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Food and food wares have always been essential items of international trade and exchange. Chinese ceramics are particularly significant in the history of global trade, fuelling obsessions, demand and design innovation in many parts in the world. From the 700s, kilns in southern provinces such as Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong were responsible for exporting ceramic wares to Asia, Africa and Europe. The examples of Changsha ware, Kraak ware, Zhangzhou/Swatow ware and Bencharong ware on display demonstrate China’s long history of creating ceramics to appeal to specific international markets.

A fascination for porcelain also drives the practice of renowned Korean artist Koo Bohnchang. For his video work Vessel, he travelled the world photographing ceramics made during Korea’s revered Joseon dynasty (1392–1897).

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Photo © AGNSW, Jenni Carter

An installation view of ‘The Way We Eat’ exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Swatow ware, 'Large dish with design of two dragons, circa 1600, porcelain with overglaze enamel decoration 7.7 x 35.7 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 1988.
Large dish with design of two dragons

China
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
earthenware

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China (Qing dynasty, Kangxi period 1662–1722) ‘Ginger jar with prunus blossom design’, porcelain with underglaze blue decoration, 8.9 cm diam of mouth; 26.5 x 22.1 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1971
Ginger jar with prunus blossom design

China
Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662–1722)
porcelain with underglaze blue decoration

Blue-and-white porcelain like this jar with exceptional quality made in China swept through Europe during the late 1600s and early 1700s. Prunus blossoms on a cracked-ice background were among the most fashionable designs.

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China/Thailand ‘Bencharong ware tazza (stem plate)’ early 1800s, porcelain with enamel decoration, 10 x 28 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of Mr F Storch 1981
Bencharong ware tazza (stem plate)

China/Thailand
porcelain with enamel decoration

Bencharong (meaning five colours) ware was made in Jingdezhen, China, in the 1700s and early 1800s for exporting to Thailand.

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China (Tang dynasty 618–907) ‘Changsha ware ewer with figurative motif’ 800s, stoneware with applied relief decoration under a greenish tinged glaze, 20.5 cm, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 2003
Changsha ware ewer with figurative motif

China
Tang dynasty (618–907)
stoneware with applied relief decoration
under a greenish tinged glaze

Produced at the Tongguan kiln in Hunan province in central China between the 8th and 10th centuries, Changsha ware is famous for distinctive colourful paintings and figurative motifs influenced by West Asian and Central Asian styles.

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China Qing dynasty (1644–1911), 'Globular jar decorated with relief ‘head and hand’ motif' 1700s, stoneware with brown glaze, Gift of Mr F Storch 1992, Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased 1992.
Globular jar decorated with relief 'head and hand' motif

China
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
stoneware with brown glaze

This is a fine example of the utilitarian jars made in the southern provincial kilns of China for export throughout Southeast Asia. The round face on one side of the jar and the human hand on the other are unusual design features.

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