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The Pilgrim Art

Cultures of Porcelain in World History

Robert Finlay

Publication Year: 2010

Illuminating one thousand years of history, The Pilgrim Art explores the remarkable cultural influence of Chinese porcelain around the globe. Cobalt ore was shipped from Persia to China in the fourteenth century, where it was used to decorate porcelain for Muslims in Southeast Asia, India, Persia, and Iraq. Spanish galleons delivered porcelain to Peru and Mexico while aristocrats in Europe ordered tableware from Canton. The book tells the fascinating story of how porcelain became a vehicle for the transmission and assimilation of artistic symbols, themes, and designs across vast distances—from Japan and Java to Egypt and England. It not only illustrates how porcelain influenced local artistic traditions but also shows how it became deeply intertwined with religion, economics, politics, and social identity. Bringing together many strands of history in an engaging narrative studded with fascinating vignettes, this is a history of cross-cultural exchange focused on an exceptional commodity that illuminates the emergence of what is arguably the first genuinely global culture.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: California World History Library


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xii

Note on Terminology

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

I should like to thank Mimi Gardner Gates, director of the Seattle Art Museum, for inviting me to participate in the conference “Porcelain Stories from China to Europe” in March 2000. As she and Julie Emerson, curator of decorative arts, explained, an essay I wrote on the global influence of Chinese porcelain played a role in inspiring the exhibition. The conference represents my only exposure to the congenial ...

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pp. 1-16

In 1598 Philip II of Spain was buried in the Escorial palace north of Madrid in a coffinmade fromthe keel of the Cinco Chagas de Cristo, a vessel that had served as the flagship of five viceroys of Goa in india, the center of the Portuguese maritime empire in Asia. Sailing for the Portuguese crown for over a quarter of a century, the teak-built carrack had made about nine round-trip voyages between Goa and ...

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1. The Porcelain City

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pp. 17-46

In the opening years of the eighteenth century, François-Xavier Dentrecolles established a church in Jingdezhen, the great porcelain center on the Chang river in the province of Jiangxi, southeastern China. A recruit for the French mission of the Jesuits, he was thirty-five years old when he arrived in Canton in 1698 on board the Amphitrite, a ship purchased by the Compagnie des indes orientales ...

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2. The Secrets of Porcelain

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pp. 47-80

In 1685 Joachim Bouvet and five fellow mathematicians constituted the first French Jesuit mission to China. Bouvet received the prestigious assignment to tutor the Kangxi emperor in geometry and philosophy, a task he believed would further the cause of Christianity. For the Jesuits, the most learned of the clerical orders, conversion and the search for knowledge went hand in hand. The Constitution drawn ...

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3. The Creation of Porcelain

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pp. 81-106

While a modern-day Dentrecolles certainly would find it substantially easier to learn about the history and nature of porcelain, problems of definition and interpretation still puzzle a newcomer to the subject. A central difficulty is that China and the West categorize porcelain differently in relation to earthenware and stoneware. based on a Western taxonomy, the contemporary view regards pottery as ...

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4. The Culture of Porcelain in China

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pp. 107-138

During the Song period, a Chinese writer exulted, “The ships which sail the Southern Sea and south of it are like houses.When their sails are spread, they are great clouds in the sky.”1 Government officials and private entrepreneurs had reason to look upon the huge junks with satisfaction, for their voyages contributed substantially to a flourishing economy despite costly, relentless threats from nomadi ...

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5. The Creation of Blue-and-White Porcelain

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pp. 139-174

From the perspective of Dentrecolles, the most celebrated wares of Jingdezhen presented something of amystery. learning fromlocal annals that “people here in times past made only white porcelain,” he wondered how it came about that in his day “one hardly sees any in Europe except those which have a vivid blue on awhite background.” When he questioned his parishioners about the origins of the coloring, ...

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6. The Primacy of Chinese Porcelain

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pp. 175-213

Matteoricci recounted that when he showed some Chinese officials a European map of the world, they were puzzled to find the Middle Kingdom placed at its farthest eastern margin.When he later drafted amap for the Wanli emperor, he therefore so arranged it that “the empire of China occupied amore or less central position.”naturally, Ricci was concerned to respect the sensibilities of his hosts (and potential ...

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7. The Triumph of Chinese Porcelain

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pp. 214-252

According to Matteo Ricci, the Confucian elite regarded peoples beyond their empire with scorn, differing “but little from the beasts of the fields and the forest,” because they lacked the social and political virtues characteristic of the Middle Kingdom. As he explained, “The few kingdoms contiguous to their state, of which they had any knowledge before they learned of the existence of Europe, were, in their ...

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8. The Decline and Fall of Chinese Porcelain

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pp. 253-296

In March 1602 two VOC ships from the province of Zeeland captured the Portuguese San Jago off the island of St.Helena in the South Atlantic, a convenient lay-over for carracks on the way home from Goa. The auction of its cargo of porcelain in Middleburg attracted considerable attention, assisted by the VOC, which ceremonially presented packages of dishes and bowls to many town councils and ...

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pp. 297-305

In the late eighteenth century, Louis-Sébastien Mercier expressed astonishment at the exhilarating, cosmopolitan life of Paris.The people thronging the streets, he said, included Japanese, indians, Persians, Laplanders, Hottentots, and Quakers. He noted that his contemporaries took up novelties in clothing and tableware with enthusiasm, akin to “electricity passing from one to another.” The commodities available ...


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pp. 307-336


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pp. 337-389


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pp. 391-415


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pp. 417-440

E-ISBN-13: 9780520945388
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520244689

Page Count: 440
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: California World History Library
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OCLC Number: 613205918
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Pilgrim Art

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Subject Headings

  • Porcelain industry -- Social aspects -- China -- History.
  • Porcelain, Chinese -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Porcelain -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Art and society.
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