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Silk, Porcelain and Lacquer: China and Japan and their trade with Western Europe

Silk, Porcelain and Lacquer: China and Japan and their trade with Western Europe


A vibrant and in-depth exploration of early globalization – how European intercontinental maritime trade linked up Asia, western Europe and the New World in the early modern period, and what Asian manufactured goods they traded.


Focusing on the prolific trade, transport and consumption of Chinese silk and porcelain and Japanese lacquer between 1500 and 1644, this groundbreaking book will show how the material cultures of late Ming China and Momoyama/Early Edo Japan on one side of the globe, and western Europe and the New World on the other, became linked for the first time, through an exchange of luxury Asian manufactured goods for currency (silver). It offers new insight into these multi-layered long-distance commercial networks, which resulted in an unprecedented creation of material culture that reflected influences of both East and West. 


Original research reveals new evidence of the trade of these three Asian manufactured goods, first by Portugal and Spain, and later by the trading companies formed by the Northern Netherlands/Dutch Republic and England. Important documentary information is brought to light concerning, for example, the use of Chinese porcelain in western Europe, and the objects made to order in European shapes for the Dutch and English trading companies in Japan and China. The study also sheds light on both the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific commercial trading networks through which these Asian goods circulated, as well as the way in which these goods were acquired, used and appreciated by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English societies in western Europe and the multi-ethnic societies of the European colonies in the New World and Asia. 


300 illustrations of extant examples of Chinese silks and porcelains, along with Japanese lacquers of the period, complement the information gleaned from archival and textual material. In the case of Chinese porcelain, a large number of the examples illustrated are provided by archaeological finds from European shipwrecks, survival campsites, colonial settlements in Asia, the New World and the Caribbean, and their respective mother countries in western Europe. 


Breaking new ground in its comparative study of the impact these European trading empires or companies had on the material cultures of China and Japan, this book shows the influence that the European merchants and missionaries exerted on the goods made specifically to order for them in both China and Japan. It also traces the worldwide circulation of these luxury objects, which were intended for secular and religious use in European settlements in Asia, and their respective mother countries in western Europe and colonies in the New World. More importantly, this book shows that these specific orders led to the creation of a wide variety of hybrid manufactured goods in both China and Japan, which combined elements from very different and distant cultures, reflecting the fascinating and complex East-West cultural exchanges that occurred in the early modern period.

  • By Teresa Canepa

    Silk, Porcelain and Lacquer: China and Japan and their trade with Western Europe and the New World, 1500–1644


    November 2016

    Hardback, 300 x 245 mm
    480 pages, 386 colour illus.
    ISBN: 978 1 911300 014

  • About the author

    Dr Teresa Canepa is an independent researcher and lecturer in Chinese and Japanese export art. The main focus of her research is the trade of Chinese silk and porcelain, and Japanese lacquer to Europe and the New World in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 

  • In the press

    "Meticulously researched ... extensively and intelligently illustrated, and beautifully produced." —Apollo


    "Beautifully illustrated ... breathtakingly expansive ... physically sumptuous ... This volume represents a substantial contribution to the fields of early modern history, Asian decorative arts and global trade, and will undoubtedly serve as a standard reference work for decades to come." —Orientations Magazine


    "This wide-ranging and handsomely-produced book is a significant addition to the literature on trade between east and west … a most welcome addition." —Journal of the History of Collections 


    "Intriguing glimpses of the long European love affair with Far Eastern decorative art appear on every page of this handsome and substantial book … its 479 pages offer a rich synthesis of evidence - visual and archival." —Country Life

    "Very comprehensive, extremely detailed and notably well illustrated. It is at once academic and visually enticing, a rare combination in publishing today." —Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 


    "A monumental book … exceptionally well illustrated … attractive to both experts and non-specialists."  —Oriental Ceramic Society (London)


    "A glorious book … a sheer joy to browse through as well as to read in detail." —Textile Research Centre 


    "A breathtaking abundance of information from archives, ship registers, correspondences, shoplists, auction reports, inventories, logbooks, travelogues, wills, court files, contracts and diaries add up to a gigantic puzzle where hardly any parts seem to be missing … anyone interested in the early trading routes between Asia, Europe and the New World should not miss this exciting book." –PREETORIUS FOUNDATION 


    "Canepa approaches this complex subject by way of an initial historical survey of the period, moving on to tackle her three themes of silk, porcelain and lacquer … Her aim is to offer a more complete picture of the interaction between Asia and Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries … a point of reference for specialist researchers in this field." –The Burlington

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