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A Chinese Export Ship Plate
@chris71. From what I have seen it would have been a voyage of upwards of a year there and back, that’s a long time for your adventuress ancestor, those merchantmen although large for the time would get rather small if you were on board for a long voyage. Lars Thorp of BBC Antique Road Show(the best version) has a several episode documentary on YouTube about the adventure of getting China back to the west. If I recall correctly, the sailers were not allowed on shore or had very limited shore rights in Canton.
Chris and Ron, you've both brought up something that's been on my mind a lot lately - especially as I dive deeper into the history of export from China. Everytime I become too obsessed with these images of ships, I have to stop and remind myself that the beauty we are able to hold and handle is due to the immense human effort/lives expended in the China trade or as a result of the China trade. I can't collect this without acknowledging the dark, ugly sides of this dynamic, and realize that these pieces are excessively romanticized, but for me, also act as a tether to the past.
Thank you for sharing that docuseries, too. It is one I've watched and rewatched a couple times. His trek following the movement of porcelain, from its production to its use is pretty interesting. The discussion on the massive pollution from the thousands of kilns affecting the lives of those in Jingdezhen was especially enlightening.
The story of Canton also. Luckily it is very well documented since merchants wanted these trade paintings to bring back and show their loved ones the exotic world they've been to - I've promoted this before, but I will here again:
That book is available here: https://johnsandoe.com/product/the-hongs-of-canton-western-merchants-in-south-china-1700-1900/
@johnshoe That painting looks like its a nice high-quality rendering - I like it of course, as you knew I would. I've always wondered what the different Chinese ships were and wished I had a resource on what the purpose of the many different ships in Canton were. Thanks for posting this, it made me look much harder. This looks like it might be a "flower boat", or floating brothel. I didn't know this was a thing!
@bartholin Here's another one that I think is at a little higher level of quality.
@johnshoe That one is definitely my favorite of the two! It's definitely a "flower boat". Very cool finds on these paintings and the other one you posted. Are they from the same source?
@bartholin They all came from different sources. The flower boat you like came with two others I haven't shown you yet, so they are a trio that came together, probably originally part of a dozen, and are of fantastic quality.
Thanks for showing them, John! These trade pith painting sets are charming and I think yours especially so. I'm surprised you've found so many, I haven't seen any when I go out hunting. It might be interesting to get someone to translate the banner on the last flower boat you showed.
You're right that such a round-trip took about one year. But that was just the time on board. Usually you stayed in Asia several weeks or month before returning home. So overall, in most cases they were away for far more than a year.
I also enjoyed the documentation with Lars Tharp. You really get the idea of how hard it was for the people in china. And I also worship my porcelain pieces differently considering the long travel they made.
@chris71 Apologies, try this one: https://www.abebooks.com/9781870803014/Hongs-Canton-Western-Merchants-South-1870803019/plp
Alternatively, ISBN is 9781870803014
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