Investigating Archaeological Ceramic Object Flows Through Various Land and Sea Transportation Systems of Three Port Cities in South China

Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

This paper examines how archaeological ceramic objects flowed through terrestrial and maritime transportation systems in the three South Chinese port cities of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau. As Guangdong’s major port and the provincial capital, Guangzhou had extensive global connections through its participation in the maritime trading networks. Hong Kong and Macau were portrayed as external ports of Guangzhou, at the Pearl River estuary, during the historical periods. In the mid-16th to early 17th Century, European merchants were permitted to run their businesses in Guangzhou via Macau, the new transportation hub of overseas trade in South China, until the trading centre shifted to Hong Kong in the mid-19th century. In this paper, I adapt the conceptual framework of object flows to study the dynamic repertoire of ceramic objects in motion within various land and sea transportation systems. Deliberate local imitation and the impacts of material changes by using trade ceramic objects from other provinces of China and the world, such as Jingdezhen blue-and-white porcelain and European transfer-printed tableware can be assessed. Three representative sites have been chosen: Nanyue Kingdom Palace in Guangzhou, Sacred Hill in Hong Kong, and St Paul’s College site in Macau. They have rich archaeological ceramic finds with local and imported ceramic artifacts. This research utilizes historical accounts, fieldwork data and archaeological reports (1) to compare the type, provenance, and decoration of ceramic artifacts from the three sites; (2) to study how merchants transported ceramic objects through land and sea to these port cities. This presentation will break through the contemporary geographical setting of South China and provide a new perspective on the correlation between transportation systems and ceramic object flows.