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Chinese-style ceramics in East Africa from the 9th to 16th century: A case of changing value and symbols in the multi-partner global trade

La céramique chinoise importée en Afrique orientale (IXe-XVIe siècles) : Un cas de changement de valeur marchande et symbolique dans le commerce global
Bing Zhao

Résumés

Dans cette étude consacrée aux tessons de style chinois exhumés sur les sites archéologiques d’Afrique de l’Est, nos grilles de lecture sont multiples. D’une part, la densité des tessons de céramique de style chinois sur un site peut être employée comme un instrument de mesure afin d’évaluer son degré d’implication dans le commerce à longue distance. D’autre part, en nous appuyant sur les analyses du contexte régional, interrégional et global, nous proposons à titre expérimental de diviser les céramiques de style chinois découvertes en Afrique orientale selon les quatre phases suivantes : Phase I (vers 800-950/980), phase II (950/980-1230/50), phase III (1230/50-1430/50), phase IV (1430/50-1500/1510). Du point de vue géographique, la céramique de style chinois voyageait depuis les sites de production en Chine et en Asie du Sud-Est jusqu’aux sites de consommation côtiers et terrestres, en passant par une succession de réseaux régionaux qui étaient interconnectés les uns aux autres. La périodisation de la céramique de style chinois semble indiquer que chaque phase correspondait à une configuration particulière de ces maillons interconnectés. La céramique devient à partir du XIIe siècle la marchandise la plus importante en volume dans le commerce maritime chinois. Dans le contexte global des exchanges sino-swahili, il est légitime de qualifier d’inégal cet échange entre céramique « bon marché » et produits africains à haute valeur. Cependant notre étude souligne le rôle symbolique que jouait dans les sociétés swahili la céramique chinoise, dont le caractère « exotique » était intentionnellement mis en valeur dans des pratiques culturelles telles que les festins. Ces objets participent de ce fait activement de la construction du pouvoir de l’élite marchande, qui en prend pleine possession tant du point de vue matériel que symbolique.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1  M. Horton, J. Middleton, 2000, p. 17. P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 102.
  • 2  T. Terada, 1988, p. 97-98.
  • 3  J.J. Duyvendak, 1947, P. Wheatley, 1959 and 1975, F.-W. Shen, 2010, p. 196-215, H. Bielenstein, 20 (...)
  • 4 Guangzhou shi wenhua ju, 2008, vol. 3, p. 96, fig. 100.
  • 5  M. Flecker, 2002, p.94. Some elephant tusks have been excavated from the shipwreck site of Cirebon (...)

1The medieval Swahili world corresponds geographically to a narrow corridor of land about 2,500 km in length, stretching from Somalia to Mozambique on the eastern coast of Africa, including the Comoros Islands and northern Madagascar. According to linguistic research, the word ‘Swahili’ comes either from the Arab word sawâhil in the plural, meaning coasts, or from the Arab word sahel in the singular, meaning entrepôt.1 These etymological links clearly reveal the role this coastline played in relation to inland areas and the shoreline of the Indian Ocean through the world-system. According to Japanese historian Takano Terada, the wealth of Swahili city-states during the medieval era is also directly linked to trade with China.2 Chinese written and archaeological sources attest to the importation of East African goods to China early during the Greco-Roman era. Various Chinese sources prior to the 9th century attest to the consumption of products coming from East Africa at the court and in the aristocratic milieu; and obviously from the 9th century onward, products coming from this region continued to increase in number as well as volume in Chinese markets. According to Chinese evidence, East African products imported into China during the medieval period essentially consisted of wild birds and animals, elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, amber, tortoise shells, ebony (Diospyros ebenum J. Koenig, Diospyros melanoxylon Roxb.), Physeter macrocephelus (sperm whale) ambergris, leopard skins, and medicinal plants such as Aloe barbadensis Mill. and Commiphora habessinica (O. Berg).3 Archaeology has also provided evidence of elephant tusks from East Africa from the 1st century CE. From the tomb of the second king of Nanyue (r. 137–122 CE), five pieces of African elephant tusk have been excavated.4 From the 10th century Intan shipwreck site, archaeologists have also retrieved African elephant tusk remains.5 During the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE), elephant tusks were the most important of the commodities in Song maritime trade. On the other hand, according to Chinese written sources, the main Chinese export commodities comprised, in general, textiles, ceramics, coins, and some raw materials such as copper, tin, and lead. As far as Chinese products exported to East Africa are concerned, at present archaeologists have excavated only four types of vestiges: ceramics, coins, textiles, and glassware. For the last three categories, which are represented by relatively few finds in comparison with ceramic sherds, no synthesis exists as of yet. Yet, since the middle of the 20th century, archaeology in this part of the world has continuously brought to light an increasingly significant corpus of Chinese ceramic sherds, opening up a whole new field of research.

2This paper aims to study, based on valuable archaeological finds of Chinese ceramic sherds, the modalities of importation and consumption of Chinese ceramics in the Swahili city-states of East Africa before the 16th century. From a theoretical point of view, this review of the evidence provides an opportunity to validate the contribution of Chinese-style ceramic sherds as historical documents, both for Swahili history and for Afro-Asian global history between the 9th and 16th centuries.

Methodological approaches for the study of Chinese-style ceramics found in East Africa

3As an introduction to the paper, from a methodological point of view, we will deal with the main contribution of Chinese ceramic sherds as historical data for the study of Sino–Swahili maritime trade.

