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Porcelain Industry in Japan

On February 8, 2012, the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University welcomed renowned art historian Nicole Rousmaniere to deliver the Thirteenth Annual John W. Hall Lecture in Japanese Studies. Rousmaniere is the Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, England, and is seconded as a curator in the Department of Asia at the British Museum. She has also taught at various institutions, including University of East Anglia, SOAS, and the University of Tokyo. The focus of her work is in early and premodern Japanese ceramics, but her research interests also extend to the history of archaeology and collecting of Japanese objects in Asia and Europe, as well as Japanese contemporary craft expression and manga.

Hall LectureDuring her lecture, titled “Vessels of Influence: The Formation of the Porcelain Industry in Japan,” Rousmaniere discussed the consumption and meaning of Chinese porcelain in late medieval and early modern Japan and its relationship with Japanese porcelain that eventually replaced it. Using archaeological, documentary, art, trade, and historical records, the talk outlined the development of a unique Japanese porcelain industry that came to dominate the world market in the 17th century, but then lost that position in the 18th century. Rousmaniere asserts that dining utensils not only mirror what the diner feels about him or herself, but also can reveal the image that he or she wishes to project to the community at large. Chinese and Japanese porcelain can be seen as “vessels of influence” through their use not just in dining and as important items of trade, but also as vehicles for the retelling of national histories and of cultural identity.

The John W. Hall Lecture Series in Japanese Studies was established with generous support from Mrs. Robin Hall in memory of her husband. Considered one of this past century’s finest and most influential scholars of the history of Japan, John Whitney Hall specialized in the Ashikaga through Late Tokugawa periods. Hall came to Yale in 1961 as A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, a position he held until his retirement in 1983. The Council on East Asian Studies is pleased to present this important annual lecture to enable young and old scholars alike to remember John W. Hall’s work and contributions to the study of Japan.