Arts and Culture
In the museum settings, many early blue-and-white porcelains have been labeled as products of Jingdezhen. In art markets around the globe, blue-and-white that labeled China’s Yuan-dynasty always make record prices on auctions. These impressions of localities, though correct in authentication, are yet so simplified as to blur the global nature of Yuan blue-and-white porcelain. In this paper, I re-evaluate the Mongol cultural heritage in China through the late thirteenth till the end of fourteenth century. I argue that the Islamic garden culture played a decisive role in the development of Yuan blue-and-white.
When the pigment of cobalt blue, the essential transcultural element to make blue-and-white, was introduced in China, a series of experiments took place to decorate the porcelain surface. At initial stages, simple but rather bold motifs were drawn with cobalt blue on small-scale objects such as the stem cups. Soon, the fresh designs attracted appreciative eyes from the brother land, the Il-khanate, which originated within the Islamic culture.
The tradition and ornamental repertory of floral motifs had long been prevailing in China before the Mongol period. On the other side, gardens relate directly to the Islamic religious conception of the Garden of Eden. As objects that truly existed, gardens represent the paradise from the Holy scripture but also the greatness of the Creator. A homogeneity between Il-khanate and Yuan China was thereby formed. The floral-ornamented porcelains were eagerly welcome and gradually enhanced in paradise-like surroundings of gardens, in addition to the thirst for the knowledge of exotic plants.