Unknown artist, Chinese, China
Punch Bowl, 1785-1800
Porcelain with enamel
Gift of Mrs. Hope Brown Russell 09.343
Both a monument to the trade in eighteenth-century Chinese luxury exports and a unique document of that trade, this punch bowl displays a depiction of warehouses along the waterfront of the city of Canton. In all of China, Canton was the only port open to foreign merchants, whom the Chinese government confined to the waterfront areas. The western proprietor of each warehouse (hong) was identified by his national flag; Denmark, Spain, France, America, Sweden, England, and Holland are shown here. The first American vessel did not arrive in Canton until 1784; thus this punch bowl cannot be dated earlier. Providence merchant John Brown entered the lucrative China trade in 1787 and launched six decades of voyages from Narragansett Bay that brought back tea, silks, porcelain, lacquer ware, and other luxury articles.