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Blog 70: Chinaware Repair: A Technique to An Art

Today, let’s talk about something different. In the past, we’ve discussed a lot details in tea-making. If you’re a regular of this blog, you must now understand that tea-making is a painstaking and intricate work. However, we haven’t introduced enough about teaware. Since teaware is a must in our everyday tea experience, we feel that we should focus more on the details of teaware as much as we do on tea-making.

Recently, we started offering our US customers with one of our newest teaware design: the metal nail patched tea cups. This design reflects the fascinating work of chinaware repair techniques called Ju Ci (Chinese: 锔瓷, meaning: china patch). And we feel that this is a good opportunity to start a new round of blog topics on teaware.

As we all know, chinaware is excellent when it comes to tear and wear, but it’s fragile against falling and collision. A broken piece of chinaware is useless. Nowadays, we can just replace a broken cup with a new one. But hundreds of years ago, even a broken chinaware made for the royal courts can still be valuable. Therefore, talented artisans created these exquisite techniques to mend broken china.

In Chinese, there’s a well-known old saying roughly translates into “if you do not have a diamond drill, you do not work on chinaware” (Chinese: 没有金刚钻,别揽瓷器活). It means that you should not do a job that you cannot handle. The origin of this saying literally refers to “Ju Ci”.

In general, Ju Ci is a technique that uses metal nails similar to staples to “patch” broken pieces of chinaware together (see pictures below).

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A Broken China Plate Repaired with Ju Ci Technique

To mend a chinaware, first, we need to locate all pieces and map them to their original places. Then, we use strings to bond the pieces back together. After carefully analyzing the direction of the crack, we can decide how many and where metals nails would be placed.

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Bonding Pieces of Broken China Together (Credit: VUE STUDIO)

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Marking Where Metal Nails Would Be Placed (Credit: VUE STUDIO)

All steps introduced above are considered as preparation. It’s the drilling and nailing that matter the most. Drilling little pot holes takes great skills. Ideally, we need to drill into about 70% of the thickness of the chinaware. If we drill through the material, we have to put extra steps to fill up the hole.

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Drilling Pot Holes (Credit: VUE STUDIO)

Finally, we come to the final major step in Ju Ci. The quality of the nail patch represents the expertise of an artisan. A good nailing work can further extend the life of a chinaware. The common metal nail design includes golden nail, bronze nail and flower nail. After this step, we can wrap up the entire repair work with polishing and small padding jobs.

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Hammering Metal Nails into The Cup

Because no two chinaware repairs are the same, and every chinaware becomes unique and distinctive after Ju Ci. Ju Ci became a extremely sought after technique by the wealthy families and individuals. The purpose of Ju Ci is no longer just to repair a chinaware but to create a true “one off” masterpiece.

During Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the royal court even employed artisans to purposely break a chinaware so that they could create a nail patch pattern customized for them. The nail design was also further developed into 8 major categories (flower, plain, golden, silver, bronze, bean, rice, grit).

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A Vase with Ju Ci from Ming Dynasty (Credit: The Palace Museum)

The modern life has made Ju Ci as a repair technique since people no longer need to repair chinaware. However, Ju Ci as a form of art is still appreciated by people such as tea lovers. The extra step in china-making transforms a chinaware into a piece of art that you can use on a daily basis.

There are many people worry that Ju Ci might ultimately disappear due to the lack of demand. But the reality is that with more and more tea drinkers start to realize that teaware is also an important part of the tea experience, techniques like Ju Ci associated with teaware/chinaware are also valued by tea drinkers. The newfound appreciation of Ju Ci helps preserve this ancient technique.

As a tea and teaware producer, we’re very proud to bring you a teaware that employs Ju Ci techniques. We hope this short introduction to Ju Ci can help you appreciate your tea and teaware even more.

We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!


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