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Chapter Eight “Race for Oriental Opulence”

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Chapter Summary

This chapter traces the race to appropriate the trade in three Chinese commodities - silk, porcelain and tea. A particular emphasis is placed on the early modern era and the British demand for tea. The chapter shows how the world reached out to and engaged with China through the trade in these Chinese commodities over two thousand years. Just as foreign goods enriched and transformed the Chinese economy, culture and society from the late Ming onwards, silk, porcelain and tea re-shaped European, and particularly British, history and ways of life at roughly the same time. These "strange parallels" testify to common themes in global history which demand global analysis and synthesis. The Europeans wanted what China had to offer; they also wanted China to accept European values; they desired - and still do - a different China.

Keywords:British; China; Europeans; porcelain trade; silk trade; tea trade

10.1163/9789004194786_010
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