The Ceramic Town of Tongguan

My hometown Changsha is surrounded by many gems. Tongguan, a historical town known for their family-run porcelain and clay businesses and a kiln relic site, is one of them.

Today, I got the opportunity to visit this place with one of my uncles. We drove about an hour in splendid weather and arrived at a rather quiet village, unusually clear of tourists.


The renovation brought many creative elements to this place. The entrance to the village was made to look like an abandoned kiln, which is normally shaped like a tunnel made with mud. The sporadic plants and flowers rooted on this half arch created a faux relic look.


Historical Kiln Site Museum

The museum was built on top of the historical site to protect the artifacts. Since the site was small and sat on a slope, the museum tour was a short walk around the kiln. The quiet, clean environment made me feel comfortable and sheltered from the scorching sun. Ambient music was appropriate and pleasant. I noted these small pleasantries to myself because Chinese tourist sites usually sorely lack them.


Despite the small size, everything seemed well maintained and attended. In a corner, full of unearthed clay fragments protruded from the side of a mud hill. Many of them piled up around an archeological site. I could almost touch them and pick them up, which was crazy for museum to allow, but on a second thought, they probably have tens of thousands of these fragments buried under the unearthed portions of this hill.

Intriguing Flowers

As the burning waves of noon heat greeted us outside the entrance, my eyes wandered upon these cute yet odd-looking flowers (if not fruits or other parts of something). My uncle pulled out his DSLR and taught me a few tricks of macro photography. Here are some of my attempts with my iPhone.





Tongguan Old Street

A few minutes away from the relic site was the Tongguan Old Street. Here, artists of all ages gather and sell traditional and creative ceramic/clay works, continuing the town’s old tradition. I found quite a few buildings from the Mao era, evident from the old and sturdy wood gates, faded red stars, and hand-painted posters of old slogans.

This house, marking the end of the artsy street, was bought by a professor from some college and became his vacation house where he comes to spend time working with ceramic stuff (or his art research).


Tongguan was one of the least crowded tourist spots I’ve been to, a breezy experience despite the notorious summertime temperature. Unlike many other historical towns turned to tourism for quick cash, Tongguan preserved its liveliness and aesthetics.

I heard there are more well-maintained spots around Changsha worth going to. I can’t wait until my next journey starts.

Donny Reynolds

APM at Google, designer at heart. Courage of an entrepreneur, brain of an engineer (twitter: @dovizu)

Leave a Reply