts for roughly 40% of China’s ceramic production and 25% of the world’s capacity. Shiwan ceramics were mainly produced in response to economic and social needs, and were made for both daily use and for art.
Shiwan ceramic sculptures were first uncovered in the cultural relics unearthed in the East Han tombs of Shiwan. It was continuously developed before the Ming dynasty, reaching its peak in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Shiwan’s ceramic sculptures would later hit a setback during the Republican Period of China. However after the establishment of the People’s Republic, it continued to thrive through innovation. Traditional works of Shiwan pottery feature everyday motifs while those with strong personal styles were considered unusual.
As they are made with unique artistic style, Shiwan pottery tend to be humanistic, regional and national. One of Shiwan potter’s most notable achievements is their figurines. Production of figurines transitioned from only religious figurines to a wider variety- including history, folklore and other popular literary works.
They are popular due to the slightly exaggerated expressions of the figurines as potters aim to capture the unique character of the subject. The ability of the potters, who were strongly influenced by Chinese opera, to capture the spirit of the character through its facial and body expressions, made the figurines so notable. As there was a growing need to meet the demand of religious activities, large amounts of sculptures of icons and gods of gates were produced to decorate temples and other buildings.

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