The Historical Popularity of Chinese Porcelain

April 26, 2017

The wide array of ceramics and Chinese porcelains that made their way to George Washington‘s residence at Mount Vernon were a testament not only to his own personal taste but also reflected a popular fashion among the American elite.

Mount Vernon.org says, George Washington received his first shipment of porcelains from England in 1758 from a London merchant named Richard Washington. Although the journey across the Atlantic was often unforgiving for fragile ceramics, Washington happily reported that he received his order “without any breakage.”

Chinese porcelain originated in the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC). 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 popular 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

This hunger for Chinese products like porcelain, 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 level the trade imbalance.

After the Opium Wars, China sold the West silk, porcelain and tea while the West sold the Chinese opium.


Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) vase sells at Auction for $21.6 million.


Sotheby’s Masterpieces of Qing Dynasty Imperial Porcelain (1644 – 1912)

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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