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Chinese export porcelain

Porcelain made and decorated in China for export. The term covers a wide range of porcelains made from the 16th century to the 20th century. Earlier than that wares are usually called "Trade porcelain" and occur mostly from the Song and Yuan dynasties. The later wares include Kraak porcelain, stoneware from the Yixing potteries, blanc-de-Chine, blue-and-white, famille jaune, noire, rose, verte, Chinese Imari, armorial wares, Canton porcelain and Straits Chinese enameled wares. They differ from porcelain made for use within China, by their shapes as well as their decorations, which are adapted to suit the taste of the local market.

The trade in Chinese porcelain was started by the Portuguese in the mid 16th century and continued by the Dutch until the mid-17th century when civil wars caused by the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 disrupted supplies. The attention was then turned to Japan, stimulating the country's ceramic industry and developing its export trade in porcelain. A special position in export wares are the Transitional wares made in China, of extremely high quality catering to the Japanese refined taste and the taste of the Chinese literati. After the establishing of the Qing dynasty and under the patronage of the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722) the Chinese porcelain industry at Jingdezhen was re-organized and the export trade was soon flourishing again.

Objects produced included imposing garnitures of vases, dishes, tea wares, ewers and other useful wares, figure models, animals, and birds. Blanc-de-Chine porcelain and Yixing stoneware arrived in Europe, giving inspiration to many of the European potters. A wide variety of shapes were made, some of Chinese or Islamic origin, others copying faience or metalwork. All manner of figures in the Oriental style were popular, including Chinese gods and goddesses such as Guanyin - the goddess of mercy, and Budai - the god of contentment, figures with nodding heads, seated monks and laughing boys. Also popular but rare were European-inspired figures of Dutch men and women. From the mid-18th century, even copies of Meissen figures such as Tyrolean dancers were made for export to Europe. Birds and animals were popular throughout the 18th century, sometimes made as sauce tureens and covers or as life-sized goose tureens and covers. Cows, cranes, dogs, eagles, elephants, pheasants, monkeys, parrots, and puppies were all produced to meet the seemingly insatiable European demand for the oriental.

From c.1720, the new Famille rose palette was adopted and quickly supplanted the earlier famille verte porcelains of the Kangxi period (1662-1722).

The finer quality wares seems mostly to have been ordered by private traders among the ship's officials. The bulk export wares of the 18th century were typically tea wares and dinner services, often blue-and-white decorated with flowers, pine, prunus and bamboo or with pagoda landscapes. These were ordered year after year in a steady stream slowly changing by the developing taste of the market. By the late 18th century, imports of Chinese porcelain were in decline. The competition from new European factories using mass-production techniques finally made the hand painted products from China obsolete until it were re-discovered as "antiques" by the late 19th century.

It is finally not always easy to define whether certain pieces were made for domestic use or export since many pieces have found their way to many locales in the world in the 20th C they most likely were not originally intended for.