Arts and Culture
This paper examines Chinese punch bowls that gained global popularity in the eighteenth-century export markets because of the massive size and continuous representation of the local Canton riverscape on the surface. Both punch bowls and the representation of Canton were closely connected to the burgeoning global trade of the eighteenth century, when Canton became the sole legal trading port of the Qing empire and the forefront of transcultural contacts. Decorated with Canton’s indigenous landscape and hybrid-style architecture, punch bowls became popular souvenirs for Western merchants traveling back home, while revealing the Chinese artisans’ initiative to adapt different visual elements and styles onto the porcelain surface. How was Canton, the site and symbol of international trade, transferred to panoramic views on punch bowls, circulated aboard, and how did it bear witness to the new form of Western sociability in the era of emerging global economy? Focusing on the particular form of Chinese punch bowls decorated with Canton’s riverscape, this paper takes a close look at punch bowls in the context of the architectural development in eighteenth-century Canton, the relationship between the iconography of harbor views and the objects per se, as well as the experience of intercultural encounters in the early modern China trade. In analyzing the objects, the paper will shed light on the discourse of displaced objects and their locality embedded in global mobility.