A selection of ceramics through the ages (5 second delay) Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology The Collections:
PotWeb: Ceramics online
@ the Ashmolean Museum
Early Europe & Near East
Classical to Medieval
Europe from 1500
Oriental & Islamic

Japanese Export Porcelain in the Ashmolean Museum

The Background to Japanese Export Porcelain

Events in China
From the 14th century China's merchant fleet had been trading with the countries of South East Asia and further afield usually through Arab and Persian traders. The Chinese traded silks, lacquer ware and porcelain for spices, rare woods, metals and other raw materials. In the 16th century the Portuguese merchants established entrepots in the Far East and thus more Chinese products reached Europe. In 1600 and 1602 respectively, the English and Dutch East India Companies were set up and by 1650 the Dutch East India Company had become dominant in the Far East.

Chinese porcelain was in demand because, except for Korea and Annam (Vietnam), nowhere else was this high fired, hard and durable ceramic obtainable. The porcelain industry was mainly centred around the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen and was an important source of revenue for the government. Thus the Chinese export trade evolved. Some wares were specifically manufactured for the Islamic market, some to the taste of the South East Asian countries and yet others to the requirements of the Europeans. There was also a significant group of wares made for the Japanese market.

By the beginning of the 17th century the Ming dynasty in China was in decline. The Emperor was a weak ruler and the country was run by the eunuchs who imposed heavy taxes. There was agrarian unrest and eventual civil war, which ended the Ming dynasty in 1643. However, in the period from 1650 to 1680 the output of the porcelain industry in Jingdezhen fell drastically as a result of continuing civil disturbances. This led the Dutch and Chinese merchants to seek porcelain from Japan.

Image: Chinese Junk Map of South East Asia


Back to Introduction

Events in Japan
Back to Ceramics Collection Page   Back to PotWeb Home Page
© Copyright University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 2004
The Ashmolean Museum retains the copyright of all materials
used here and in its Museum Web pages.
last updated: jcm/2-feb-2004
Link to Hotei Publishing, Amsterdam