Question 3: What are Chinese Ceramics? Compare two ceramics found on a shipwreck.
Claim: Chinese Ceramics in the 9th Century were heavily influenced by commercialism and trade trends, especially those with the Abbasid Caliphate and Middle East
- Introduce nature of 9th Century ceramics
- State claim
- Point out focus on Belitung Shipwreck as primary focus
Para 1: Why the Middle East dominated the nature of Chinese ceramics through their demand
- Examine the geopolitical nature of 9th Century Tang China around 830AD – Decline of empire, Japanese withdrawal, Abbasid Caliphate
- Lack of any other major trade partners during this period, effectiveness of a well-established Silk Road on both land and sea
- Middle East became the de facto customers for Chinese exports, and dwindling Chinese power meant they had to rely on appealing to these tastes to keep economy strong
Para 2: Catering to foreign elites, through intricately designed ceramics
- Examine blue-and-white wares found on Belitung Shipwreck, take note that cobalt was widely unavailable in China during this period
- High-quality craftsmanship on top-tier ceramics attests to how Tang ceramics were appealing heavily to foreign tastes for something exotic even within Chinese ceramics (B&W pieces were extremely rare during 9th century as it involved getting cobalt from Iran, making the good, then shipping it back)
- Swirly floral patterns on B&W – direct appeal to aesthetic preferences of Middle easterns
Para 3: Appealing to overall demand through mass-production
- Examine Changsha bowls found on Belitung Shipwreck, noting their subpar production qualities versus other pieces in cargo BUT sheer quantity
- Note that Middle Eastern demand for Chinese ceramics were likely indiscriminatory (anything will do as long as it’s a chinese ceramic)
- Mass-production attempted to capitalise on this form of lower-class demand
- Floral Designs and rare islamic inscriptions on some bowls further this idea of pandering to Middle Eastern tastes
The Chinese Ceramics of the 9th Century were an art form that was highly influenced by commercialism and trading, especially with the Abbasid Caliphate and Middle East. During this period, the decline of the Tang Dynasty and lack of other major trading partners due to Japanese withdrawal caused the already monetarily-driven industry to new heights, but sometimes at the cost of indigenous artistic expressions.
An examination into the geopolitical landscape of the period, alongside pieces recovered from the Belitung Shipwreck, attest to how the Chinese were able to reach incredible levels of both quality as well as quantity, able to put out beautiful pieces alongside low-quality but mass-produced goods. The decorations and designs of these artefacts also betray that ceramic aesthetics were purposely edited to directly appeal to their intended customers.