The story of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain speaks of the important trade between East and West along both the overland and maritime Silk Roads. The cobalt blue mineral, or ‘Mohammedan Blue’, that provided the distinctive under-glaze colour of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain owed its origins to China’s early trade with Persia. During the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial kilns at Jingdezhen perfected the production of blue-and-white wares and thus extended the scope of China’s trade with the West. Oriental export porcelain has its own rich history, enhanced by tales of shipwrecks and lost cargoes, that hints of the fascination for these products from the East, that came to be adapted for Western markets.

This lecture will trace the history of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain and the trade in export porcelain. It will also recount tales of salvaging operations that have resulted in the recovery of sunken treasures from the East. The ‘Nanking Cargo’ and the ‘Hoi An Hoard’ are but two examples of early shipwrecks in Eastern waters, the recovery of which have enhanced our understanding of blue-and-white porcelain and its wider commercial impact.


Marie Conte-Helm

Professor Conte-Helm is an established Lecturer of The Arts Society with a BA in History of Art and an MA in Asian Art.  She has most recently served as Executive Director of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group and as Visiting Professor at Northumbria University. She is currently a Member of the Board of Governors of the University for the Creative Arts and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation from 1999-2011 and has held senior academic positions at various UK universities.

She is widely published and has lectured throughout the UK and abroad. She is also an experienced cruise speaker and a resident historian with cruise companies, lecturing on many aspects of Asian Art and East-West Encounters.

She was awarded an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to UK-Japan educational and cultural relations.