Alchemy and Industrial Espionage: Chinese porcelain’s hidden history
“”Chinese porcelain was the first man-made global product”—Hillary Young senior curator in the V&A ceramic’s department
Since Tranquil Tuesdays produces artisan porcelain teaware handcrafted in Jingdezhen, we are so excited the National Museum of China in Beijing is currently showing “Passion for Porcelain” a visiting exhibition from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The exhibit highlights China’s porcelain trade with Europe.
We read a great interview with the curators of the exhibit in TimeOut Beijing and wanted to share with you some highlights.
- ancient Chinese porcelain making is a world-class tradition
“During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Chinese technology was superior to anything made in Europe at that time says Luisa Mengonie the curator of Chinese ceramics at the V&A…So prized was porcelain that it became known as ‘white gold’.”
- PEOPLE WERE SLEEPING WITH KILN MASTERS DAUGHTERS TO FIND OUT THE SECRET OF PORCELAIN MAKING!
“Since the late 16th century, Europeans had been trying to crack the secret of making porcelain…It was not until over one hundred years later in 1710 that Europe produced its first real porcelain.
“Johann Friedrick Bottger escaped the Prussian court fearing for his life and was offered protection from Augustus the Strong of Saxony on the condition that he produced porcelain.”
“Bottger’s secrets were spread all around Europe by industrial spies. People were sleeping with kiln-masters’ daughters to find out the secret.”
- China was trading their prized porcelain pieces with the Middle East and South East Asia long before they traded with Europe.
At first the porcelain that arrived in Europe was not made with Europeans in mind. They were fashioned in typically Chinese styles or in shapes copied from wares from the Middle East (a market since the 9th century).
You can read the complete interview on page 48 and 49 of TimeOut Beijing’s print edition (doesn’t seem to be anywhere online yet). After we take a company field trip to visit the exhibit itself, we will definitely post more photos and more exciting tidbits that we learn!
- Explore the stories behind each of Tranquil Tuesdays teas and teaware
- Travel with Tranquil Tuesdays seeking the best teas and teaware in China
- Learn the historical and cultural elements that make Chinese tea and teaware so unique