Several bowls in blue and white ling long style

The Devil Is in the Details: 5 Fun Facts About Ling Long Porcelain

You might have grown up with these bowls, dishes, and cups in your home. You might have some in your cupboard right now. That classic blue and white design embedded with rice grains — Ling Long porcelain.

While this unassuming line of tableware may seem as familiar as an old shoe, we believe it's something to celebrate. Here are five fun facts about Ling Long porcelain.

It’s both exquisite and devilish

While its name, Ling Long, means “exquisite” in Mandarin Chinese, back when it was produced during Imperial times — first during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), then the Qing (1644–1911/12) — it was called gui gong or “devil’s work” by the potters who made it. This either referred the “devilish skill” required to make the porcelain or the foreign markets to which the porcelain was exported. Non-Chinese were sometimes referred pejoratively as "foreign devils."

Getting in those trademarks rice grains isn’t easy

Hold a piece of Ling Long ware up the light and it will glow. That’s because baked throughout the porcelain are grains of uncooked rice. According to the owner of the Guangming Porcelain Factory, it takes about half a year to learn the technique punching in the holes for the rice as well as the hand-stamping of cobalt blue ink into the porcelain’s engraved design.

Each design element has meaning

The classic blue and white design of Ling Long goes back to the Mind dynasty, when the porcelain was first produced. Each element is significant. Below is an arc of Chinese characters called gong or "work" (工). It represents the working class.

Close up of "gong" character on Ling Long porcelain dish

This little creature in between the gong characters is a bat, which, in Chinese culture, is a good luck symbol. That’s because the word for bat sounds like the one for fortune. 

Close up of bat symbol on Ling Long porcelain dish

The dragon features prominently in Ling Long porcelain, symbolizing luck and protection. (You can learn more about the significance of dragons in Chinese culture.) 

Close up of dragon on Ling Long porcelain dish

The below pattern is chock-full of goodness: longevity, prosperity, peace, altruism, and good health.

Close up of auspicious design on Ling Long porcelain dish


Only one factory in China makes it

While once produced by at least 36 factories, Ling Long is now made by only one, the Guangming Porcelain Factory in Jingdezhen, China (known as the “Porcelain Capital” due to its long history of producing the ware). The factory produces 12,000 pieces a day, using four tons of clay.

It may become a thing of the past

Because only one factory produces this type or porcelain and no one is learning the craft, Ling Long will most likely be discontinued, a once ubiquitous object that may soon become rare.

Have we piqued your interest? Check out our Ling Long collection.
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