Department of Anthropology

Underglaze Blue Chinese Export Porcelain

  • Type: Porcelain
  • Date range: c.1660-1800
  • Median date: c.1730
  • Place of origin: China

Chinese porcelain was made from a combination of kaolin clay and finely ground feldspathic rock. It can be distinguished from other ceramic wares because of a high-gloss glaze fused to the body. The hard-paste body ranges from white to bluish-white. The fabric is extremely tight-grained, translucent, vitrified with glass-like qualities. Chinese export porcelain was produced for European, British and North American markets.

The most common Chinese export porcelain found on North American historic archaeological sites is underglaze cobalt blue. It was economical and easy to produce, and was the main staple of the Chinese porcelain trade. The designs are hand-painted, not transfer printed. Common motifs include floral, foliate, waterscapes, Chinese houses, chinoiseries, people, birds, insects, geometrics and crosshatched borders.

See Davis, Cottreau and Niven 1987: 36-39; Noel Hume 1976: 258-262; and South 1977: 210


bchin2

  • Left: tea bowl
  • Right: saucer