The Potter Yu Shun Influenced the Land of Dongyi (Part 1)

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Yu Shun was one of the Five Emperors of China in ancient times. His family name was Yao, and his given name was Chonghua. He was from the area of the present day Zhucheng City, Shandong Province. Emperor Shun was very talented and noble. Even at a very young age, he had become well known for his filial piety.

Shun was born into a poor family. Even though he was a descendant of Emperor Zhuan Xu, for five generations, his family had been in the lowest class in that society. Shun’s father, Gu Sou, was blind, and his mother died when he was little. Gu Sou married again and the stepmother gave birth to a boy named Xiang. “Father is stubborn, mother is overbearing, and Xiang is arrogant.” They conspired together many times to try to kill Shun. Yet Shun never failed to pay filial respect to his parents and obeyed them unconditionally. He never ignored his responsibility as an older brother and was kind and caring toward Xiang. Not just for a day or two, but for years and years, Shun treated his family this way always. When his family planned to kill him, Shun ran away just in time, and as soon as the situation got a little bit better, he returned and tried his best to help them. It was said that, “The family couldn’t kill Shun when they wanted to, yet when they needed him he was always around.” In such a bad family, Shun tempered himself and further improved his moral character.

According to legend, Yu Shun had also made tremendous contributions to the development of Chinese pottery. In order to make a living, Shun worked as a potter in Zhufeng Village by the Yellow River. History reports that “Shun made quality pots and earthenware, beautifully done with no flaws.” Shun’s workmanship and technique were remarkable. The pots that he made were skillfully crafted, beautiful, reasonably priced, and durable. When making pots, Shun paid extra attention to the material used, was very specific about the firing temperature, and took his time to knead the clay and prepare it the right way. Thus, many people loved Shun’s pots. Many potters wanted to learn Shun’s techniques, which he was very willing to share. Because Shun was such a great potter, many people traveled afar to buy pots from him, and his products were in high demand. Yet Shun remained meticulous about his products from the beginning to the end. He would not even raise the price and only sought a 10 percent profit.

Shun’s technique of using a potter’s wheel spread all over the area near the Yellow River. However, in an area near Dongyi, the supply of earthenware could not meet demand. The potters started to cut corners on labor and material for the sake of profits. They did not prepare the clay well enough and shortened the time of firing the earthenware in the kiln. As a result, the earthenware became fragile and broke after being used for only a short time. The potters were making huge profits because they saved on labor, time, and material.

After hearing about this, Shun went to a place called Wei to open a pottery business in order to guide the potters and to benefit the people of that area. While he was there, Shun meticulously studied the techniques and skills of making unfinished clay pots and finished earthenware. Shun used advanced firing technology and strove to produce strong and durable pots. He also added beautiful decorations and ornaments to his products and shrunk the openings of the pots. Everybody loved his earthenware, and people poured in to buy Shun’s pots.

虞舜制陶化东夷 (上)

虞舜是上古时期五帝之一,姚姓,名重华,今山东诸城人。舜帝才能卓越而品行高尚,青年时代就以至孝而闻名。

舜的家世甚为寒微,虽然是帝颛顼的后裔,但五世为庶人,处于社会下层。舜的父亲瞽叟,是个盲人,母亲很早去世。瞽叟续娶,继母生弟名叫像。“父顽、母嚣、像傲”,几个人串通一气,多次欲置舜于死地而后快。然而舜对父母不失子道,十分孝顺,与弟弟不失兄道,爱护友善,多年如一日,没有丝毫懈怠。舜在家里人要加害于他的时候,及时逃避;稍有好转,马上回到他们身边,尽可能给予帮助,所以是“欲杀,不可得;即求,尝(常)在侧”。舜在这样恶劣的环境下磨练自己,道德修养愈来愈高深。

相传,虞舜还为中华陶器的发展做出过巨大的贡献。为谋生计,舜曾经在黄河之滨的诸冯村制作陶器。史载“舜诚制陶,精美不窳”,舜制陶工艺精湛、陶形美观、经济耐用。舜制陶注重选料,严看火候,揉泥到位,所以他的陶器深受人们喜爱,许多制陶的人们都愿意向舜请教,舜也乐于将技术授给他人。因被舜之德,很多买陶人不惜远道而来,争相求购。然而舜始终一丝不苟,而且连价值也不肯抬高,只求十一之利而已。

当时,舜轮制陶器的作业技术,传遍黄河南北。而在接近东夷的某地,因为制陶的人越来越多,陶货供不应求。陶工们为了贪图利益,开始偷工减料,揉泥功夫不到位,烧火时间也缩短了,导致陶器质地脆弱,使用不久就易破碎,陶工们却因省工省时省料而获利甚丰。

舜听说此事后,为了化导制陶人,同时也利益一方百姓,他到卫地另设陶场,在此精心研习造胚和制陶技术。舜采用先进的烧制工艺技术,力求制出坚固耐用的陶器,陶器上面还加上美丽的纹饰,陶口由大变小,很受大众喜爱,商客都争买舜的陶器。

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