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Translation - English TV Series “Porcelain in the World - The Story of Chinese Export Porcelain”
About Export Porcelain
1. The Broad Definition of Export Porcelain
Broadly speaking, Chinese export porcelain is porcelain made in China that is sold outside of China through means of trade.
From the artifacts found on wrecked ships and archaeological evidence found from porcelain pieces, one can see that Yue green porcelain, Xing white porcelain, and Changsha underglaze painted porcelain were all exported in large quantities. There were even more kilns specializing in exportation during the Song dynasty, which were mostly centered around Jiangxi and Fujian. During the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, it was mostly the kilns in Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong that manufactured export porcelain.
The export of Chinese porcelain went on for a long time. Exportation in bulk amounts had been going on since the Tang dynasty, and all the way through the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. This went on for about a millennium, starting from the 8th century CE, and continuing to the 18th century CE.
2. The Narrow Definition of Export Porcelain
From the period of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming dynasty to the middle of the Qing dynasty, export porcelain was namely produced in Jingdezhen (some was also produced in Fujian and Guangdong). After the age of exploration, export porcelain became one of the important commodities of global trade which was lead by trade companies from Europe. The Chinese porcelain that was sold to European and American markets by the East India Companies of various western nations via the trade route from the Pacific Ocean, to the Indian Ocean, and then finally to the Atlantic Ocean came to be known as “export porcelain of the Ming and Qing dynasties.” This period started in the 16th century CE and ended in the 18th century CE, and lasted approximately 300 years. This television series will tell the story of export porcelain during this period of 300 years.
It goes without mentioning that porcelain was exported during the end of the Qing dynasty, the period of the Republic of China, and currently in the times of the People’s Republic of China. Even during the “cultural revolution”, there was foreign export of porcelain made in state-owned porcelain factories in Jingdezhen. One can say that these periods are the aftermath of export porcelain, but they are not the most crucial periods.
2. The Domestic Kilns and Foreign Markets of Chinese Export Porcelain
1. Domestic Kilns: Yue Kiln, Xing Kiln, Changsha Kiln, Longquan Kiln, Tongan Kiln, Cizhou Kiln, Dehua Kiln, Pinghe Kiln, Jingdezhen Kiln, Zhangzhou Kiln, Cizao Kiln.
2. Foreign Markets: Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Egypt, Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England, France, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Mexico, the United States.
3. The Maritime Ceramic Road
1. Since the Sui and Tang dynasties, Chinese shipbuilding and navigation techniques have progressed and matured more and more. With the opening up of ocean routes and the convenience of ocean shipping, large quantities of commodities such as Chinese silk, tea, and porcelain were shipped overseas. These commodities were sold to places such as South-East Asia and the Middle East, and they even reached the Mediterranean Sea. People call this historical oceanic global trade route that connects East Asia, West Asia, and the Mediterranean Sea the “Maritime Silk Road.” Beginning in the Song dynasty, porcelain exports gradually outpassed those of silk, and gained an advantage among export commodities. After conducting archaeological surveys on this maritime trade route, the Japanese scholar Mikami Tsugio thought: This route is both a “ceramic link” between the eastern and western worlds of the middle ages, and it is also a bridge of cultural exchange between the two. Thus, it should be called the “Ceramic Road.”
2. Before the 16th century, a trade network encompassing half of the world was established by the maritime ceramic road, which was lead by China. This route went through the Pacific and Indian oceans, and a trade area between South-East and North-East Asia was set up, with China as its center.
3. After the 16th century, a trade network encompassing the entire world was established by the maritime trade route, which this time was lead by European powers. With the establishment of a route between the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans came the arrival of the period of globalization. Furthermore, Chinese porcelain would play the role as the first globalized commodity in the history of human trade.
4. The Route of Chinese Export Ceramics
1. Important Ports of Exportation:
Guangzhou-- From the Tang Dynasty to the Northern Song Dynasty, the main port was the Port of Guangzhou, the next mainly used port was the Port of Mingzhou.
