The website is changing – We are trialling new pages and would like to hear your feedback. Find out more

Chinese Export Porcelain in the Eighteenth Century

National Museum Cardiff

Chinese porcelain tea bowl and saucer, 1760-70
Chinese porcelain tea bowl and saucer, 1760-70
Worcester teapot with Chinese figures, 1770-80
Worcester teapot with Chinese figures, 1770-80

Chinese porcelain was collected enthusiastically during the eighteenth century.

Its popularity had a profound influence on the production of decorative objects in Britain and the rest of Europe. Chinese porcelain was first exported to Europe in quantity by Portuguese traders in the sixteenth century.

For the next 300 years Chinese craftsmen supplied Europe with vast amounts of porcelain. Many objects, such as sugar bowls and milk jugs, were created specifically for the export market.

During the eighteenth century the British trade in Chinese porcelain was controlled by the English East India Company. It was transported on cargo ships alongside other luxury goods including tea, furniture and silk.

The Company’s employees were allowed to trade privately. They often commissioned pieces decorated with European subjects or services painted with coats of arms. Several examples made for Welsh families are shown in this gallery.

British and European factories were eventually able to produce their own porcelain. Decoration was often copied or adapted from Chinese originals. Reacting to the demands of the market, China also produced wares in the style of well-established European factories such as Meissen and Worcester.