Chinese Export Silver
Understanding Chinese Export Silver & Timeline
We regard Chinese Export Silver, or "China Trade Silver," antiques as a once-lost art.
Why? Many 18th and 19th Century pieces were later inherited by generations of Americans or Britons, who presumed their silver to be of English or early-American manufacture. The rediscovery that China's silversmiths had been turning out exquisite works for Westerners during the China Trade period was an evolving process.
Early works of Chinese Export Silver was intended to reproduce functional objects in the European style. When Western examples were shown to Chinese silversmiths for them to copy, that is exactly what they did, down to the hallmark, changing, sometimes, only the letter that indicated the year it was made. This was done by substituting the Chinese maker's own initial. Some Chinese silversmiths stamped their own initials in English on pieces made for export. This has led dealers and buyers to believe they have discovered a piece that had been made by a heretofore unidentified American smith. As a result, there are probably more pieces of Chinese Export silver on dining room sideboards, displayed in corner cupboards or tucked away in silver drawers than their owners may realize.
Just as Chinese potters produced porcelain for Western consumers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Chinese silversmiths also created elaborately-decorated objects for international clients. However, in copying the European models, the Chinese artisans managed to add to those objects such Chinese motifs as the dragon and phoenix and scenes of life at the Chinese court. The result is that there was a charming fusion between the East and West. Blending Western forms with Asian decoration including dragons, bamboo, and Chinese landscapes, these fascinating pieces reflect the long-standing cultural and commercial exchange between East and West, and are as enchanting today as in the past.
Examining the Time-Line for Chinese Trade
Portuguese arrived in China (1514)
Portuguese is the first European to reach Chinese by sea, and was also the first European to discover Hong Kong. In 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque, the Viceroy of the Estado da India dispatched Italian, Rafael Perestrello to sail to China in order to pioneer European trade relations with the nation. Portuguese subsequent gain territorial rights at Macao in 1557.
British arrived in China (1637)
In 1637, Captain Weddell (Great Britain) successfully landed at Canton after forcing a passage through the Bogue (from Portuguese word bocca, a mouth), and opened trade negotiations with the Chinese on behalf of the East India Company.
Tea Export (Begining 1652 - )
Tea became a major Chinese export product to Britain. By the late 18th century and early 19th century traders from newly industrialized Britain were importing millions of pounds of tea from China.
Canton System (1757- 1842)
Up until the late 17th century, Western traders were allowed to conduct business only in Macau, a Portuguese enclave 75 miles south of Canton. In 1757 to 1842 western traders are contain in a highly restrictive Canton system by the Chinese government. This was devised to keep foreigners under control
Opium as a Medium Of Exchange (1825 - )
The British East India Company built up a huge debt for silk, tea and lacquer ware. The unfavorable balance of trade between Britain and China and resentment over China's restrictive trading practices set in motion the chain of events that led to the Opium Wars. The British introduced opium to China in 1825, and soon, not surprisingly, Chinese began to be addicted to the drug.
First Opium War (1839 - 1842)
Chinese opium addicts had grown to between four and twelve million and the Daoguang Emperor officially banned opium.
First Opium War began in March 1839, when a Chinese representative of the emperor named Lin Zexu, surrounded opium-carrying British ships near Canton, cutting off their food supply, while Lin prohibited all foreigners from leaving Canton, in effect holding them hostage, until the opium was turned over. The British were outraged, and the first Opium War began.
The Treaty of Nanking (1842)
After the Chinese surrendered,the Treaty of Nanjing was signed on board a British warship by two Manchu imperial commissioners and the British plenipotentiary in August 1842. The Chinese gave up the island Hong Kong to the British "in perpetuity," opened five ports to European trade, forced China to pay an indemnity of $21 million (around $500 million in today's money and large sum for a largely impoverished country and bankrupt dynasty) and minimal tariffs on imported goods. It also forced China to continue accepting East India Company opium.
Second Opium War (1857 to 1860)
The Second Opium War began on October 8, 1856 after Chinese officials searching for pirates arrested the crew of the British ship Arrow. In response to this act of lowering the British flag, the British once again dispatched a military expedition, and this time they were joined by the French, who also had aspirations in China and were protesting about the murder of one of their missionaries in the country.
Treaty of Tientsin (1858)
The war ended in 1858 after British troops occupied Tianjin and Beijing, and French and British gunboats bombarded Tianjin fortresses until the Chinese signed the Treaty of Tianjin (1858).
Trade with Europe expanded in the 18th and 19th centuries. Favorable concessions were given to French and British traders, who set up shop on the East Coast of China.
Note: If you cannot find the answer to your question. Please post questions on Forum. We check the forum page almost daily. We would try to answer all questions and expand existing pages.