by Gerhard Thamm
Jingdezhen used to be an active city with proud citizens in the southeast of China. It was as early as in the 6th century that the Royal Kiln began to produce porcelain, the new translucent ceramics, the famous white gold that had been sent to the imperial court and all over the world for more than a millenium. Jingdezhen and china – as well as later also tea – became synonyms for the Central State (zhong guo), and had ever since had a significant influence on the history and culture of China.
But after the Cultural Revolution (1966 through 1976) and the death of Mao Zedong Jingdezhen’s long tradition and success story ceased abruptly when Deng Xiaoping wanted to modernise China with a number of reforms launching an economic opening. Whereas in other cities in China industry and economy began to grow rapidly bringing there a modest fortune for the people, many ten thousands of residents in Jingdezhen had been put off with alms, forgotten and left behind without any hope.
Jingdezhen suffered the same fate with other cities in China when traditional manufactories had to close down because their „leaders“ did not manage to position „their“ enterprises successfully in a now global competitive environment. The people left behind saw themselves deprived of the history and culture as well as their future, left and betrayed from a supposedly welfaring party apparatus.
Suddenly taken out of their social security people suffered from a fear for the future; resignation and despair spreaded around, and people sank into apathy. But soon these hard social realities had been followd by first timid economic attempts in the private sector and public infratsructural measures. All this draws a confusing and puzzled picture of the former cultural centre and porcelain metropolis Jingdezhen: cultural conflicts, decline and destruction on the one hand, a slow change, construction and a new beginning into a new, suposedly „modern“, fast growing and quickly changing China to the other.
Jingdezhen is a symbol for China’s culture and tradition for over one thousand years. Even more so are we irritated and moved by the scenes and pictures following the social and economic transformations which Wang Ji Xin is depicting in his latest film. In several scenes he is guiding us through the once succesful and proud city, drawing our attention to the people in their desperation struggling in their daily life with their never ending attempts to survive and their vague hope that one day they may be better off or even able to continue their old success story. He is guiding us – apart from the established tourist paths – to waste disposal sites, into abaondoned factories and gambling halls, to the black market and the discotheque – either raining or in the dark. In a strong and powerful manner these scenes are reminding us neither to ignore nor to forget the people left behind or our own roots, our history and culture … a threat and danger which we potentially meet all over the world.