Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Joshua Howard

Second Advisor

Susan Stearns

Third Advisor

Peter Thilly

Relational Format



This thesis asserts that Chinese material culture, specifically porcelain, was instrumental in the development of American perceptions of China in the colonial period through the late 19th century. The first chapter examines how the quality, durability, and uniqueness of Chinese export porcelain led Europeans, and by extension American colonists, to view China as an advanced and abundant civilization populated with ingenious craftsmen. The second chapter addresses the emergence of negative views of China among American traders and scholars after the establishment of direct contact with China during the Old China Trade (1784-1844). In contrast, the third chapter demonstrates that Americans that did not directly experience China maintained colonial attitudes throughout the Old China Trade despite the growth of European and American porcelain industries and increasingly negative perceptions of China in American business and intellectual circles. However, the influx of information about China after the First Opium War caused the American public to adopt a more critical view of China in the latter half of the 19th century.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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