Chinese ceramic sherds as a dating reference

4Among the archaeological finds excavated from port sites in the Indian Ocean, Chinese ceramic sherds provide the most accurate date range, thanks to a long tradition of study in China. Since the beginning of the 20th century, in Africa as elsewhere, archaeologists have relied on these artifacts to date the layer of a site and establish its general chronology. Two approaches can be distinguished in processing this material. In the first approach, archaeologists attempt to identify and publish the data themselves, which is often a source of confusion, approximation, and error, as much for identification as for dating. In the second approach, study is entrusted to one or more specialists, but, unfortunately, most often with the sole purpose of obtaining information on dating.

  • 6  D. Kuhn, 1994 and 1996.
  • 7  J. Rawson, 1996, p. 34-37.

5With the growth of archaeology in China and in Southeast Asia in the last 30 years, researchers now have new information for refining the chronology of Chinese ceramics. Hence, it is possible today to date certain pieces precisely to within 20 to 30 years. Dating a Chinese ceramic sherd depends first on the data originating both from the sites of production and consumption in China. In fact, the chronology of a production site can now be reconstituted using stratigraphy of the waste formed in the areas immediately surrounding the kiln. Furthermore, this may be achieved by adopting an approach based on laboratory analyses and observations related to the history of the techniques used at the site: production techniques and kiln setting methods. Thus, both the traces of the kiln furniture and the truing wheel constitute the ‘DNA’ for a precise period or even for a specific production center. In addition, archaeology has brought to light a great number of tombs, dated in an absolute or relative manner, which offer elements of comparison that are virtually unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Absolute dating is based on texts indicating the precise date of the death of the deceased or the date of his or her burial, such as an epitaph dedicated to the deceased or the date listed on the contract for the purchase of the land where the tomb is located. Relative dating is obtained through cross-analysis of the structure of the tomb itself and of the burial goods it contains.6 Research has shown that from the 10th century onward, it was common in China to bury the deceased along with objects from his or her daily life, notably ceramics.7 By cross-referencing the dating information furnished by the funerary objects and by the inscriptions, it becomes possible to date the ceramics buried in these tombs in a highly precise manner. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that there may be a long interval between the fabrication date of an object and the date at which it is placed in a tomb. In other words, a dated tomb may accurately provide only the latest possible dates for the objects it contains.

  • 8 Y.-M. Shen, 2007. For the mixed cargo of later period, see C. Jörg, 2007.

6Independently of the time spent in a transit entrepôt, the sea voyage from southern China to the Persian Gulf is estimated to have taken about one year. In the last 30 years, underwater archaeological research in the South China Sea and in Southeast Asian waters has markedly revitalized our understanding of the Chinese ceramics trade. This has led to discoveries prompting researchers to adopt a more global approach, one more focused on the historical reality of trade. In fact, the cargo found in shipwrecks serves as a kind of ‘material archive’ of trade operations taking place at a precise moment in history. These data are even more crucial for medieval times, because almost nothing remains of the lists of goods transported by ship. Nevertheless, the most attentive researchers question the phenomenon referred to as ‘mixed cargo’. Thus, according to Shen Yueming, the Belitung shipwreck, which sank during the second quarter of the 9th century off the coast of the island of Belitung in Indonesia, contains green-glazed stoneware from the Yue kiln site, with production dates which covered a period of some 60 years.8 This time span may have resulted from the activities of intermediaries in the commercial supply chain and from the time the pieces spent in entrepôts. Furthermore, in studying Chinese ceramic sherds excavated from Swahili sites, and more generally at consumption sites, it is important to consider the duration of utilization, which can be up to several centuries.

  • 9  S. Pradines, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010; S. Pradines, P. Blanchard, 2005.
  • 10  C. Allibert, 1993; S. Pradines, P. Brial, 2012 and 2013.
  • 11  Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012.

7In these conditions, any specialist studying Chinese ceramic sherds excavated from a port site must exercise great caution—because, from a methodological standpoint, an isolated Chinese ceramic sherd, even one that is very precisely dated, cannot on its own constitute an accurate chronological indicator. It is in fact imperative to analyze an assemblage of sherds by phases in order to extract reliable chronological information. Numerous archaeologists deplore the lack of a comprehensive typology of Chinese ceramics found from archaeological sites in the western Indian Ocean; however, an undertaking of this magnitude would be particularly difficult to carry out. Methods for excavation and inventories of artifacts, as well as the quality of existing publications, can vary greatly relative to the time period and the archaeologists’ cultural and ideological background. In addition, conducting new identifications from descriptions and illustrations in old publications can be a source of error. In this paper, our periodization of Chinese and Southeast Asian imports from East Africa has thus been founded essentially on the corpus we have personally studied. This corpus comprises data from the following excavations: Gedi (Kenya), Sanje ya Kati and Songo Mnara (Tanzania), excavated by Stéphane Pradines;9 and Dembeni (Comoros), excavated by Claude Allibert and Stéphane Pradines.10 Recent publications, particularly those of Chinese archaeologists working on the Kenyan coast since 2007, have also been considered.11

Chinese ceramic sherds as material evidence of exchanges

  • 12  B. Laufer, 1912.
  • 13 Ts. Mikami, 1969; M. Pirazzoli-tSerstevens, 1985.

