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The Pilgrim Art

The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History

Robert Finlay
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    The Pilgrim Art
    Book Description:

    Illuminating one thousand years of history,The Pilgrim Artexplores 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94538-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List Of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. [Maps]
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1598 Philip II of Spain was buried in the Escorial palace north of Madrid in a coffin made from the keel of theCinco 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 Lisbon, twice as many as the usual transport. The two legs of thecarreira da Índia,“roadway to india,” added up to 37,000 kilometers, a journey that...

  8. 1 The Porcelain City: Jingdezhen in the Eighteenth Century
    (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 theAmphitrite,a ship purchased by the Compagnie des indes orientales (French East india Company), a state-sponsored syndicate, from louis XIV (r.1643–1715).¹

    Dentrecolles was not the most eminent or controversial of the approximately fifty Jesuits who served with him over the next four decades, but he had a...

  9. 2 The Secrets of Porcelain: China and the West in the Eighteenth Century
    (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. TheConstitutiondrawn up by Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), founder of the Jesuits, called for the systematic gathering, transmission, and publication of information of all kinds. In the first phase of its history, between its establishment in 1534 and its...

  10. 3 The Creation of Porcelain: China and Eurasia, 2000 B.C.E.– 1000 C.E.
    (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 aWestern taxonomy, the contemporary view regards pottery as encompassing the three types, ranked according to the ware’s material composition and the temperature at which the clay is fired. The Chinese, however, have traditionally recognized only two groupings,tao,or earthenware, andci,which includes both stoneware and porcelain. The Western classification...

  11. 4 The Culture of Porcelain in China: Commerce, Confucians, and Connoisseurs, 1000–1400
    (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 nomadic confederations, Song China experienced growth and riches surpassing that of the early Tang.

    Most regions of China, down to the village level, were drawn into a commercialized, monetary network.² Silver ingots in circulation rose from less than one million...

  12. 5 The Creation of Blue-and-White Porcelain: Muslims, Mongols, and Eurasian Cultural Exchange, 1000–1400
    (pp. 139-174)

    From the perspective of Dentrecolles, the most celebrated wares of Jingdezhen presented something of a mystery. Learning from local 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 a white background.” When he questioned his parishioners about the origins of the coloring, they related a tale about a porcelain merchant who was shipwrecked on a remote island, where he discovered that “rock fit for making the most beautiful blue was quite common; he carried away with...

  13. 6 The Primacy of Chinese Porcelain: Korea, Japan, and Continental Southeast Asia, 1400–1700
    (pp. 175-213)

    Matteo Ricci 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 a map for the Wanli emperor, he therefore so arranged it that “the empire of China occupied a more or less central position.” Naturally, Ricci was concerned to respect the sensibilities of his hosts (and potential converts); yet he also believed that the exceptional nature of the Chinese domain justified the revision: “Considering its vast stretches and the boundaries of its lands, it would at present surpass all the kingdoms of the...

  14. 7 The Triumph of Chinese Porcelain: Maritime Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Southwest Asia, 1400–1700
    (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 estimation, hardly worthy of consideration.” In summer 1598, when Ricci at last achieved his ambition to enter Beijing, he discovered that the Chinese there made so little distinction between foreigners that he faced the...

  15. 8 The Decline and Fall of Chinese Porcelain: The West and the World, 1500–1850
    (pp. 253-296)

    In March 1602 two VOC ships from the province of Zeeland captured the PortugueseSan Jagooff the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, a convenient layover 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 dignitaries. A year later, Dutch captains took an even more spectacular prize. In early February 1603 the Portuguese carrackSanta Catarinasailed from China for India with a cargo of silk, colored damask, lacquer...

  16. Epilogue: The Pilgrim Art
    (pp. 297-306)

    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 in the city gave him a powerful sense of connection with the wider world:

    If one likes to travel, one can voyage a long way in imagination even while dining in a good house. China and Japan have furnished the porcelain in which aromatic...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 307-336)
    (pp. 337-390)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 391-415)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 416-416)
  21. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)