News

The globalisation and signficance of Chinese porcelain


11 February 2013

14th century Chinese porcelain figure of Bodhisattva of Compassion. Unearthed in Beijing and now in the Capital Museum, it is similar to ceramic figures found in Southeast Asia including Ankgor that were probably brought and worshipped there by early Chinese emigrant traders.
14th century Chinese porcelain figure of Bodhisattva of Compassion. Unearthed in Beijing and now in the Capital Museum, it is similar to ceramic figures found in Southeast Asia including Ankgor that were probably brought and worshipped there by early Chinese emigrant traders.

The first Sydney Ideas talk for 2013 looks at the Chinese invention of porcelain, an indispensable part of Chinese civilisation. In China's long history porcelains were used by the royal court, elites and commoners alike for daily life, state and domestic rituals, funeral goods, and as art and display items.

Chinese porcelain was also globally distributed along the overland and maritime Silk Roads as trade goods and diplomatic gifts. In the countries where traders exported Chinese ceramics they were widely used as utilitarian, ritual and burial goods, often valued as status symbols passed down as heirlooms. Some were believed to possess magic power that might heal illness or detect poisons. These days Chinese porcelain are highly coveted, with some auctioned for millions of dollars, such as the 14th century jar auctioned for a record of £15.68 million in a 2005 Christies' London auction.

In a richly illustrated presentation this Tuesday, Dr Baoping Li, an ARC Australia Future Fellow in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney, will draw on more than 20 years of research into Chinese porcelain. He will explain the significance of Chinese porcelain to our understanding of China's history, archaeology, cultural studies, and the collection of antique porcelain in China and the world.

Dr Li has first-hand experience working with many porcelains cited in this talk. These include those found at the site of a lost city in North China that was part of the Mongol Empire, as well as porcelains discovered in ancient Angkor in Cambodia, where Chinaware finds spanned the past millennium. He will also discuss porcelains from an Arab merchant shipwreck of c. 826 CE found in the Java Sea that provides the earliest physical evidence for direct trade between China and the Middle East, and at Nanhai (South China Sea) No. I, the world's only shipwreck raised from the sea with its entire cargo (c. 1180-1220 CE) now held in a purpose-built museum in Guangdong.


Read more about Dr Baoping Li's work in 'Shipwrecked secrets separate fakes from prized porcelain pieces', The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 February 2013.


Event details

What: China for the world: the globalisation of Chinese porcelain and its significance for history, archaeology and the collection of antiques, co-presented with Sydney Ideas and the China Studies Centre as an official event of the Sydney Chinese New Year Festival 2013

When: 6 to 7.30pm, Tuesday 12 February

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus 

Cost: Free event, registration required

Book now 


Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au