The Shangshuiao kiln site is located at the Dongqian Lake Resort, Ningbo city, Zhejiang Province. During February to November 2016, Ningbo Municipal Institute of Archaeology conducted the salvage excavation to the site. During the excavation, 2 kiln remains were discovered along with many delicately made celadon wares, kiln furniture and so on.
The aerial photo of Shangshuiao kiln site
During the excavation, two dragon kilns were uncovered. However, only the furnaces were found, other working area such as material staging area, shaping area, enamel-making area and storage area are not preserved.
The two dragon kilns were hillside built with bricks. The head of each furnace is well preserved while the middle parts have been destroyed. In one of the furnace, the end part is not preserved whereas the same part of the other one can still be observed. Each furnace is composed of three fireboxes which are aligned from the south to the north, indicating three times reconstructions. Therefore, each furnace remain actually belong to three kilns used in different times and thus there turn out to be six kilns in total.
One of the dragon kilns
Only firebox and working surface are preserved in kiln Y4. The firebox is 1.4m long, 2.5m wide and 0.56m high residual, the door of which is 0.6m wide. The working surface is oval-shaped, on the bottom of which covered with a layer of black charcoal soil. The diameter of the working surface is 2.3m. In kiln Y5 only the bottom of the firebox is preserved. Estimated from the bottom surface, this firebox is 1.6m long, 2.1m wide and 0.5m high and the door of the firebox is 0.6m wide. Kiln Y6 is relatively well preserved, where firebox, kiln body, kiln wall, kiln door and chimney are discovered. The firebox is 1.5m long, 1.6m wide and 0.5m high. The fire door is 0.48m wide. The kiln body is 35m long, the inside of which is 1.6～1.95m wide. The kiln wall is built of bricks, the width of which is 0.15m. In the west of the kiln body, 3 kiln doors are still preserved which have the shape of “八”. They are approximately 0.5m wide. The interval between each is approximately 2.4～2.8m wide. The kiln roof has already fallen down. The fume chamber remain and kiln roof collapse remain were preserved in the kiln tail. The fume chamber is 0.7m long and 1.9m wide measured from the inside. The Separating tools in 8-shape were neatly placed along the interval wall, the interval of which is roughly 0.2m wide, which forms the smoke gateway.
The tail of the kiln
A large number of assemblages have been uncovered from the kiln site. These assemblages have seven features. First of all, the types are diverse, including bowl, dish, cup, tea cup, tea dish, box, jar, pot, bo-bowl incense burner bottle, box set, water pot, pillow, lamp, ink-stone and other celadon vessels. In addition, there are also discoveries of kiln furniture such as saggers and ring supportors. Second, there appear some rare shaped vessels which have not been seen elsewhere. For example, there are celadon zun
vessels with flower shaped opening and incense burner carved with phoenix and dragon motifs. Thirdly, the technique is highly developed. Skills including carving, bas-relief engraving, piercing and slab building were employed to make vessels vivid. The forth feature is exquisite pattern. Main patterns include plant motifs such as lotus, peony, lotus root, cloudy grass and animal motifs such as dragon, phoenix, song bird, mandarin duck, parrot, heron and fish. The fifth feature is engraving of Chinese characters. Many vessels were assembled by many parts, which make the sixth feature. The last feature is that kiln furniture are attached with other vessels.
Integrating these features, the Shangshui’ao kiln can be dated to the Middle Song Dynasty. A small part of the remains are dated to the late 10th century.
Celadon zun vessels with flower shaped opening in lotus pattern
Incense burner carved with phoenix and dragon motifs（Left） A bowl in Multi-lotus pattern and its saggers （right）
The discovery of the Shangshui’ao kiln site provides information about the structure, layout and firing techniques of the Yue Kiln during the Song Dynasty. Apart from that there are many discoveries of exquisite celadon wares. There are three types of celadon wares in total. The first type includes those vessels for daily use such as bowls, tea cups, dishes and boxes. They were in general made with very simple techniques. The second type of vessels was specially made according to special demands. The white vases and incense burners engraved with dragon patterns were probably made for temples whereas vessels with characters such as ‘大’, ‘内’and ‘官样’ were made for the official. The third type of vessels was made for export. Similar vessels were once found oversea. This clue of evidence provides important information about sea trade during the Song Dynasty especially when Ningbo played a significant role in the ‘Maritime Silk Road’. (Translator: Dong Ningning)