8In 1912, Berthold Laufer, an anthropologist working in the Philippines, was the first to bring particular attention to the inestimable contribution of Chinese ceramic sherds to the study of commercial and cultural exchanges.12 The pioneering character of his work still merits consideration here, an entire century later. Indeed, at the very beginning of the 20th century, trade between China and Southeast Asia, as well as between China and the Muslim world (including Africa), was being studied only through Chinese, Persian, Arab, and European evidence. Laufer thus proposed to include Chinese ceramic sherds among the available historical materials used to study trade patterns. More precisely, according to Laufer, aside from the chronological reference that particularly interests archaeologists, the study of Chinese ceramic sherds is pertinent on two historical levels. The first concerns the spatial distribution of the sherds. In fact, stoneware and porcelain are better preserved than most other types of goods. Their occurrence throughout archaeological sites in the Indian Ocean offers a set of precise geographical data for recreating maritime trade trajectories. It is by employing this very approach that Japanese and European scholars such as Tsugio Mikami and Michèle Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens employed the term ‘Ceramics Road’ to designate these maritime trade routes.13

  • 14 H.T. Wright, 1993, p. 671–672.

9Nevertheless, the simple binary notion of presence/absence applied to sites is far from sufficient to account for the complex reality of the circulation of Chinese ceramics across the Indian Ocean. Henry Wright has proposed to use the ratio of imported to local ceramic sherds for evaluating Swahili port sites, thus introducing a new and more pertinent concept, that of density or volume.14 This method can offer a particularly promising ‘material and quantitative measure’ for optimizing the supply of ceramic sherds in historical studies on trade. The most widespread quantification method is the percentage of the number of ceramic sherds in relation to the total number of sherds from all origins combined. Recently, some scholars have worked on the minimum number of individual pieces, which takes into consideration in most cases only the number of rims, bases, handles, and fragments with decoration. At any rate, it is important to note that the relevance of a quantitative data synthesis depends entirely on the homogeneity of the methods used for data collection. In this paper, we will propose only two distribution maps in the western Indian Ocean for the two principal categories from the two first phases’ assemblages: underglazed, brown-painted stoneware from the Tongguan kiln sites and qingbai-glazed stoneware/porcelain ware.

  • 15  B. Laufer, 1912, p. 18.
  • 16  B. Zhao, P. Colomban, 2015.

10From the 13th to the 15th century, Chinese green-glazed stoneware from Longquan (known as Longquan celadon) was the category of Chinese ceramics most exported to the Muslim world. Recent archaeology has revealed that during the period from the 10th to the 14th century, thousands of Chinese pottery centers, one copying the other, often shared the same repertoires for shape and decorative patterns. As a result of its success, Longquan green-glazed stoneware was subject to imitation at numerous other sites both in China and in Southeast Asia. Having in all likelihood observed the variable quality of green-glazed stoneware finds from the Philippines, Laufer rightly employed the term ‘pseudo-celadon’ to refer to these ‘inauthentic’ celadon ceramics—that is, green-glazed stoneware produced outside of the Longquan region.15 As in the case of Chinese ceramic sherds found at port sites in the Indian Ocean, the identification of those from Southeast Asia is based almost exclusively on visual observation. To begin with, the stylistic criteria to be examined include the paste, the decorative pattern, and the shape. Equally considered are technological criteria, including production techniques such as the trimming process and the kiln setting method. Emerging kiln site archaeology in Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma is breathing new life into the history of ceramics in these areas, which had hitherto been almost exclusively based on collection pieces lacking in historical context. From a theoretical standpoint, the attribution of a sherd to a production site can be determined convincingly only if it exhibits characteristics identical to reference sherds found in situ at the production site in question. As a result, it is necessary to cross-reference stylistic analyses with physical chemistry quantification studies, laboratory research being increasingly performed on sherds found at production and consumption sites.16

  • 17  M.-F. Dupoizat, N.H. Wibisono, C. Guillot, 2007.

11High-fired stoneware production in the Southeast Asian peninsula was closely linked to Chinese traditions. For this reason, some scholars have proposed to relabel it using the term ‘Chinese-style ceramics’.17 We have elected to use the generic term ‘Chinese-style ceramics’ henceforth in this text, considering that the ceramics production in Oriental Asia was transnational and global and grounded in complex mercantile contexts. Firstly, during the period from the 11th to the 16th century, relations between the Chinese empire, neighboring Southeast Asian countries, and their borders evolved significantly. Secondly, the Chinese provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guangdong and the countries of the Southeast Asian peninsula benefited from similar climatic conditions, on which ceramic production heavily depends. Finally, recent work has demonstrated that potters in these regions sometimes shared not only a similar stylistic repertoire but also certain common production and firing techniques. Although circulation schemas for ceramic techniques in these regions have not yet been adequately studied, they nevertheless must be considered in relation to the migration of artisans, sailors, and merchants, essentially moving from southern China toward Southeast Asia. But this, of course, does not exclude the impact of the flow in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, no work has been undertaken regarding this reverse flow.

  • 18  M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2003, p. 8; B. Zhao, R. Carter, C. Velde, 2015, p. 158-159.

12Today, a sherd’s origin is obviously an important piece of information for the study of trade partners and modalities of exchange. However, from the consumption viewpoint, it can be observed that during the 15th century, at the port site of Julfar, ceramics from Southeast Asia were valued and restored as much as Chinese ceramics.18 We thus ask whether or not, in the western Indian Ocean, users made a distinction or were capable of distinguishing between Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics.

A tentative periodization of Chinese-style ceramics imported to East Africa

  • 19  W.-K. Ma, F.-R. Meng, 1987; Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012.
  • 20  B.P. Groslier, 1981, p. 99.

