Chinese porcelain opium vase in the 17th Century Wucai style


This unusual Wucai style vase is an example of the material production that flourished as a result of increased opium consumption in 19th Century China.


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This porcelain vase, dating from 19th Century China, is painted with scenes of a noble procession and is set with detailed bronze mounts and pipes for smoking opium.

The work has been produced in the Wucai style- a style of decorating white porcelain in a range of limited colours, normally using underglaze cobalt blue for the design together with overglaze enamels in red, green, and yellow. The vase has an exotic allure, with ornamental bronze mounts and pipes for smoking opium having been added to an otherwise traditional vessel.

Through the 18th Century, the East India Company bought tea, silk, and porcelain from China and in return China wanted silver. As tea became a very popular drink in England, there was a fear that too much silver was leaving the country. To limit the export of silver, the Company became involved in a triangular trade by smuggling opium from India into China. Opium was initially used for medicinal purposes but in time it was being used as a recreational drug with many millions becoming addicted. Although the Chinese state was deeply disturbed, England defended its monopoly on the market through the First and Second Opium Wars. As a result, many objects during this period were created or repurposed for this new trend that engulfed Chinese society.


Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
19th Century
19th Century
Chinese Interest
Bronze, Porcelain
Blue, White


38 cm / 15 inches
35 cm / 13.8 inches


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