Yu Ermei, and 86-year-old woman from Jingdezhen, Eastern China, has spent around $900,000 and five years of her life building a “palace” completely decorated with ceramic pieces. Most people consider her insane for spending so much time and money on this project, but she says that her life would be incomplete without it.
When Yu came up with the idea for her unique porcelain palace, six years ago, her family thought she had become senile, but she tried to explain that this was her life’s dream. Jingdezhen is considered “China’s porcelain capital” and having lived here since age 12, the woman wanted to leave something behind in honor of the city that had shaped her existence. She had worked in the ceramics business for most of her life, first as an apprentice in a porcelain workshop, then as a worker in two state-owned factories, before gaining enough experience to open her own kiln and porcelain factory, which ended up making her a sizable fortune. This palace would be her way of giving back to Jingdezhen and a tribute to ceramics.
Apart from selling porcelain all over China and abroad, Yu Ermei had also been collecting ceramics for the last 30 years of her life, but she didn’t know what to do with her sizable collections, until she saw the famous Porcelain House of Tianjin, built by a like-minded ceramics enthusiasts. She found it exquisite and knew immediately that she had found a purpose for her own collection of over 60,000 pieces of porcelain.
Yu bought a piece of land in a village outside Jingdezhen and started work on a large circular building that was going to be completely decorated with various pieces of ceramics. Nearly completed, the palace now takes up more than 1,200 square meters and consists of around 80 tonnes of broken porcelain, used both as building material and decorations.
Yu Ermei’s amazing porcelain palace is a sight to behold, featuring bright shiny mosaic patterns inspired by various elements of Chinese culture, from dragons and phoenixes, to signs of the Chinese zodiac and Tai Chi symbols. But the inside is truly breathtaking. Porcelain covers virtually everything. The floors and walls are completely covered with pieces of ceramics, and there are plates and bowls hanging from the ceiling. Even the windows are shaped like porcelain vases, and you struggle to find an inch of space that’s not porcelain. It’s just the way the 86-year-old dreamed.
Ermei claims that building the porcelain palace cost her a small fortune, around 6 million yuan ($880,000), and that’s not including the value of the intact porcelain used as decorations. She claims that is worth 40 million yuan ($5.8 million), and she had even gotten an offer of $3.7 million for her collection, from a collector in Beijing, but she didn’t even consider it, despite her family’s pleas.
Despite the physical and financial burden of this epic undertaking, Yu Ermei says that she couldn’t be happier. She hopes that her unique palace of ceramics will attract tourists and improve the lives of the locals. She considers the intricately decorated structure her most meaningful and memorable achievement.