13The first question, and doubtless the most delicate in the work of periodization, concerns chronological divisions, and these refer implicitly to two separate sets of concepts. The first concerns change and rupture; the second, coherence and continuity. Chinese ceramics specialists, positioning themselves in the tradition of Chinese studies, systematically subscribe to Chinese dynastic divisions.19 Yet, as early as 1981, Bernard Philippe Groslier indicated the drawbacks to imposing Chinese chronology on the study of Chinese ceramics found at sites in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, for him: ‘This [Chinese] periodization runs the risk of having no relation to the rhythms of local civilizations. Worse, it runs the risk of masking or distorting them.20

  • 21  John Carswell, studying East Asian ceramic finds from the Maldives, put forward the following hypo (...)
  • 22  In 1974, Immanuel Wallerstein presented his theory of a European-centered world-system, defining 1 (...)

14Accordingly, abandoning the Chinese dynastic scale constitutes the starting point for a new approach. This approach consists of first accepting that Chinese ceramics were an integral part of the material culture of the importing country. Attention must now be paid to reception and not solely to exportation, the latter a concept cloaked in rather strong Sino-centrist connotations. As a consequence, in the framework of our periodization, it is crucial to take into consideration the chronology of Swahili city-states. In addition, it is important to note that the importation of Chinese-style ceramics on the Swahili coast before the 16th century primarily occurred indirectly, after passing through Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and even through southern India, the Maldives, and northern Madagascar.21 According to current scholars of global history, as early as the 1st century CE, world-systems were constructed and restructured at the will of the economic rhythms of the societies linked by the waters of the Indian Ocean. It was not until the 7th century that East Africa began to progressively integrate into the world-systems’ networks, as it was a semi-peripheral area of the Muslim world.22 Consequently, it seemed imperative to us to integrate the evolution of commercial networks of the western Indian Ocean into our work, without necessarily adhering to the idea of a relationship of domination between the centers and the peripheries.

15Thus, in concentrating on the analyses of regional and global contexts, we propose an experimental division of Chinese-style ceramics found in East Africa according to four phases: phase I (800–950/80 CE), phase II (950/80–1220/50 CE), phase III (1220/50–1430/50 CE), and phase IV (1430/50–1500/510 CE).

Phase I (800–950/80 CE)

  • 23  W.-K. Ma, 1995.
  • 24  R. Krahl, J. Guy, J. Raby, K. Wilson, 2010.
  • 25  Recent analyses undertaken by Dr Cui Jianfeng (School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking Univers (...)
  • 26  S. Wong, 2013.

16In 1993, Ma Wenkuan, the pioneering Chinese scholar working on the relationships between Chinese and Islamic ceramics, for the first time divided into four groups the assemblage of Chinese ceramics imported into the Muslim world from the 9th to the 10th century.23 This assemblage includes unglazed, brown-painted stoneware from the Tongguan kiln sites in Hunan Province (known as Changsha ware), green-glazed stoneware from the Yue kiln sites in Zhejiang Province, white stoneware or porcelain ware from the Xing kiln sites in Hebei Province, and green-glazed stoneware from the Guangdong kiln sites. Archaeological studies in the last 20 years have made it possible to significantly expand our knowledge about this assemblage. In the first place, with the exception of white ware from the Xing kiln sites, it is now confirmed that other products from the north, particularly from Gongxian in Henan Province, were also imported into the Muslim world.24 These include earthenware/stoneware with bicolor or tricolor glaze and underglazed manganese-cobalt blue painted earthenware/stoneware.25 Shuiche (in the Meixian District) and Shangbu (in the Chaozhou District) kiln sites are henceforth identified as supply centers of green-glazed stoneware from Guangdong.26

  • 27  M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 395-7; D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 62.
  • 28  N. Chittick, 1984, p.71-79; D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 63, fig. 5.
  • 29  D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 63-64.
  • 30  A.M. Juma, 2004, p. 107.

17Chinese archaeologists have recently re-examined the finds from Shanga (in the Lamu Archipelago) excavations undertaken by Dr M. Horton in the 1980s. For these scholars, 19 fragments of Changsha ware are all 9th–10th century productions, while they were excavated from trench 3, 6-10 of phase 1-6, dated to ca. 760–900 CE by Horton according to related Carbon-14 dating (fig. 1).27 Regarding the corpus of nearby Manda, the same archaeologists have identified the sole white porcelain bowl fragment produced in the Fanchang kiln sites in Anhui Province as dating to the first half of the 10th century (fig. 2).28 A tiny series of Yue green-glazed stoneware sherds from the Manda site was recognized as belonging to phase I, as was another series from the site of Dembeni (fig. 3, 4).29 Some fragments of green-glazed stoneware storage jars with thick sides and an oblong shape, most likely from Guangdong Province, have been found at a number of sites in East Africa (fig. 5). The production cycle and the utilization period of the jars are generally very long, hence their low level of reliability as chronological indicators. Regarding the Unguka Ukuu site on Zanzibar Island, a green-glazed Yue stoneware sherd and an early Changsha ware sherd are reported to appear in a sequence preceding the Islamic period.30 These finds may correspond to the Sassanid expansion in the Indian Ocean (and probably in the China Sea) from the 7th century onwards. It is likely that Chinese stoneware and porcelain may have occasionally reached Arabia and Africa earlier; but according to valuable archaeological discoveries in Kenya and recent studies by Chinese scholars, it was only at the turn of the 9th century that Chinese ceramic became one of the principal components of regular trade between China and East Africa.

