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Porcelain and the Material Culture of the Mongol-Yuan Court

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Abstract This paper offers a re-evaluation of the significance of porcelain during the Yuan dynasty by analyzing a type of ceramics known as luanbai or shufu wares. These matt white porcelains, sometimes inscribed with the characters shu and fu, have generally been seen as official wares, manufactured on the orders of the highest echelons of the Yuan central government and classified as high-quality luxury wares associated with the imperial court. This paper proposes that this conventional interpretation is misleading. Instead of understanding luanbai wares as part of the narrative of ceramics manufacture and the history of porcelain, I explore their relevance by situating them in the context of Yuan-dynasty material culture more broadly, court-sponsored craft manufactures, and the practice of inscribing objects. This approach reveals a different story, highlighting the absence of court control over ceramic production, the ensuing freedom to experiment locally with new ceramic production methods, and the significance of the demands of consumers in territories outside Yuan China.

Affiliations: 1: University of Warwick


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