Cultural Interaction

17th and18th Century Chinese and European Ceramics

Geographic distance has never been the barrier to cultural communication between the East and the West. As early as in Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E - 220 A.D) Chinese sent out expeditions to the West and began to establish the important Silk Route. Through the trade between the East and West, the people of these two cultures brought each other their own technologies, styles and believes, and left a continuous pattern of cultural interaction. With the improvement of trans-continental transportation after the 16th century and European's aggression for sea exploration, the contact between Europe and China was much more pronounced than at any previous age. 
In 17th and 18th century Chinese porcelain was one of the favored foreign products imported into Europe. Attracted to the beauty of Chinese porcelains and the market demand for Chinese styles, European ceramists started to imitate Chinese porcelain designs while they experimented with different materials to achieve Chinese porcelain's appearance. While the Chinese had great impact on European ceramic industries, the Chinese ceramic world was also enriched by the increased cultural contact with Europe. After the 16th century Jesuits arrived in China, although they failed to convert many Chinese to Christianity, they successfully introduced European art styles which resulted in the development of a new color palate, for example, the famille rose, and painting in grisaille on porcelain. The profitable porcelain trade attracted European merchants to the Chinese trade port, Canton. They brought paintings and models to have their orders custom made. Many Chinese export porcelains are clearly the products of the marriage of Western design and Chinese manufacturing. 
This web site provides images of some 17th and 18th century ceramics made in China and Europe. If an image can tell a story, these images tell a story of cultural interaction.
All images are copyrighted by Kathleen Cohen