  • 31 G.P. Murdoch, 1959, p. 205; T. Terada, 1988, p. 97; P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 120-121.
  • 32 Ahbâr as-Sîn wa L-Hind, 1948, vol. 1, p. 72-73.
  • 33  F. Thierry, 1997.
  • 34  C.-Y. Huang, 2003, p. 54.
  • 35  W.E.F. Ward, 1963, vol. 2, p. 199-203.

18Chinese copper coins bearing the Kaiyuan reign mark of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) were found at several island and coastal port sites—for instance, at Mogadishu and at Zanzibar Island.31 It must be remembered that these Kaiyuan coins were made not only under the so-called Kaiyuan reign (713–741) but several times later in the 8th century, and these coins remained valid for exchange in China throughout the Tang Dynasty. Thus, these finds cannot be seen as reliable chronological markers. Until the 13th century, Chinese copper coins constituted one of the main Chinese commodities through the oversea trade. According to the Ak̲h̲bār al-Ṣīn wa‘l-Hind (An account of India and China), written in 851, Chinese merchants used their own currency only for trade.32 However, Chinese coins were not used solely by Chinese merchants; they occurred often in Oriental Asia (Japan and Korea), Southeast Asia, and South Asia as one of the regular currencies for regional and global exchanges. Thanks to their intrinsic value, Chinese copper coins were traded by sea and also retained as highly sought after raw material and capital in various regions of the Indian Ocean.33 C.-Y. Huang suggests that Chinese coins may have been used as secondary currency in global trade, similarly to what occurred in Southeast Asia.34 Furthermore, the appearance of these early-period Chinese coins in East Africa may be closely linked to the presence of Austronesians in the western Indian Ocean, especially from the 5th century onward.35 Thus, the Chinese Tang Dynasty coins cannot be considered as evidence of the presence of Chinese junks or merchants.

Phase II (950/80–1220/50 CE)

  • 36  For the debate regarding qingbai ware and white ware, see B. Zhao, 2015a, p. 278-279.
  • 37  S.-F. Peng, F.-M. Fan, 1998.
  • 38  B. Zhao, 2015a, p. 279.

19A large range of monochromes dominates this second phase assemblage. Among them is the qingbai ware, which, in quantitative terms, constitutes the category of Chinese ceramics most exported into the Muslim world and East Africa during the whole of phase II (fig. 5, 6). The coloration of the glaze in the same fabrication series can vary depending on the placement of each piece in the kiln and the atmospheric conditions during the firing. In addition, the precise definitions of stoneware and porcelain remain the subjects of lively debates among scholars.36 As a result, we propose using the classification of Chinese scholars to regroup a wide range of stoneware and porcelain ware under the qingbai category, all of which has glaze ranging in color from pale blue-gray to pale blue, and including blue-gray-green and even off-white.37 Beyond this large category, we argue for a classification of three sub-categories according to the paste: fine qingbai, medium qingbai, and heavy qingbai.38

  • 39  The proto-Longquan ware refers to the productions of the Longquan kiln sites prior to the mid-12th (...)

20The phase II assemblage is very complex, with categories and types that remain poorly identified in previous studies, and includes among other types the following: green-glazed stoneware from the kiln sites of Guangdong and Fujian Provinces; green-glazed stoneware from Yaozhou kiln sites (Shaanxi Province) along with their imitations made in Guangdong Province, notably in the Xicun kiln site; brown-glazed stoneware, as well as underglazed iron brown-painted stoneware from Guangdong Province; and Ding-style white-ivory-glazed porcelain from Hebei Province (fig. 7, 8, 9, 10). It seems necessary, therefore, to subdivide this second phase into two distinct periods (950/80–1120/50 and 1120/50–1220/1250), which are marked by the presence and the absence of the Yue/proto-Longquan style green-glazed stoneware.39

  • 40  For Pemba Island, see J. Fleisher, 2003, p. 278. For Sanje ya Kati, B. Zhao, 2012, p. 63.
  • 41  A. LaViolette, 2008, p. 38.

21It is attested that at several insular and coastal sites and from the 11th century onward, the quantity of Chinese and Islamic sherds increased markedly. Furthermore, among these importations, the number of bowl fragments outpaces, from the mid-11th century, that of jars (fig. 11, 12, 13).40 According to recent research, Asian rice may have been cultivated in Chwaka on Pemba Island in the 11th century, and new culinary practices based on Asian rice consumption may have been established from this same period.41 The overwhelming proportion of bowls in Chinese imports during this phase may be seen as material evidence of the domestication of rice culture and related practices in coastal areas of the central part of the Swahili world.

22We may thus observe that Chinese ceramics were no longer being introduced into Swahili city-states principally in the form of containers, as had been the case during phase I. Nevertheless, green- or brown-glazed stoneware storage jars from Fujian and Guangdong still constitute a non-negligible portion of the Chinese corpus (fig. 14). During this phase, the most frequently recurring forms, aside from storage jars, are for the most part open forms such as bowls and small plates, among which bowl sherds are a major component. Closed forms such as jarlets, incense burners, and boxes are, on the other hand, in the minority (fig. 15). All of these forms are small to medium in size: for the open forms, the diameter of the opening does not exceed 15 cm, and the height of the closed forms is less than 25 cm.

Phase III (1220/50–1430/50 CE)

  • 42  D.-S. Qin, “On Ming Ceramics Discovered in Kenya”, conference given during the international sympo (...)
  • 43  Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012, pls 38, 44.

