Fictionalized account of a Ming porcelain dragon flask.
From the diary of Shanyuan Lu, the head of a pottery workshop located near Jingdezhen, 3rd year in the reign of Emperor Yongle (1405 AD)
Day 1: Our workshop has just received a commission from the imperial court! Our great emperor has decided we shall produce the pottery gifts for an important diplomatic mission.
I have sent most of the apprentices to the hills to gather dead wood. We must take no chance that we might run short and there is no time to cut and season new wood. I will supervise the youngest ones as they gather the clay. We will use the fine light gray clay from the Gao-ling ridge, the clay that fires so pure a white.
Day 3: The apprentices are cutting the clay from the pit I prefer at Gaol-ling. At last they have found the proper way to use their spades to cut the pieces off in neat rectangles. The brash young ones tried to cut too much at first and got their spades mired. At least we should be done gathering clay tomorrow. We must begin the work, and soon!
Day 5: It was a hard trip back. One of the oxen has damaged a leg. Cleaning the clay has begun at last, however. The new apprentices are learning to mix the clay with water in the pit-vats so that the slurry is not too thin, but still fluid enough to go through the sieves. By this afternoon, all of this clay will be ready to be sieved into the next set of pit-vats.
Day 6: New apprentices! Having sieved out the worst of the rocks, pebbles, twigs, roots, and such, they thought they were done! Hai, one of the older apprentices, caught them loafing in the kitchen yard and got them back to work in a hurry. I will have to keep an eye on him; he may make a good team leader as he grows in our profession.