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Pewter box with porcelain tea caddies


Height: 11.800 cm (box)
Diameter: 11.000 cm (caddies)

Gift of Sir A.W. Franks

Asia OA F.1688

Room 33: Asia

    Pewter box with porcelain tea caddies

    From China
    Qing dynasty, about AD 1760-1800

    For transporting samples in the tea trade

    The pewter box and flat cover are made in the shape of a prunus (plum) blossom. A five-lobed porcelain tea caddy and five fan-shaped ones are neatly fitted inside.

    The tea caddies are painted in famille rose enamels, with landscape scenes and floral sprays. The covers are inscribed in gold with the names of different types of teas, four black and two green. In eighteenth-century Europe black (fermented) teas were far more popular than green varieties.

    Although the tea trade was very important to European merchants in China, this is the only known box of its type. The pewter container kept the porcelain tea caddies safe during transport and also helped keep the tea leaves dry and aromatic. Wooden chests used for shipping tea were lined with a tin and lead alloy for the same purpose.

    R. Krahl and J. Harrison-Hall, Ancient Chinese trade ceramics (National Museum of History, ROC, 1994)

    S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

    Y. Mino, Freedom of clay and brush thro (Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1980)


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