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Study on Trade and Craftsmanship of Zhangzhou Porcelain in Wanli Reign of the Ming Dynasty

LAW Sze Man

This study focuses on Zhangzhou five-colored porcelain made between the year 13 to 43 in the reign of the Wanli emperor (1585–1615), Ming dynasty. My goal is to uncover the reasons for significant production increase of Zhangzhou kilns as well as the connection between the artistic style and firing techniques of Zhangzhou kilns and that of Jingdezhen kilns.

Known as Swatow kilns, Zhangzhou kilns originated in southern Fujian province in the late Ming dynasty. Its products had been imported into Southeast Asia, Japan, Portugal, Spain and Western Europe. Similarly, Jingdenzhen kilns of the northeastern Jiangxi Province, imperial and private, were exported to the same market.

Archaeological findings confirm that a significant amount of Zhangzhou porcelain was unanticipatedly imported into Japan between 1585 and 1615. Based on excavations of the Osaka Castle ruins in 1615, the amount of Zhangzhou blue-and-white porcelain and five-colored porcelain accounts for over 80% of unearthed Chinese porcelain. The dramatic production increase in the amount of Zhangzhou porcelain seem not to be the result of increasing supply and demand but rather its replacing the Jingdezhen porcelain on the market. Therefore, what is the connection between the varying production amount of these two kilns? How did Zhangzhou kilns successfully replace Jingdezhen kilns in the market? To answer these questions, further study must be made to investigate the trade and craftsmanship of Zhangzhou porcelain in late Ming.