Our namesake, Père François-Xavier d'Entrecolles (1664 - 1741) was a French Jesuit missionary - and the world’s first industrial spy.
The Chinese were the first to invent translucent, white, hard-paste porcelain during the Tang dynasty (618—907AD). They fired a mixture of china clay and china stone at very high temperatures, and kept the recipe secret for hundreds of years.
By the 18th-century they had a booming monopoly on production. The great and the good of Europe were desperate for this elegant, exotic material and it became so expensive that it became known as 'white gold'.
Françoise-Xavier d’Entrecolles, was born in Lyon France, 1664. He became a Jesuit in 1682 and went to China in 1698. The Jesuits, the most learned of the catholic orders, called for the constant collection and publication of information in all forms.
As a missionary sent to China during the eighteenth century, d’Entrecolles was tasked with spying on the world's most productive economy and their most valuable secret - Chinese china.
By 1700 Xavier had reached Jingdezhen, which was the capital of porcelain production. It took him another ten years, however, to break into the private community and discover the secrets of china.
Eventually, in 1712, he wrote up his discoveries in a letter:
My Reverend Father,
The visits that I have made from time to time at Jingdezhen… have given me in turn an opportunity to instruct myself concerning the manner in which one makes this beautiful porcelain which is so admired and which is exported to all parts of the world… I believe that a detailed description of all that is concerned with this sort of work should be of some use in Europe.
For the very first time the secrets of Chinese porcelain were shared with the western world. It details ingredients, materials, recipes, mixing, shaping, purifying, rolling, shaping - and firing. It also described the unique Chinese worker assembly lines, which inspired British potter and entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood many years later.