The White Road
‘What is this thing of whiteness?'
A handful of clay from a Chinese hillside carries a promise: that mixed with the right materials, it might survive the fire of the kiln, and fuse into porcelain – translucent, luminous, white.
For centuries, porcelain has transfixed emperors and alchemists, philosophers, craftsmen and collectors – all eager to learn the recipe for this versatile and valuable substance. Porcelain was melted, smashed, or snapped into pieces as men struggled to decode the secret of ‘white gold’.
Acclaimed writer and potter Edmund de Waal sets out on a quest - a journey across continents that begins at Jingdezhen in China, the birthplace of porcelain, and embraces Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the English South-West, to tell the unbroken story of a global obsession. Along the way, he meets the witnesses to its creation; those who were inspired, made rich or heartsick by it; and the many whose livelihoods, minds and bodies were broken by it.
In these intimate and compelling encounters with the people and landscapes who made porcelain, Edmund de Waal comes to a more profound understanding of the material he has worked with for decades. It is a journey into an obsession with white itself.
Edmund De Waal
Edmund de Waal is an artist whose porcelain is exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, won the RSL Ondaatje prize and the Costa Biography Award. In 2015 he was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction by Yale University. He lives in London with his family.
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