Quanzhou-- From the Southern Song Dynasty to the Yuan Dynasty, the importance of the Port of Quanzhou in foreign trade was more than that of the Port of Guangzhou.
2. The Route of Export Porcelain of the Tang Dynasty
There were three major areas that China had trade relations with during the Tang dynasty: The first was in South-East Asia, where Srivijaya (located close to Palembang, Sumatra) was the main hub; The second was in South Asia, where India was the main hub; The final one was in Arabia.
Guangzhou to Persian Gulf Route; Guangzhou to East and Northern Africa Route; Yangzhou and Mingzhou to Korea and Japan Route.
3. The Route of Export Porcelain of the Song Dynasty
Basically the same as the Tang dynasty.
4. The Route of Export Porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty
Basically the same as the Tang and Song dynasties. The importance of the Port of Quanzhou increased.
5. The Route of Export Porcelain of the Ming Dynasty
During the Ming dynasty, the foreign trade route of Chinese porcelain was basically the same as the route taken by Zheng He’s fleet when he sailed to the west. This trade route traversed over 30 countries throughout Asia and Africa, leading to places such as the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, and East Africa. Chinese pottery has been discovered the most along the coasts of Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania.
6. The Route of Export Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty
In the early Qing dynasty, the export of Chinese porcelain was carried out through civil trade. In 1684, after the policy Haijin was uplifted, boats from coastal areas such as Fujian, Zhejiang, and Guangdong were able to go back onto the oceans to conduct trade.
From the beginning of the 18th century to the 1830s, England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden established trade organizations in Guangzhou one after another with the permission of the Qing court. Some countries’ vessels were granted permission to navigate directly to Guangzhou and transport Chinese porcelain back to Europe.
5. The Maritime Road to Wealth
In 1514, Portuguese navigators arrived at the coast of Guangzhou and made the first trade between a European country and China.
In 1553 a Portuguese merchant vessel set anchor in Macao, and later received residency in Macao. Many Portuguese merchant vessels had dealings with Lisbon, Goa, Macao, and Guangzhou, which allowed them to develop a never-before-seen “Maritime Road to Wealth.”
During this time, Spain turned the Philippines into a stronghold for trade with China. In 1571, the famous Manila Port was opened. Every year about 30 or 40 Chinese galleons would arrive at this port to sell tea, silk, and porcelain. Spanish merchant ships would then go on to buy the commodities and transport them back to Spain.
In 1571, Dutch fleets arrived in Manila. Out of nowhere, the Dutch attacked Portuguese fleets returning from the Far East on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and plundered the Chinese goods that they were carrying.
6. The East India Company
In order to gain the maximum amount of economic profits from trade with the east, a few European countries worked together to set up a trade company. England, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Austria, Spain, and eight other countries came together to set up the East India Company, which specialized in dealing in trade with the east.
In December, 1600, a group of entrepreneurial and influential English businessmen came together to set up the joint-stock British East India Company.
On March 20, 1602, 14 Dutch companies dealing in trade with East India merged together to form the joint-stock Dutch East India Company.
The two companies received the rights from their respective countries to organize their own armies, issue currency, make alliances and proclaim war with other countries, make treaties, and colonize areas and rule over them. One can say that in essence they were not unlike “real countries.”
In December, 1799, the Dutch East India company disbanded. It lasted for 197 years.
In 1858, the British East India Company was dissolved. It lasted for 258 years.
When the British and Dutch East India Companies were involved in trading with China, they were deeply involved in the history of that period in Chinese history.
Conservative estimates state that between 1602 - 1682, the Dutch East India Company imported approximately 12 million pieces of porcelain from China. During the early part of the 18th century, transported anywhere from 25 - 30 million pieces of Chinese porcelain to Europe.
One of the commercial motives behind the Dutch East India Company’s capture of Taiwan was so that they could set up a division for trade with the Far East in Chikan ( now located in modern-day Tainan City ) and store up the porcelain they gathered along the Chinese coast in the area. After this, they would transport the porcelain to Japan, countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Arabia, and Europe.
