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A fine legacy forged in friendship

A long-awaited Beijing exhibition celebrating six decades of diplomatic ties between China and France sheds fresh light on centuries of exchanges, Wang Kaihao reports.

By Wang Kaihao | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-11 07:33
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Chinese porcelains mounted with Western-style decorations from the Versailles collection. [Photo by JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY]

Echoed inspiration

The favorable view of China by French royalty created lucrative business opportunities for Chinese industries, especially porcelain.

When introducing these signature Chinese products to Versailles, French royals wanted something more than dinnerware produced in Jingdezhen, a porcelain production hub in present-day Jiangxi province, stamped with the fleur-de-lis, as some of the exhibits demonstrate.

" (In Europe) there had been an obsession since the time of the Medici dynasty in 16th-century Italy to discover the manufacturing techniques for Chinese porcelain, which was imported at a great cost," Leribault, who is also a veteran art history scholar, explained in a previous interview with AFP.

French artisans finally discovered the mystery of Chinese pottery in the mid-18th century: kaolin. When fired, this variety of white clay whitens even more, giving Chinese porcelain its trademark appearance.

Deposits of the clay were eventually found in France and the examples of exquisite Sevres vases and plates from Versailles, decorated with Chinese patterns, heralded the new era of France being able to produce hard-paste porcelain, just like China.

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