Dehua Wares in the British Museum!

Time to explore some more great teawares on display in the British Museum in London. This round focuses on Dehua wares. Very stylish!

Dehua wares are porcelain wares characterised by their pure whiteness, and are so named because they were produced in Dehua county in the Fujian province of China. Their production began around 1600, in the last half century of the Ming dynasty, and continued up through the twentieth century. The two teapots shown below date from quite different periods within this range.

The first one, with a rounded body and branches in relief, dates from between 1644-1700.

Dehua teapot with leafy branches in relief, from the British Museum’s collection (photo by Elise Nuding, all rights reserved)
Dehua teapot with leafy branches in relief, from the British Museum’s collection (photo by Elise Nuding, all rights reserved)

The second one, with the curved spout, simpler form, and simpler decoration dates from 1800-1900.

Dehua teapot, from the British Museum’s collection (photo by Elise Nuding, all rights reserved)
Dehua teapot, from the British Museum’s collection (photo by Elise Nuding, all rights reserved)

Although the stylistic details of the two teapots differ, the treatment of the porcelain is very similar, illustrating the way that the manufacture and general style of Dehua porcelain wares did not change much over the centuries. Teapots were, of course, just one of many types of items to be manufactured in Dehua. As well as other food and drink related items such as bowls and cups, the white porcelain was also used to manufacture decorative figures, boxes, lamps, ornaments, religious statues and figurines, and devotional objects such as incense burners and candlesticks.

The recognisable colour of Dehua wares is due to the very low levels of of iron oxides present in the clay used (only 0.5%), which when fired produces the warm white colour. Both of these teapots have transparent glazes to show off the natural white hue of the porcelain.

As with many Chinese porcelains, there was a market for Dehua wares overseas. Dehua porcelain was, and is, often known in Europe by its French name, ‘Blanc de Chine’, which translates literally as ‘White from China.’ It began to be exported to Europe in the early eighteenth century, and its popularity with Europeans eventually led it to be one of the types of porcelain wares manufactured in China specifically for export. Europe, however, was not the only market for Dehua wares. Even before their export to Europe, there was a flourishing market for Dehua porcelain in other parts of East Asia, with Japan providing the largest demand.

The strikingly white porcelain is still manufactured in Dehua today, although the porcelain wares produced differ a little from the products of the Ming and Qing dynasties and current production seems to be focused on figurines rather than on the wider range of porcelain wares that used to be produced.

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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