Valerie Hector

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For centuries China has exported its products around the world. Chinese export porcelain, silverware, lacquerware, glassware, furnishings, textiles, and paintings have been documented in countless publications. Other categories are less well documented. Thanks to Peter Francis and other researchers, we know that China has been exporting glass beads for centuries as well. Little is known about Chinese export beadwork, a category that did not formally exist until 2007, when Hwei-Fe’n Cheah hypothesized that, in the late 19th or early 20th century, China exported beadwork to Southeast Asia’s Peranakan Chinese market. Here I expand the scope of this emerging field of research by first exploring possible historical precedents dating to the Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and then discussing seven examples of Chinese export beadwork found in Europe and North America. Most of the pieces feature glass beads. Where possible, the results of chemical compositional analysis are provided. Five of the pieces are marked “China” or “Made in China” which establish a definitive origin.

Publisher Information

The Society of Bead Researchers is a non-profit scientific-educational corporation founded in 1981 to foster historical, archaeological, and material cultural research on beads and beadwork of all materials and periods, and to expedite the dissemination of the resultant knowledge. Membership is open to all persons involved in the study of beads, as well as those interested in keeping abreast of current trends in bead research.



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