Happy Chinese New Year to our 2Covet customers! Chinese New Year commences with the Spring festival on January 25th and finishes on February 8th with the Lantern festival.
2020 is the year of the rat, which in Chinese culture means we are all due a year of wealth and surplus.
So in the spirit of Chinese New Year, why not take a look at our incredible selection of Chinese porcelain from the dealers here at 2Covet and find out a little more about the history behind Chinese porcelain production.
Ming Dynasty Porcelain
Chinese Swatow Porcelain Large Bowl, circa 1600, Ming Dynasty
Ruling China between 1368-1644, the Ming Dynasty is renowned for its worldwide trade development, which also established cultural association with the West, and built upon China’s political influence in East Asia. Founded by Zhu Yuanzhang, the Ming Dynasty became a juxtaposition of stability and oppressive jurisdiction.
During this time, the porcelain of the era was perfected and exported, resulting in tremendous popularity in Europe. The process itself involves grinding china-stone mixed with china clay and baking at a high temperature until translucent, to reveal a perfectly smooth, white porcelain. This was perfected in Jingdezhen where the imperial porcelain factory became the main source of Ming porcelain exports. Various colours were used on the porcelain during the Ming Dynasty but the classic design is a beautiful white and blue pattern.
Pair Chinese Canton vases with panels finely decorated in iron red, c.1840
Established during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), the city of Canton, also know as Guangzhou, expanded its trade over half a millennium, to include the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Over the 2000 years following the Qin Dynasty, Canton progressed into an economic and cultural hotbed, in turn, creating a tourist haven whilst still reaping the trade benefits of a coastal port city.
Part of the thriving industry that contributed to the prosperity of Canton was porcelain production. Trade ships arrived at the port of Canton to deal in hard porcelain and other enticing Chinese commodities such as tea and silk. However, only the captain of the ship was allowed on shore to a nearby building, which meant the formula for hard porcelain was kept secret for a long time.
Only after the United States started successfully trading direct to China in 1784 did Canton porcelain become readily available, as captains would pick up generic, pre-made pieces and sell them directly from the ship on their return to the US - a huge benefit to those living near seaports. As the only hard porcelain available to Americans until the mid 1800s, Canton porcelain became a huge export and vastly popular. Now, Canton porcelain can be attributed to any porcelain leaving the Canton seaport, but also the distinct Canton pattern, also referred to as Nanking.
19th Century Chinese Porcelain
A Chinese 19th Century Blue and White porcelain clock garniture
During the 19th century, China experienced internal tension and Western constraint from the military and Imperialism. The formerly thriving porcelain port of Canton was in the midst of two opium wars, resulting in ‘treaty ports’ that opened up along to coast to trade foreign jurisdictions on Chinese territory.
Daoguang Emporor ruled China from 1821-1850. His personal enjoyment of literature and the arts meant a slight revival of the porcelain industry occurred during this period. Whilst artistic evolution and ownership struggled to flourish under Xianfeng (1851-1874), the porcelain of the Jingdezhen kilns carried on mass producing as usual. However, porcelain from the Xianfeng reign has become increasingly rare due to the troublesome Taiping Rebellion which largely destroyed the Jingdezhen Imperial Kilns.