The Zhunan Snake Kiln

The Zhunan Snake Kiln (竹南蛇窯) in Miaoli was founded in 1972, originally as the Heng Fa Pottery Factory (恆發陶瓷廠). That year, founder Lin Tien-fu (林添福) led a group of nine craftsmen to make 3,000 earthen bricks and spent nine days building this 25-meter-long snake kiln, which would mainly be used to make flowerpots. Today, the Zhunan Snake Kiln is among the best preserved of Taiwan’s few remaining snake kilns that can still be used to fire pottery.

The Zhunan Snake Kiln
(Photo: Culture and Tourism Bureau, Miaoli County)

Snake kilns were used to fire pottery for daily use in earlier times and can be found all over Taiwan. The name might give the mistaken impression that a snake kiln has a twisting zigzag shape, when in fact the kiln is long and straight without divisions in the middle. Because of the way masonry along the hillside appeared like a dragon when viewed from afar, the official kilns run by the government in ancient China were called dragon kilns. Dragon kilns in China were built to be long, very often reaching 80 to 100 meters in length. Around the 17th century, after this kind of kiln was introduced to Taiwan from the Minnan region of China, they became known as snake kilns.
Inside the Zhunan Snake Kiln
(Photo: Culture and Tourism Bureau, Miaoli County)

In the 1980s, the Zhunan Snake Kiln moved from the traditional pottery industry to folk crafts pottery. In recent years it has been dedicated to wood-fired pottery creations, research into pottery culture, study courses in traditional pottery skills and wood firing, and to promoting Taiwan’s pottery culture through international exchange activities.

In 2001, the Zhunan Snake Kiln was selected as one of the “hundred sights of national historic architecture” and in 2002 it attained Miaoli County historic architecture listing. In 2012, second-generation kiln owner Lin Jui-hwa (林瑞華) was named a Taiwan Crafts Specialist. The Zhunan Snake Kiln operates as a living museum, continuing to pass on Taiwanese pottery culture and promote the life aesthetics of wood-fired pottery, forging its own path between traditional crafts and modern art.

Zhunan Snake Kiln artistic director Deng Shu-hui (鄧淑慧), who also serves as chair of the Taiwan Pottery Culture Association, is passionate about the cultivation and exploration of pottery culture. In 2021, she launched a nationwide search for old pickling jars to carry out a survey and exhibition of Hakka pickling jars in the hope of preserving this rare Hakka craft.