More than 3,000 Years of Chinese Porcelain

Chinese porcelain originated in the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC), and Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province is a well-known Chinese city where porcelain has been an important production center in China since the early Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

From China, caravans carried its famous Chinese porcelains west: ceramic lusterware, lacquerware – snow-white vases, bowls, glasses, and dishes with sophisticated patterns. It was solely the Chinese who knew the secret of making the thinnest and resonant porcelain, making it very expensive in European markets. Silk Road and

Chinese porcelain was also available in the American colonies as early as the seventeenth century, but it did not become commonplace until after 1730. Before the U.S. Revolution, porcelain was exported to the colonies mainly by English and Dutch traders. European traders sailed to Canton (Guangzhou) in southern China, exchanged their goods for Chinese products, and then returned to sell porcelain and other Chinese imports on the European and colonial markets. In addition to porcelain, teas and silks were also exported from China in large quantities. Mount

“The demand for Chinese products—tea, porcelain, silk, and nankeen (a coarse, strong cotton cloth)—continued after the Revolution. Having seen the British make great profits from the trade when the colonies were prevented from direct trade with China, Americans were eager to secure these profits for themselves.” Source: Early American Trade With China

This hunger for Chinese products, while the Chinese found little in the West to buy, led to the Opium Wars, which Britain and France started and won to force China to even the trade imbalance. Then China sold the West silk, porcelain and tea while the West sold China opium.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.


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11 Responses to More than 3,000 Years of Chinese Porcelain

  1. Although I’ve reduced my collection to more manageable proportions, I still have a lot of very old porcelain. I love it. When I hold it, it is tangible history. AND it is beautiful. None of my pieces are perfect, none are museum quality … but they have survived for (in some cases) millenium and now they have passed to me. It makes me happy to have them in m world.

    • Have you written about your collection of porcelain and posted photos on your Blog?

      • A couple of times. I’ll probably do it again. I need better pictures. The pottery is surprising hard to photograph without studio lighting.

      • My wife likes to take pictures in the morning from the early morning light that arrives before the sun comes up and creates shadows, reflection and glare. That seems to work.

      • Our house is very dark. We live in a woods and the trees block most of the light. What I’ve done in the past is take pieces outside and shoot them on the deck, in natural light. I just can’t do it this time of year. But I don’t like flash and while I do have some lights, I haven’t set them up in a long time and I would have to unearth them from the attic, which is a big deal given the folding attic stairs are not aging well. But maybe I’ll do it anyway. I don’t think I can shoot them until spring, otherwise.

      • Be careful on those folding attic stairs.

      • They are scary. But better me than my 275 lb. son. Garry just looks at them an frowns. He’s not afraid of heights, but he doesn’t like the look of those attic stairs. Neither do I, but there is no other way to get to the attic.

      • Is there anyway to strengthen them and make repairs from the bottom before climbing?

      • We’ve repaired them. They are 40 years old. They need to be replaced, but they are expensive. Eventually, we’ll find some money somewhere, but for now, we have to make do.

      • If the hardware is in good shape—which is probably isn’t—why not replace the wood parts one piece at a time?

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