This interest was mainly fostered on appreciation for the unknown, as most Europeans were never afforded the chance to visit China themselves. This paper will analyze in-depth four pieces of Chinese art from a specific region of China—Jiangxi province, Jingdezhen—and how they have evolved and shaped western art; the four pieces of art are a Meiping vase, Porcelain serving dish with fish design, water fountain and basin, and dish with phoenix and peonies. The Meiping vase was first forged during the Yuan dynasty around roughly 1320 A.D. – 1350 A.D. This tall blue and white vase shows two figurative scenes that derive from the drama Xi Xiang Ji, which is a play about an affair between a young scholar and the daughter of a high ranking minister. The form of drama was particularly popular during this period in Chinese history, and this can be shown with the Meiping vase. The idea of showing narratives from novels and dramas was first derived during the Jin dynasty and then subsequently the Yuan dynasty. Despite this fact, examples like the Meiping vase are very rare before the seventeenth century. This particular type of vase has become very popular with western art lovers, with this form of vase, or similar ones, commonplace in the homes of many upper-middle class homes. Likewise, the Porcelain serving dish with fish design also came from the Yuan dynasty during a similar era (1330 A.D. – 1360 A.D.). It comes as no surprise then that the design and style of this Porcelain serving dish are very similar to the Meiping vase. As such, it is also a common feature in many homes of western art lovers. The dish began to be exported during the Yuan dynasty to regions such as India, the Middle East, and North Africa. As Chinese did not usually travel too far out of their homeland, Arab and Persian merchants often had the task of exporting ceramics like this one (Medley 170). The reason why the dish was so popular everywhere it traveled was that it was larger than most other dishes, thus offering space for large amounts of food to be consumed. Other regions tailored the dish to suit their own cultures, but western art has largely kept Chinese dishes like these in their original forms. The water fountain and base is in complete contrast to the previous two pieces of art from the Ying dynasty; this work of art is derived from the Qing dynasty at the much later period of 1735 A.D. – 1740 A.D. This would have likely been used by the Chinese as a means to wash their hands after a meal. While western culture does not use exactly instruments like these to wash hands, it has taken the concept and used it to turn into a sink. Another interesting fact about this work is that it was designed not by a Chinese artist, but by the well-respected Dutch painter Cornells Pronk. Pronk was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to produce artwork that would sell better back in his homeland rather than Chinese made pieces of art. For this reason, this work of art is starkly different to the rest of the pieces in that it was designed by a western for western tastes while still trying to capture Chinese designs. Similar to the first two works of art, the dish with phoenix and peonies also comes from the Yuan dynasty and around the same time period (mid-fourteenth century). The designs on this dish are typical of dishes of that era just as in the Meiping vase and Porcelain serving
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Chinese Art Influence on Western Culture The National Museum of China, currently holding an exhibition called Passion for Porcelain: Masterpieces of Ceramics from the British Musuem and the Victoria and Albert Museum, showcases numerous pieces of Chinese art that have helped to shape largely British art, and western art as a whole, to what it is today…
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