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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Materials Movements and Knowledge Transmissions in Qing China
2: The Blue Road in 18th Century Qing Porcelain
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
ArtCenter College of Design, United States
During the eighteenth-century, the Qing court committed significant resources to the making of porcelain at Jingdezhen. Due to the impact of court investment, including monetary support for administration and artisanship, as well as to unabated demand from overseas markets, Qing dynasty porcelain made in Jingdezhen displayed a flourishing of elaborate enameled decoration and technical precision. Within this context of diverse designs, court interest in blue-and-white porcelain remained constant, as demonstrated in the productive repertoire. In addition, the topic of blue-and-white also constituted a focus of the Taoye tuce, the only court-sponsored album of paintings and annotations detailing the technical details of porcelain production. This paper examines the contents of this imperial album related to the acquisition, selection, and processing of the blue material. The paper contextualizes this technical knowledge within a broader history of terms for cobalt, clarifying the names for geographic sources that appeared in historical texts, dating from the Yuan period through the Qing eighteenth century, including phrases such as Sumali 蘇麻離, Sunibo 蘇泥勃 and Hui qing 回青. The presentation then turns to an analysis of 18th-century blue-and-white porcelain themselves to discuss such technical knowledge within their material historical context. By tracing the historical use of these terms as geological and geographical knowledge, I suggest that Jingdezhen porcelain using the blue-and-white technique could serve as a form of historical memory about the nature and origin of resources, enacting their own worldliness by mapping the global routes of materials in their design.