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The porcelain route to Europe

One day, as I was at Babs’s house doing my work for the ArchivorumArk project, Babs suddenly asked me if I had noticed the buildings surrounding her house. I told her that, indeed, I was curious about the hooks on the roofs of various buildings around Amsterdam that I had seen. Babs eagerly shared the fascinating story with me about the Dutch East India Company, or VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie), and its role in trading Chinese porcelain. Babs' interest in this history is also personal because she spent several years working in Jingdezhen, China, where much of the world's finest porcelain was made.


Image 1: buildings with loading hooks on the roofs around Amsterdam


Jingdezhen, known as the “Porcelain Capital“ has been famous for its high- quality porcelain for centuries. The VOC quickly saw the value in this and started exporting Jingdezhen porcelain to Europe and other parts of the world. These beautifully crafted pieces were highly prized for their intricate designs and durability. Because the VOC could not enter China most of what they bought was from Taiwan, who traded with China. They filled their ships to the brim with porcelain, spices, silks, etc, but due to the heavy loads many of them sunk.


Babs' passion for this story comes not just from her love of porcelain, but also from the historical VOC buildings that surround her home in Amsterdam. These buildings, with their distinctive roof hooks that were used to lift goods into the upper floors of the warehouses, are a reminder of the bustling trade that once happened there.


Intrigued by Babs’s story, I decided to research more into the history of the VOC and its porcelain trade. The VOC was instrumental in bringing Chinese porcelain to the world. They created trade routes that carried these precious items from Jingdezhen to Europe and the rest of the world, turning porcelain into a symbol of luxury and cultural exchange. This trade not only made the VOC wealthy but also introduced Europeans to the beautiful craftsmanship of Chinese pottery.


Porcelain's journey from Jingdezhen to the rest of the world showcases how interconnected global trade was back then. The VOC ships transported porcelain to their headquarters in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia), and from there, it was sent to Europe and other markets. This trade was a big part of the VOC's success during the 17th and 18th centuries.


Babs’s sharing of this story, combined with her own experiences and work, gave me a unique insight into how important porcelain was in global trade and cultural exchange. The porcelain artworks (vases, plates, etc) that once decorated European homes are now valuable historical treasures, not only from an artistic point of view but also for research purposes.


Onwards to the next story! ┗( ^0^)┓

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