The British East India Company dumped opium into China to balance out trade between England and China. The exportation of Chinese commodities, including porcelain, to Europe brought in a continuous flow of silver into the “secret silver chest” of China. On the other hand, English goods were unable to enter the self-sustaining Chinese market. The imbalance of trade between Chinese and England finally caused the British East India Company to introduce large amounts of opium to China. China lost a lot of silver due to this, and this led to the Qing government’s “destruction of opium at Humen”. The Opium Wars started shortly thereafter.
7. Major Archaeological Sites of Chinese Porcelain Found Abroad
The ruins of Fustat located near Cairo, Egypt was the political, commercial, and pottery-making center of ancient Egypt between the 7th-10th century CE. (Pieces of porcelain from the Tang Dynasty have been found in this location, such as Changsha kiln porcelain, Yue kiln porcelain, and Xing kiln porcelain.)
The ruins of Siraf near the Persian Gulf. (Porcelain originating from the period of the Five Dynasties and the Song Dynasty have been excavated in this location, such as Longquan kiln porcelain.)
The ruins of the Dutch Trading Post in Hirado, Japan. (Porcelain from the Ming dynasty has been found here, such as blue-and-white porcelain from Jingdezhen.)
8. Important Shipwrecks and Chinese Porcelain
1. (Indonesia) The Batu Hitam Shipwreck and Changsha kiln porcelain: In 1998, the ship was discovered by Indonesian fishermen. From 1998 - 2001 the ship was salvaged by a German company. The ship sunk in an area northwest of Belitung Island, Indonesia. It was an Arab merchant vessel. There were over 60,000 pieces of Chinese ceramic found on the ship, and 56,500 of them were from the kilns of Changsha.
2. (Indonesia) The Cirebon Shipwreck and Yue kiln porcelain: From 2003 - 2005, two groups of underwater archaeologists from Indonesia and the west collaborated in salvaging this shipwreck. Among the artifacts found, a large majority of them, about 300,000 , were celadon porcelain pieces made from the kilns of Yue. One of the pieces, which is a bowl decorated with a protruding lotus petal pattern, has “made by Xuji in the year of Wuchen”, the time period of this piece was determined to be 968 CE.
3. (China) The Nanhai One of the Southern Song Dynasty shipwreck had export porcelain on it such as Dehua kiln porcelain, Longquan porcelain, and Cizao porcelain.
4. (China) The Wanjiao One shipwreck had export porcelain on it made in Jingdezhen during the period of Emperor Kangxi.
5. (Vietnam) The Vung Tau shipwreck had export porcelain on it made in Jingdezhen during the period of Emperor Kangxi.
6. (Vietnam) The Binh Thuan shipwreck had export porcelain on it from the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty.
7. (Vietnam) The Ca Mau shipwreck had export porcelain on it from the period of Emperor Yongzheng.
9. The Exportation of Blue-and-White Porcelain of the Yuan Dynasty
1. In 2010, the underwater archaeological team for the Paracel Islands that was formed by the National Museum of China’s Center for Underwater Archaeological Research and the Hainan Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics found original blue-and-white porcelain pieces from the Yuan Dynasty at the shipwreck site of “Stone Islet #2.”
2. Earlier on during the end of the 1980s, blue-and-white porcelain from the Yuan Dynasty was found in places such as East Java and Sarawak. The National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta has a portion of them in their collections, but a majority of them are in the hands of private collectors.
3. Yuan Dynasty blue-and-white porcelain was namely exported to Islamic countries. After the maritime silk road become more traversable, Islamic countries started to order blue-and-white porcelain from China. They used Chinese blue-and-white porcelain to decorate their palaces, mosques, and tombstones.
4. Smalt was used in Yuan dynasty blue-and-white porcelain. It is recommended that the film crew goes to Iran to inquire about the smalt (cobalt) mining site.