23This phase is marked by the growing presence of Chinese ceramics, in particular green-glazed stoneware from Longquan (fig. 16, 17, 18). In fact, in a corpus composed of 9,552 sherds from 37 Kenyan sites recently studied by Chinese archaeologists, for the period from the 14th to the 15th century, Longquan ware represents between 83% and 89% of Chinese imports.42 In the years 1350/70, blue-and-white porcelain ware and copper-red porcelain ware began to appear at sites located in the central area of the Swahili coast (fig. 19, 20, 21).43 Equally substantiated, but less numerous, white-ivory-glazed porcelain ware from Fujian Province, qingbai-glazed porcelain from Jiangxi and Fujian Provinces, and green- or grey-green-glazed stoneware from Fujian Province appear as well (fig. 22, 23).

  • 44  H. Sassoon, 1980, p. 31; B. Zhao, 2012, p. 56
  • 45  B. Zhao, 2012, p. 56.

24Two important shifts occurred during this phase and merit discussion at this point. It is true that, in the course of phase III, the quantity of medium-sized plates increases to the detriment of small to medium-sized bowls. Parallel to this, the size of plates and bowls progressively increases until the appearance of large plates and bowls with diameters greater than 35 cm (fig. 24, 25). Beginning in the 14th century, these large plates and bowls constitute the majority share of Chinese imports, as we shall see in greater detail below. The second change involves the appearance of Southeast Asian productions, at first underglazed iron brown-painted stoneware from north Vietnam kiln sites. Bowl fragments with a relatively straight profile dated to the 13th or early 14th century have been excavated at sites in Mombasa and Songo Mnara (fig. 24).44 From the year 1370 onward, Vietnamese blue and white ware were imported into East Africa (fig. 26).45

Phase IV (1430/50–1500/10 CE)

  • 46  N. Chittick, 1974, vol. 1, p. 214; B. Zhao, 2012, p. 82.
  • 47  J.S. Kirkman, 1963, p. 48, fig. 13q.
  • 48  N. Chittick, 1984, p. 71.
  • 49  N. Chittick, 1974, vol. 2, p. 309-310.
  • 50  For the sites of Sanje ya Kati and Songo Mnara (Kilwa, Tanzania), see B. Zhao, 2012, p. 57.

25This phase is characterized by the dominant presence of blue-and-white porcelain from Jingdezhen. Green-glazed porcelain from Longquan kiln sites dwindles, while imitations probably produced at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province and at Chaozhou and Huizhou (both in Guangdong Province) might have been imported. Regarding the volume, scholars have emphasized that the quantities of Chinese-style ceramic sherds found at archaeological sites in East Africa appear to definitively exceed those of Islamic ceramics.46 Furthermore, growth can be observed in the volume of Southeast Asian ceramics, including in particular—in addition to Vietnamese blue-and-white ware—green-glazed stoneware from Thailand. From the 1470s, these ceramics were replaced by green-glazed stoneware and opaque white-glazed earthenware from the Twante and Bago regions in Burma (fig. 27, 28). Large plates and bowls are the most common forms of Southeast Asian ceramics. These products, however, have at present been identified only at a very few sites, such as Gedi,47 Manda,48 Kilwa Kisiwani,49 and Songo Mnara.50

26In conclusion to this section, we will repeat that our intention here is not to establish an exhaustive typology based on systematic classification criteria. Rather, our objective in this study is to describe, for each phase, the principal characteristics of the assemblages in order to ‘materially’ retrace the evolution of medieval Afro-Asian maritime trade. The periodization thus obtained must be examined alongside the chronology of other archaeological artifacts, in particular that of Islamic ceramics and ‘Indo-Pacific’ glass beads. Moreover, this periodization should be readjusted and completed according to future discoveries and research on Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics.

Chinese ceramics as symbols of power in Swahili city-states

  • 51  M. Wheeler, 1955.
  • 52  J. Allen de Vere, 1982, 1993.
  • 53  F. Chami, 1994; P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 87-89; S. Wynnes-Jones, J. Fleisher, 2011.
  • 54 J. Fleisher, P. Lane, A. LaViolette, M. Horton, E. Pollard, E. Quintana Morales, T. Vernet, A. Chri (...)

27As a reminder, the original interest in the study of Chinese ceramics found in East Africa dates back to the middle of the 20th century, when British archaeologists excavated coastal sites in Kenya and Tanzania. For Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the history of East Africa could be written thanks to Chinese ceramics.51 In fact, this first generation of scholars made use of the evidence of imported products such as Chinese and Islamic ceramics and ‘Indo-Pacific’ glass beads to support the hypothesis that Swahili port cities were founded by Arabs. By examining the social and cultural identity of consumers of Chinese ceramics, these studies were methodologically pioneering. In the early 1970s, however, those in support of the African identity of Swahili culture qualified this approach as colonialist.52 Indeed, these archaeologists had paid absolutely no attention to the African pottery that nonetheless composed the majority of the corpus of ceramic sherds excavated from medieval Swahili sites. The local pottery known as Tana Ware or TIW (Early Tana Tradition) played an essential role in the material and economic culture of Swahili city-states.53 Some African pottery fragments have recently been found at port sites in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Gulf. These vestiges bear ‘material’ witness to the dynamism of the East African merchants in the inter-regional trade of the western Indian Ocean, as well as to the presence of an African community in southern Arabia.54

  • 55  S. Pradines, 1999. See J.D. Hawkes, S. Wynne-Jones in this issue.
  • 56  M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 387; A. LaViolette, 2008.

