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How has European material culture since the sixteenth century, been affected by China?

China provided Europe with tea, porcelain, and the design inspiration that gave rise to the cult of Chinoiserie.  These Chinese exports had an enormous impact in shaping British culture, and European elite material culture.

Universally, tea is accepted as a fundamental component of the British way of life. Britain’s rapid dependency on tea is a direct reflection of how Chinese goods were not limited to the luxury market, but in fact, became a necessity. From high society to the traditional ‘afternoon tea’, the demand for Chinese tea was widespread and transposed societal boundaries.

 Unlike tea, porcelain was the defining luxury item of the Chinoiserie style. This fashionable vogue is representative of Europe’s capitalist ambitions, particularly the consumer-driven fads of the aristocracy. By the eighteenth century, millions of blue and white Ming styled porcelain pieces had circulated through Europe’s elite. From cabinets of curiosities to a Queen’s personal apartments, in the “Chinese taste” became all the rage for England’s seventeenth and eighteenth century elite as a sign of social status.

Europe’s consumption of Chinese goods reveals the superficial veracity of European material culture.  The end goal being a clear display of social status. All in all, this essay will prove that Chinese goods had an enormous impact on shaping European material culture, from the everyday necessities, to the highest stratums of society.

Lorna S. A Level History tutor, 13 Plus  History tutor, IB History tu...

9 months ago

Answered by Lorna, an A Level History tutor with MyTutor


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