The Colourful History of Blue and White Ceramics

Updated: May 11, 2021

Blue and white porcelain originally comes from China, right? Yes and no, the history behind this iconic art form is much more complicated (and interesting) than that. Sources say this distinctive style emerged from modern day Iraq. Yet the story only begins from there...

Two tulipieres, blue and white porcelain, flowers, roses, chinoiserie cabinent

Tulipieres, ubiquitous amongst 17th century European aristocrats, displayed not only beautiful blooms, but also the wealth of the household. Photo credit

With the opening of a sea trade route from Iraq to China in the 9th century A.D. came the intermingling of cultures, art and traditions. Craftsmen in Basra, inspired by the imported Chinese earthenwares, created their own versions with eye-catching blue patterns.

Imported from Persia to China, the classic cobalt blue pigment rose to popularity in the 14th century. At the time, the pigment was worth twice the price of gold as it was considered a precious commodity.

Porcelain cabinent, blue and white porcelain vases, ornate plates on wall. apanese and Chinese  porcelain in front of gilded and mirrored walls.

Porcelain cabinet display at Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin. Photo credit

Blue and white porcelain wares flourished during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. The simple yet stunning colour combination and intricate motifs, often inspired by Islamic art, caught the world by storm. Other commonly depicted figures were cranes, dragons and lotus.

In Ancient China, jars like those on the table were used to store and transport precious condiments, spices and oils. Photo credit

From China, this style spread to neighbouring countries: Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, the Middle East and Europe. Each country and region created their own pieces inspired by these unique blue and white ceramics, often referencing their predecessors yet at the same time incorporating local flavour.

Artist Li Xiaofeng crafts dresses from discarded pottery shards, often sourced at archeological sites. Photo credit

Our newest collection is inspired by the Vietnamese interpretation of this ancient art form. First appearing in the late 13th/early 14th century, wares from artisans in Chu Đậu village in Hải Dương province still remain the object of inspiration and academic research today. Despite being a small village on the Red River Delta, Chu Đậu wares emerged as a global ceramic manufacturer during the 15th and 16th centuries, exporting around Southeast and West Asia, Japan and Western Europe.

Blue and white porcelain wares attached on a bicycle, ambulant vendor sells Chinese and Vietnamese ceramics, vases, pots in Hanoi, Vietnam

An ambulant vendor peddles their precious porcelain wares through the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo credit

The story of this unique yet ubiquitous art form is the story of us all. Through collaboration and the fusion of cultures, we reach new heights and explore exciting opportunities. We truly are better together.


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