28The study of the distribution of Indian pottery in the western Indian Ocean is still in its infancy. This material is only beginning to be identified at newly excavated port sites. India’s role in the western Indian Ocean trade network remains thus largely underestimated. Recently, scholars have put forth the hypothesis that an Indian influence was at work in Swahili city-states, at once in the domains of architecture, textiles, and metallurgy.55 Furthermore, linguistic, archaeozoological, and archaeobotanical studies confirm the contribution of Austronesians in early material Swahili culture, besides that of Persian and Arabic cultures that the first generation of European scholars pointed out in the middle of the 20th century.56 By aligning ourselves with this scholarly movement in global material culture study, we would like to investigate the precise role Chinese ceramics have played in Swahili cosmopolitan material culture and mercantile social life.

Chinese ceramics, a rare commodity in East Africa before the early 16th century

  • 57  N. Wood, R. Kerr, 2004, p. 151-157.
  • 58  P. Beaujard, 2005, p. 411.
  • 59  R. Krahl, J. Guy, J. Raby, K. Wilson, 2010, p. 59; M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2005.
  • 60 For the sole quotation related to Chinese ceramics in East Africa, see P. Wheatley, 1975, p. 109.
  • 61  For a blue-and-white bottle discovered with some mortar attached on the base at the Kilwa-Kisiwani (...)
  • 62  J. Fleisher, A. LaViolette, 2007, p. 186.

29Most probably around the 11th century BC, Chinese potters perfected their techniques for the fabrication of high-fired stoneware that were likely fired at over 1150 °C. At the turn of the 7th century CE, the first porcelain in the world began to appear in the north of China, notably at the Xing kiln site in Hebei.57 During the 7th and 8th centuries, the double expansion of the Chinese and Muslim empires allowed for the progressive creation of a unified and organized Afro-Asian maritime space. The trade volume between the two areas intensified and the merchandise diversified.58 It is likely that Chinese ceramics occasionally reached Arabia and Africa slightly earlier; but according to valuable archaeological discoveries, it was only at the turn of the 9th century that these became one two of the principal components of regular trade between the Chinese and Muslim world.59 By virtue of their intrinsic qualities (cleanliness, hardness, lightness, aesthetic), Chinese ceramics were much admired from the moment they began to be imported to the western Indian Ocean. In the absence of written data on the prices of Chinese ceramics, we are instead reduced to taking into account certain practices to evaluate their relative value.60 For example, it has been demonstrated that, from the end of the 13th century at the latest, Chinese ceramics, bottles as well as bowls, were placed in niches inside Swahili houses.61 From the end of 13th century onward, the presence of Chinese-style ceramics on the main parts of mosques has been noticed by archaeologists at several sites. Scholars argue for a parallel use of Chinese-style ceramics in religious and domestic contexts and that both might be closely linked to Islam.62

  • 63  M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2005. 
  • 64  For finds from the Gedi site, see S. Pradines, 2004, fig. 207, low and right, fig. 221, low centre (...)
  • 65  For a perforated disk made with Longquan green-glazed stoneware with dragon pattern found at the K (...)
  • 66  L.W. Donley-Reid, 1990, p. 50.
  • 67  M. Li, 2012.

30In addition, various ways of reusing Chinese ceramics prove their undeniable ‘material’ attraction. For example, numerous Chinese sherds have rivet holes bored into them to accommodate metal wires rejoining broken pieces. These repair holes are generally interpreted as an indication that these objects were highly prized (fig. 29).63 Chinese ceramic trimmed disks with Chinese and Islamic ceramic sherds have also been excavated, some of which were perforated in the center.64 It appears that these objects were used in part to adorn the body and clothing: as pendants, earrings, or buttons. It is interesting to notice that selected sherds for this secondary use are generally decorated with a colorful shimmering glaze.65 As for the ceramic sherds transformed into tools (weights, spindle whorls, etc.,), they attest that stoneware and porcelain were highly appreciated for their materials. Recent studies concerning non-stone architectural contexts coupled with countryside surveys attest that stoneware and porcelain sherds were also used to decorate thewalls of clay-houses.66 A similar reuse phenomenon was observed in the Miwok tribe in California in the United States. This native American tribe salvaged blue-and-white porcelain fragments from a shipwreck sunken in Drakes Bay at the end of the 16th century. They used these porcelain fragments to make jewelry. For the Li Min, this phenomenon represents a concrete example of acculturation, illustrating how Chinese ceramics have been subject to functional and sometimes even stylistic transformations as they were re-adapted to the local material culture.67

  • 68  G. Pwiti, 2005, p. 386.
  • 69  0.12 per cent in Shanga (M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 244, table 9 and p. 273, table (...)
  • 70  J. Fleisher, 2003; S. Wynne-Jones, 2007.
  • 71  L.Y. Andaya, 1993.

31The phenomena described above clearly demonstrate the relatively high value of Chinese ceramics in the Swahili world. According to Gilbert Pwiti, Swahili merchant families considered Chinese ceramics as a form of capital whose value was guaranteed.68 Finally, the percentage of ceramic sherds from the Far East (China and Southeast Asia) compared with the total number of ceramic sherds at a Swahili port site is, in most cases, less than 1%.69 This confirms the rarity of the merchandise. Furthermore, exploration that has taken place in the Pemba and Kilwa regions in Tanzania shows that at coastal sites, where rural and artisanal activities dominated, imported products such as ceramics and glass beads are almost entirely absent.70 It seems that elite merchants of Swahili city-states jealously controlled the circulation of imported products and, in particular, their distribution inland. The same distribution patterns have been observed in Southeast Asia during the medieval period.71

Chinese ceramics, an important symbol of the coastal elite

  • 72 L.W. Donley-Reid, 1990, p. 47-59.

