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China's china : Jingdezhen porcelain and the production of art in the Nineteenth Century

Abstract

My dissertation examines the interaction between global political-economic transformations and changing concepts of Chinese art in the nineteenth century. Its focus is on the porcelain from the renowned "porcelain city," Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province of southeast China. Jingdezhen has been the center of world porcelain production since the thirteenth century. Although Jingdezhen's porcelain industries experienced tremendous changes and upheaval during the nineteenth century- including expanding overseas trade, decimation by the Taiping rebels in 1853, reinstatement of imperial patronage by the Qing Court during the Tongzhi Restoration - scholars of science, art, and Jingdezhen history alike rarely investigate this period. Contrary to scholarly consensus, the nineteenth century witnessed a surge in the production of texts and visual images detailing the aesthetics, technology, and manufacturing of Jingdezhen porcelain. This study focuses on the systemic production of knowledge about a material object - Jingdezhen chinaware - by tracing the global trajectories of key documents and visual images on porcelain that circulated within and across boundaries of such places as China, France, and Japan. I will highlight the circulation of such texts and visual images at crucial historical junctures of the nineteenth century, concentrating on periods of industrialization, inter-state conflict, and changing trade patterns. Thus this project will attempt to articulate the global and political processes that negotiate and re-position an object's materiality-- specifically the materiality of Jingdezhen porcelain--in relation to its visual and textual aspects. By historicizing the discourse and practices of a specific object of trade and art, especially one that was and remains closely associated with a particular place and culture, I examine how concepts of self and other find material embodiment through representative objects of culture and exchange

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