Ellen Huang

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

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Since the mid-19th century the scholarship on Chinese ceramics in Western languages and in the Chinese language has proceeded in two main directions: (1) technical studies based on the use of scientific equipment and (2) catalogues published by museums and archaeological institutes. Both types of studies depend on object-based research. The prevalence of illustrated catalogues across the various sections in this article reflects this research emphasis. Such studies ultimately strengthen our understanding of ceramics by establishing a chronology determined by the period’s defining physical or visual characteristics. Essentially, the result is an academic field dominated by stylistic periodizations conducive to authentication, connoisseurship identification, and the necessities of the art market. The resurgence of world history in historiography, in part owing to the context of late-20th-century globalization and the end of socialist blocs, has also given rise to scholarly works about Chinese ceramics from various subfields in the historical discipline, including economics and trade, and collecting histories. Most if not all of these studies are in Western languages and use textual documentation from the European or American perspective. At times the cultural history of ceramics, including the study of collectors, coincides with economic histories of consumption, even given the changing social structures through which ceramics were consumed, from royal princely acquisitions to middle-class consumerism in the 19th century. Still, the scholarship about the reception of Chinese ceramics, whether from a collecting or a consumption perspective, privileges Western-language sources and Western collectors and tastes rather than the Chinese perspective, making world historical accounts of Chinese ceramics strangely negligent of Chinese voices and agents. Finally, a major influence on the direction of ceramic studies is mainland China’s 20th-century archaeological activity, through which new finds at uncovered kiln sites continue to revise our ceramic history. By combining these with imperial court records at the Number One Historical Archives in Beijing, scholars at the National Palace Museum in Beijing, such as Wang Guangyao (see Wang 2004, cited under Institutional History), produce interesting histories of how imperial commissions of porcelain operated at the level of aesthetic design.

Article.  8582 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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