Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Porcelain, painted decoration in underglaze blue
3.8 cm (h.), 19.6 cm (diam.)
Gift of Stephen Glass, inv. 1983.Ed.1
Archeology and World Cultures
Chinese ceramics of the Ming dynasty played an important role in the development of global trade in the early modern world. The main manufacturing centre was located in Jingdezhen (Jiangxi province), which was close to the necessary raw materials and transportation routes. Jingdezhen was one of the first great industrial centres in China and probably one of the earliest in the world. Its volume of production was huge — in one year, the court alone commissioned a staggering 120,000 pieces of porcelain. Ceramics were designed and mass-produced in factory settings. Highly organized, and featuring strict quality controls, the process involved multiple consecutive steps, with different artisans, potters and painters manning what were in effect assembly lines. Ming porcelain became part of a complex system of exchange, taking the form of tributary and diplomatic gifts or European private commissions, the latter turning them into luxury products. Their original meanings and uses were lost when such objects arrived in the West, where they reflected the interests and practices of the foreign cultures that collected them, rather than those of China.