5. At the beginning of the 14th century, Muslim businessmen from Quanzhou and the kiln owners in Jingdezhen worked together to develop a never-before-seen business venture: They would transport cobalt stone from Persia, which was more than 8,000 kilometers away, to China. Then, they would sell the porcelain specifically made for Islamic clientele to markets in Southwest Asia. The birth of blue-and-white porcelain came from the hands of businessmen from Quanzhou. These Muslim businessmen would sell cobalt as a medicinal material in their pharmacies. On the other hand, porcelain makers in Jingdezhen discovered that their colorless glazes could prevent the smalt coloring from radiating in different directions during the firing process. Thus, they were able to paint complex and detailed images on the surface of the white porcelain. Until then, this was impossible to do in porcelain painting.
6. Smalt cobalt was twice the price of gold. Just one five-hundred-thousandth is enough to produce color, and just one five-thousandth is enough to produce the brightest blue ever. During the painting process, if just a little dot of smalt cobalt dripped down onto a piece of paper and dried out, A painter could still use it to paint again. Some overseers would even force their painters to put both their arms through a wood screen to paint in order to prevent them from taking away any precious blue glaze.
7. Chinese porcelain and the Ottoman empire: The Topkapi Palace Museum of Turkey has thousands of pieces of Chinese porcelain from the Yuan dynasty in their collection. Among these, 40 of them are classic specimens of blue-and-white porcelain from the Zhizheng period. Why is there so much Chinese porcelain stored in the palace of the Ottoman empire? Why are these specimens of porcelain so perfectly preserved? (War trophies, tributes, gifts, “ ----”
8. Yuan dynasty blue-and-white porcelain was not produced to meet the demands of the domestic Chinese market, nor was it for the pleasure of Yuan dynasty rulers. Rather, it was for foreign markets, namely Islamic markets. Yuan dynasty blue-and-white porcelain originated from the demands of foreign markets and the import of high-quality cobalt after porcelain making techniques developed to a certain degree in Jingdezhen.
10. “Kraak Porcelain”
1. In 1602, the Dutch East India Company captured a Portuguese carrack merchant vessel in the Straits of Malacca. There were over 100,000 pieces of Wanli blue-and-white porcelain on the vessel. In 1604, the porcelain was auctioned off in Amsterdam, and caused a sensation across Europe. Afterwards, Chinese porcelain became very popular in Europe. People called the beautiful Chinese blue-and-white export porcelain “Kraak porcelain.”
2. The peak of Jingdezhen’s manufacture of Kraak porcelain has been estimated to be from the Wanli period of the Ming dynasty to the Tianqi period, which is approximately between 1573-1627 CE.
3. According to archaeological surveys conducted at the old district of Jingdezhen from the 1980s onwards, Kraak porcelain was manufactured widely throughout the area, and there were a numerous amount of kilns that were used in firing Kraak porcelain. The Guanyinge kiln was one of these kilns.
4. In the December of 2005 and 2006, The China Guardian Auction Company auctioned off some Kraak porcelain titled as “South China Sea Porcelain” found in the South China Sea by a person from Sweden, and it was confirmed to be produced from the Guanyinge kiln of Jingdezhen.
5. The style of Kraak porcelain was a new decorative style, neither holding Chinese or western elements, that was made by the people of Jingdezhen based off the interests of Europeans. This type of export porcelain was made specially to cater to European markets.
14. Arches of Lisbon
The city of Lisbon built multiple arches to welcome the new kings Philip II and Philip III when the were coronated as the kings of Portugal. In 1619, a arch was built in honor of King Philip III by a local potter when he came to the city. The painting on the gate depicted a scene of several Portuguese carrack merchant vessels loading and unloading wares at the Lisbon harbor: The wares being unloaded were real porcelain transported from China, and the wares being loaded onto the vessel were Portuguese imitations that were to be sold to other European countries. The inscription proudly states: “Our goods are sold around the world too.” There was once a fable character that raised a blue-and-white pottery piece labeled “Porcelain” in offering to the King and said: “Your most kind and noble majesty/ We offer to you this holy work of art/ It was made right in our ancient kingdom/ However, China often sells the same thing to us for a much higher price!”
Years of translation experience: 4. Registered at ProZ.com: Jun 2016.