The lure of Chinese Ceramics and the Early Modern World at the Museum of East Asian Art

By Richard Moss | 18 October 2010
a photo of a Chinese ceramic vessel with dragon pattern
Wucai kendi with dragons, Qing dyansty, early Kangxi period (1662-1683)© The Museum of East Asian Art
Exhibition: Chinese Ceramics and the Early Modern World, Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, until December 12 2010

As anyone who watches the Antiques Roadshow will know, the fascination with Chinese ceramics has been a constant among collectors and enthusiasts for centuries.

Now this global phenomenon is being explored in an exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath.

Chinese Ceramics in the Early Modern World looks in detail at the "universal desire" of the exquisite objects made between 1300 and 1800, taking visitors on a remarkable journey of cross-cultural encounters which stretches right across the globe.

a large blue patterned porcelain vessel with large lid and two handles
Kangxi export for the Middle Eastern market (1690- 1710)© The Museum of East Asian Art
Ceramic objects manufactured in southern Chinese kilns, especially the porcelain capital of Jingdezhen, became some of the most universally desired products in the world. Both functional and collectable, they were also the bearers of culture that could be interpreted or absorbed in different ways as Chinese imports influenced many of the indigenous ceramic traditions they encountered.

In Europe, the impact was enormous. The clamour for Chinese porcelain in the Early Modern period became known as "China Mania". The victims of these epidemics took in everyone from monarchs and merchants to the lowly collector in his garret.

Modern day visitors who are similarly burdened will doubtless be eager to explore the roots of this affliction - commonly known as the maladie de porcelaine - and see some exquisite pots at the same time.

The exhibition has been developed in partnership with the University of Warwick’s, AHRC-funded Global Jingdezhen research project,seeking to bring the specialist views and ideas of academics to a wider audience.
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