People have determination, craze, and money, but not many go as far as the 86-year-old woman from Jingdezhen, Eastern China, who has spent nearly $900,000 in five years for building a palace decorated entirely with ceramic pieces. Yu Ermei has been called crazy for investing so much in her ‘porcelain palace’ but dreams are dreams, and you have to do whatever you can you make them come true. At least that is what she thought and said that her life would have been incomplete without it.
The idea of the palace popped in Yu’s mind some six years ago, and her family thought it was insanity coming up due to old age. Living in China’s porcelain capital Jingdezhen since 12 years of age, the ceramic palace grew up into Yu’s life dream. She worked in ceramic business most of her life, so she wished to leave something behind to honor the city for giving her that life. She first worked as an apprentice in a porcelain workshop and then as a worker in two factories. When she had gained enough experience, she opened up her own kiln and a porcelain factory making herself a significant fortune. She returned this fortune to the city in the form of the palace which is meant as a tribute to ceramics.
Yu sold ceramics all over the world and in the last 30 years of her life, she began to collect them for herself. Her collections grew massive, and she was unable to decide what to do with them and then she came across the famous Porcelain House of Tianjin build by ceramic enthusiasts. The house gave Yu the perfect idea to use her collection of more than 60,000 pieces of porcelain.
To bring her dream to reality, Yu bought some land in the village just outside Jingdezhen and began to work on a circular building only to decorate it with thousands of ceramic pieces. Once completed, the palace was spread over 1,200 square meters entirely made up of broken porcelain weighing 80 tonnes that went into both the material and the decorations.
The Palace is not just a set of walls crammed with ceramic pieces; it is a beautiful architectural piece featuring stunning mosaics, all inspired by the rich Chinese culture whether it was phoenixes or dragons, Chinese zodiacs or Tai Chi symbols. The insides are even more remarkable, with the walls embedded with shiny ceramic pieces all over with plates and bowls hanging from the ceiling and the windows are shaped to look the porcelain vases.
The incredible palace did not just cost Yu five years of her life, but the building material set her back by 6 million yuan ($880,000), and the intact porcelain used in the decor is not included in this cost. She says that the worth of her porcelain collection is 40 million yuan ($5.8 million) and she even got an offer of $3.7 million from a collector in Beijing which she refused without even consideration even when her family begged her to.
The considerable fortune that she spent on building her dream palace does not compare with her happiness upon completion. What she considers to be the most meaningful achievement of her life, the porcelain palace has now become a tourist attraction, and Yu Ermei hopes it will attract many sightseers from around the world.
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