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An ovoid-shaped Chinese Ming period porcelain jar painted in rich blue around the sides with two five-clawed dragons among clouds and with rocks and waves below.  Round the shoulder a stylised shou (long life character) seems to grow out of the lotus

Extraordinary Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Royal Collection

Materials and Techniques

Master: Set of dishes

Master: Set of dishes ©

Porcelain items were traditionally the most famous and sought-after Asian wares. The Chinese had developed this unique material by the time of the Tang dynasty (618–906) and it was soon in high demand for its novel properties of whiteness and translucency. The new wares could be decorated in a variety of ways using a combination of coloured glazes and enamels. The most famous decorative style is the blue-and-white porcelain associated with the Ming dynasty, but over time more colourful palettes were developed and popularised. Many Chinese and Japanese wares in the Collection feature traditional Eastern figures, symbols and poetry, while others made to order for Western customers are decorated with European landscapes or coats of arms.

Eight-light candelabra consisting of a Chinese porcelain vase fitted with English gilt-bronze mounts. Pear-shaped, the tall necks cut down and side handles apparently removed. The celadon glaze overpainted with flower sprays and butterflies, with a r

Pair of bottle vases mounted as eight-light candelabra ©

Chinese and Japanese works of art were sometimes added to or altered on their arrival in Europe. Asian porcelains were considered exotic and rare, so – like other precious objects such as rock crystal and amber – they were often encased in silver, silver-gilt or gold mounts. The use of such rich materials emphasised the preciousness of the object and also provided practical protection for the fragile porcelain itself. In the eighteenth century, gilt bronze became the preferred material for mounting since it matched contemporary interiors, which were often lined with gilded wooden panelling and hung with paintings in gilded frames. George IV (1762–1830) collected a vast array of mounted porcelain of this type for his lavish rooms at Carlton House and the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

Tea caddy box. Of six-pointed star shape, with concave sides, the deep, hinged top with a flat, hexagonal centre, and six curving ribs outlining its hollowed sides. The interior housing two close-fitting canisters of engraved pewter, each half a star shap

Tea caddy ©

In addition to porcelain, a wide range of other Asian materials have long been in demand in Europe. These include furniture and boxes decorated with lacquer (a tree resin), jade carvings and traditional silks, all of which are represented in the Royal Collection.

Click on an object below to learn more.

China [Asia]

Ruyi sceptre

China [Asia]

Dish

Longquan, Zhejiang province [China]

Dish

Jingdezhen [Jiangxi Province, China]

Cistern with gilt bronze mounts

China [Asia]

Wall hanging

Jingdezhen [Jiangxi Province, China]

Brush pot

Jingdezhen [Jiangxi Province, China]

Pair of vases mounted as pastille burners

Jingdezhen [Jiangxi Province, China]

Pair of vases

Dehua, Fujian Province [China]

Set of cups