11 October 2014—4 January 2015

Made in China: an imperial Ming vase

An empire the size of Europe. An economy at the heart of global trade. A distinctive artistic style.

Discover how and why this iconic blue-and-white porcelain vase, on tour from the British Museum represents a crucial period in China’s history.

In the early 15th century, China was the size of Europe, with a population approximately twice the size. A global superpower run by one family, the Ming dynasty’s imperial courts led taste in arts and culture, and saw the creation and consolidation of many of the cultural, social and political themes that shaped the development of China.

Imperial blue-and-white porcelain reflected a courtly interest in other cultures and connections to an international network, which stretched across Asia to Africa, the Middle East and later Europe. Porcelain was produced primarily for everyday use, trade and diplomacy, and its manufacture at this time was strictly controlled to meet the highest standards.

Ming porcelain has long been prized by collectors in Britain and around the world. At just over 50cm tall, this stunning blue-and-white vase with lotus decoration is the largest Ming imperial porcelain of its kind in the British Museum collection.

A British Museum Tour, supported by BP.

Image credit: Imperial reign mark written on the flask. © The Trustees of the British Museum