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December 6, 2009

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Porcelain made for Western tastes

AN ongoing exhibition titled "Traces of Trade" at Shanghai Museum features Chinese export porcelain made during the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

All of the 97 porcelain pieces were donated last year by Mr Henk B Nienwenhuys, a renowned collector in the Netherlands.

Among the items, 96 pieces are "qinghua ci" (blue-and-white porcelain) fired by the country's most famous kiln - Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi Province.

Because the items were made for export, they have special features that combine Chinese traditional elements and Western characteristics.

Porcelain items in the domestic market rarely display such features.

One of the most typical pieces on display in the collection is a dish (pictured) made in the late 18th century.

It features a ship in the center resembling the style of vessel used by the dominant Dutch East India Company in the late 18th century when its massive fleet sailed to China to collect Chinese wares.

"The sailing boat pattern might be from their imagination," said Nienwenhuys, reflecting the belief that most of the kiln workers hadn't seen such a vessel.

Around the sailing boat are four kinds of fish and three Chinese children holding lotus.

The patterns include authentic Chinese elements that represent a clean, dignified and elegant life lead by people of high social standing.

The pieces on display not only show the sophisticated expertise and delicate craft of porcelain firing at that time, but also reflect the high Western interest in China and the prosperous trade and cultural exchange between East and West.

When the exhibition ends on December 20, the pieces will be displayed in turn in the museum's Porcelain Exhibition Room.


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