• Glass in Ancient China: Beauty or Strength?

    Noteworthy is the information that, despite the achievements of local Chinese glass production, in the Tang era (618-907), items, made of multicolored sodium glass, which were being delivered in great numbers from Fergana, Tokharistan (Bactria), Rome and Byzantium, were in great demand.

    Ancient Chinese Hairpins
    Ancient Chinese Hairpins
    The imported transparent colored glass (bo-li), yielding to the local glass in the brightness of the color, significantly exceeded it in strength. This circumstance prompted the Chinese to turn over the centuries to the help of Western masters, which, apparently, gave rise to a common misconception about the absence of glass in China. There was even the opinion that the Chinese were not at all familiar with the production of colored transparent glass before it was set going by the Europeans in the Qing era (1644-1911).

    Archaeological finds of the twentieth century suggested the possibility of existence, starting with the era of Southern Song (1127-1279), a number of large centers of glass production, situated in the locations of modern Suzhou (Jiangsu Province) and Hangzhou (Zhengjiang Province). During the rule of the Qing Dynasty in China, glass production workshops functioned in Guangzhou (Guangdong Province), Boshan (Shandong Province), and Beijing (Hebei Province). And, according to archaeological data, glass production in Boshan was already set going during the rule of Mongol dynasty Yuan.


    Ancient Hair Ornaments
    Ancient Hair Ornaments
    It is noteworthy that one of the British experts (Hugh Gillan) who accompanied British Ambassador lord McCartney in China wrote in 1793–1794 that at this time there were only imported glass in China, and even the workshops of Guangzhou founded by Europeans were in desolation. The last remark may have been fair, but, apparently, the desolation was temporary, because, according to Western authors (including S.W. Williams), in the second half of the XIX century Guangzhou was considered the leader in glass manufacturing in China.
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