Glass Discussion & Research. No ID requests here please. > China & Taiwan

Chinese glass


Angela B:
The Chinese have been making glass for over two thousand years.  According to Clarence F. Shangraw (Chief Curator Emeritus of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and Director Emeritus of the Tsui Museum of Art in Hong Kong) there were "several small regional centres of glass production" in China by the 2nd century BC.  He goes on to say that in the 14th century AD two of these regional centres established themselves as "concentrated hubs that can now be evaluated on evidence from present-day archaeological retrieval and examination of then-contemporary historical texts" These were Canton (now Guangzhou) in the south and Boshan in the north.  Glass rods from Boshan were transported to regional glass-finishing studios all over China.

In 1696 the Kangxi Emperor established an Imperial Glasshouse within the Forbidden City as part of his Department of Imperial Artwork Studios.  For the first two centuries the glass (which was made for the Emperor and his family and as diplomatic gifts etc.) had a strong western influence which has been attributed to the influence of Western missionaries. However during the 18th century their designs reverted to more traditional Chinese designs and techniques and this was the "Golden Age of Glassmaking in China" (from about 1725 to 1800).

The above is from "Treasures of Chinese Glass Workshops" by Asianantiques Inc.

So when we talk about Chinese glass as if it was poor quality compared to European glass, I think we should qualify our words. There undoubtedly is a flood of poor quality glass coming out of China and available to importers in other countries.  But there is also some very very good glass made in China and I think we will see more of their good quality work as trade with China becomes more prevalent.

Another relevant point here is that US importers of European paperweights back in the 1930s are said to have deliberately taken examples of Baccarat, Clichy, St Louis paperweights to China and had copies made, apparently because the supply of genuine 19th century French paperweights had dried up.  At least two of these 1930s Chinese paperweights were collected by Evangeline Bergstrom  and are now in the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum collection of paperweights. They are illustrated on plate 16 and plate 27 of the book "Glass Paperweights of the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum" She bought one of them in March 1935 and the other in September 1937.

Maybe that's enough from me on the subject. Are there any experts on Chinese glass out there?

Best regards


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