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 Encyclopedia.com and Gotheborg.com
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 Vernon.org
“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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