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Jingde Town

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景德镇 (Jǐngdé Zhèn): Jingde Town

Making porcelain in Jingde. (Cultural China)

The town of Jingde in Jianggxi Province is known as the “porcelain capital of China.” Online, the name of the town has also become a code word to refer to all of China.

When netizens write about China, the word “China” is often picked up by sophisticated Internet filters that look for sensitive words (also known as sensitive porcelain) and screen for political content. Because porcelain is often referred to as “china,” the name of this township is used to get around Internet censorship.

For example, this innocuous sounding exchange has two entirely different meanings.

What kind of a place is Jingde?


It’s a small town that produces cupware and diningware daily.


To those in the know, this can be read as:

What kind of a place is China?

It’s a small town that produces tragedy and misfortune daily.

Cupware (杯具 bēijù) sounds the same as tragedy (悲剧 bēijù); diningware (餐具 cānjù) sounds nearly the same as misfortune (惨剧 cǎnjù).

Amid a massive crackdown on Internet rumors in 2013, verbal play on the word “rumor̦̦” established residency in Jingde Town. The Mandarin word for “rumor” (谣 yáo) sounds identical to the word for “kiln” (窑 yáo), an essential instrument in the porcelain making process. As central authorities used their crackdown on rumor-mongering to gain control of online public opinion by targeting many influential online personalities, netizens began to draw attention to many cases where public officials were responsible for spreading untruths. This underlined two distinct types of rumors: 民谣 (mínyáo, literally “citizen rumors”), and 官谣 (guānyáo, literally “official rumors”). As such, the following sentence seems to merely explain two types of kilns in Jingde Town:

景德镇民窑出敏感瓷,有的出自民窑 ,有的出自官窑。

The kilns of Jingde Town produce sensitive porcelain. Some comes from the citizen kilns, and some comes from official kilns.

“Official kilns” are a reference to the state-owned kilns of China's dynastic period, many of which can be seen today at heritage sights in Jingde Town. By replacing the character for “kiln” in the above sentence with the homophonic character for “rumor,” the sentence could be interpreted to mean “the rumor mills of Jingde Town make sensitive porcelain. Some come from citizen rumors, and some come from official rumors."

Another codeword for “China” is Celestial Empire.