Brightly coloured earthenware tea cup decorated with birds, butterflies and figures, manufactured in China during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), circa 1880.

Only three exhibitors displayed ceramic ware under Class 20, Pottery, in the Chinese Court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, but the comparisons made against examples of ceramics on display in the Japanese Court were particularly unfavourable. As the Official Record of the Exhibition noted: 'The exhibit of porcelain was very indifferent, and although a few of the vases were old and rare, neith the shape nor the designs were delicate or choice'.

In part, such negative views reflected broader social and political issues relating to the Chinese population in Australia at the end of the nineteenth century. While Japan had only relatively recently opened to Western trade in a substantial way in 1868, and was seen as new, cultured and refined, China was often regarded as producing items of inferior quality and standard.

As items such as these tea cups illustrate, with their bright colours and decorative designs, such prejudices were often unfounded.

Physical Description

Earthenware tea cup. (One of two) Each teacup has a decorative floral design in green, pink, russet, blue and cream. Painted stems, leaves, and flowers border three 'window' designs. One window depicts a bird, insects, flowers and butterflies, another a duck on a lake, and the last an interior scene with figures in opulent costume. Some gilding appears to have originally been on the rim of each cup, but has rubbed off with use.

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