Porcelain with exquisite and intricate designs reveals the connections between many cultures in the Asian Civilisations Museum
s latest exhibition. China Mania! The Global Passion for Porcelain, 800-1900 casts the spotlight on the highly sought-after treasures that had captured the imagination of many far beyond the shores of China, attesting also to the extensive cultural interactions from as early as the 9th century.
Dr Alan Chong, Director of the Asian Civilisations Museum explained: The desire for porcelain has played a crucial role in many cultures around the world. Chinese porcelain, or high-fired ceramic, was thin, beautifully decorated, and extremely durable. An almost miraculous material, it was craved as a commodity. Porcelain was fashioned into many different shapes and decorated according to the tastes of consumers. The Asian Civilisations Museum is especially interested in bringing out these creative exchanges produced by trade. We have a special interest in Southeast Asia and the porcelain used and collected in the region.
China Mania! brings together the best of export porcelain between the 9th and 20th century, desired and valued for its high quality and rarity. This exhibition shows how global demand and foreign efforts to mimic the Chinese craft inadvertently affected porcelains designs and craftsmanship. The stellar collection of over 180 rare and some never-seen-before artefacts includes commissioned courtly pieces, renowned Chinese Jingdezhen artefacts, and those produced in Vietnam, Japan, Middle East and Europe.
Nearly all of these exquisite porcelain artefacts are from the museums collection many of them being shown for the very first time. This includes an exquisite incense burner with Japanese and European Baroque embellishments; a set of whimsical boar-shaped dishes that were used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies; an extremely rare ewer in the form of a dancing woman known to have been collected by the Mughal court; and a set of courtly bowls with intricate Persian inscriptions which shows the appeal of porcelain for the Middle Eastern courts.
Visitors to the exhibition can explore the role of porcelain in trade and cultural exchange between China and the rest of the world through six sections: The Demand for Porcelain in Southeast Asia; Dangerous Waters: Shipwrecks; New Markets, New Designs; Trading Art and Technology; The Craze for Things Chinese; and Chinese Porcelain for Peranakans.
This exhibition illustrates the shift in technical sophistication, innovations and adaptations of porcelain during the different historical milestones and eras. Also evident is the knowledge transfer of porcelain-making expertise between different parts of the world that allowed Chinese craftsmen to adapt and apply foreign techniques to their wares eventually. This can be seen through the exquisite cobalt-blue glazing inspired by the Middle East by, and the creative inclusion of vivid colours inspired by the Japanese in the later years.
China Mania! The Global Passion for Porcelain, 800-1900 is open to the public from 2 August to 14 December 2014.