Following the death by suicide of the last Emperor of the Ming dynasty, there was a power struggle for control of the realm. The Chinese government solicited the assistance of the Manchu army in order to assist in the downfall of the rebels who had taken control of the capital city. Following their decisive victory against the insurgents, the Manchu resolved to remain in China for the foreseeable future and maintain their control over the country. It was decided that foreigners would once again control China. The Manchus, in contrast to the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty, assimilated aspects of Chinese culture and practises into their own way of life. They quickly became indistinguishable from the indigenous Chinese population. A period of tremendous growth occurred under the Qing Dynasty. China reopened its doors to international commerce after a period of many years during which it had been cut off from the rest of the world. The East Indian spice trade was thriving during this time period. Western products were often traded for spices like cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg in the Far East by merchant ships from Portugal, England, and the Netherlands. These ships carried goods from the West. There were several efforts made to trade with mainland China, and after a significant amount of time had passed, ships finally started calling on the ports in Southern China. Because they were purchasing things that the Europeans had never seen or heard of before, it was a very unusual experience for the western merchants. They were only able to speculate as to what the worth of the items would be after they had resold them. The most important of these items was tea.
The tea was by far the most significant of these commodities. At the same time that the Emperor of China took his first puff of tobacco that had been brought back from Europe, the Queen of England was enjoying her very first cup of tea. Tea soon became popular throughout Europe, and in a little less than a century, the quantity of tea imported into England increased from 100 pounds per year to more than 5 million pounds per year. As a result of the high demand for tea, several trips were required to carry shiploads of tea from China. The porcelain was brought along with the tea. Ballast was necessary for these enormous ships so that they could remain stable. (heavy items or weights placed in the lowest area of the hull of the ship to offset the weight of the masts and sails) The ballast for their trip eastward consisted of lead and sulpher, both of which were exchanged to the Chinese for tea. They need something that was both affordable and of comparable weight for the trip back home. Products made of porcelain were the best option available. Clay and skilled artisans were the only things necessary to make porcelain, in contrast to the requirements for growing tea, which required a long time and could only be done in certain conditions. Both of which might be found in large quantities in China. The Chinese were keen to offer porcelain items to western markets because they could transform dirt into riches by adding work to the process of making porcelain. At the close of the 18th century, manufacturers were turning out millions of pieces of porcelain for the purpose of export. Due to the utilisation of mass manufacturing, the level of skill shown by the craftspeople significantly decreased. During the same time period, the quality of porcelain produced in Europe started to compete with that of the finest Chinese wares. The widespread export of porcelain came to an abrupt halt almost as soon as it had started.
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