32During the 18th and 19th centuries, according to Linda Donley-Reid, Chinese porcelain dishes were used only for special occasions, while for everyday use Swahili men and women used dishes made of perishable materials such as wood or banana leaves, etc.72 Thus she critiques those archaeologists who systematically interpret Chinese porcelain sherds as coming from dishes that were used daily. By virtue of the extreme rarity of Chinese imports, the hypothesis that Chinese porcelain dishes were used on a daily basis is difficult to defend.

  • 73  G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, 1962, p. 30.
  • 74  J. Fleisher, 2010.
  • 75  T. Vernet, 2007, p. 408, p. 437-438; S. Wynne-Jones, 2013.

33Social practices, as well as their associated objects, would have played an important role in the transmission of collective memory in the Swahili city-states. Ibn Battuta describes in detail the Saturday audience given by the great sovereign, which he pretends to have attended during his alleged stay in Mogadishu in 1331. According to witnesses, between greeting rituals and discussions a meal was served, compliments of the sovereign. This meal took place in the same room as the audience, in the sovereign’s presence.73 The ceremonial, even ritual character of the meal seems to have impressed Ibn Battuta, but he did not provide any details concerning the dishes. In order to obtain more information on the presence of Chinese ceramics and to understand their role in this particular context, we will refer to historical and anthropological work on feasts. According to Jeff Fleisher, these events seem to have developed from the 11th century and to have played a central role in the social life of Swahili city-states by the 15th century.74 Indeed, it was precisely during these shared meals that trade negotiations between merchants, or political negotiations between the ruling clans, took place. The practice of giving feasts, which were the basis for symbolic exchanges beyond the sphere of the elite, also served as an occasion for rulers and patricians to establish and legitimize their domination and to get supporters through the exhibition of their generosity.75

  • 76  A. Rougeulle, 2005.

34The ostentatious tableware used at these banquets appears to have been composed of richly decorated plates and bowls, be they Chinese ceramics, Islamic glazed ceramics, or beautifully crafted African pottery. From the end of the 13th century, green-glazed stoneware from Longquan was imported in greater quantities and eventually surpassed the market for Iranian sgraffiato, which had constituted the principal luxury tableware between the 10th and 13th centuries.76 Chinese ceramics thus became the principal tableware present on banquet tables. At the same time, the size of imported Chinese pieces can be seen to augment: henceforth, large bowls and plates perfect for collective meals are the most common. The morphological and decorative details of banquet tableware participate in the performance of these meals. To be precise, these dishes were generally equipped with feet, allowing them to be placed on the ground; the interior walls of the pieces displayed décor that was progressively revealed during the course of the meal.

  • 77  J. Heurgon, 1961, p. 46-51; D. Briquel, 1999, p. 157-175.
  • 78  J. Fleisher, “Between Mosque and House: An Archaeology of Swahili Open Space”, see: http://www.son (...)
  • 79  T. Wilson, 1979, p. 34.
  • 80  M. Horton, J. Middleton, 2000, p. 112-113.
  • 81  G. Kuwayama, 1997.

35Scholars have previously emphasized similar performance use of exotic tableware in some other cosmopolitan trade-oriented port societies, for instance in Etruscan city-states. Notably, based on sarcophagi representing funerary banquet scenes, they have pointed out that the ‘exotically’ shaped tableware (Greek objects or their local imitations) actively participate in the social affirmation process for dominant lineages.77 Most Swahili tombs are located on the edge of a town, outside of the stonewall. At the same time, some cemeteries, woven into the urban fabric itself, were situated in the vicinity of the central open area, to be seen and observed. Discussing their physical location, J. Fleisher argued that these tombs were not simply functional resting places for the dead but were themselves an act of inscribing memory.78 These tombs served to validate the authority of the family or lineage of the deceased, to strengthen the kinship group. They functioned as symbols of the hereditary succession and supernatural authority and helped to maintain the leadership system of the coastal community.79 For elite clans, funeral ceremonies were an important occasion to affirm their magnificence and their power. The archaeological evidence is that from the end of the 13th century, green-glazed stoneware or blue-and-white porcelain plates and bowls were incrusted in the façade of pillared and domed tombs, both of which were funerary structures reserved for elite groups.80 The presence of Chinese-style ceramics in these sacred spaces is rich in meaning. In the first place, these ‘exotic’ objects symbolized belonging to an elite social class. They would have also functioned as a commemoration of the mercantile activities of the deceased, like a kind of epitaph. It is therefore reasonable to think that the consumption of Chinese style ceramics in Swahili city-states not only constitutes a clue to the material standard of living, but also indicates membership of an elite class capable of taking part in long-distance trade. Interestingly, a similar social code to that of Chinese-style ceramics enrolled in Swahili city-states is also observed in other coastal societies. For example, in the 17th century in South America, blue-and-white porcelain ware imported by Europeans seems also to have been considered a prestigious symbol and served as material proof of colonial identity.81

The inland network distribution of Chinese ceramics

  • 82  T. Insoll, 2003, p. 159. No specialist in Chinese ceramic has had occasion to examine this sherd a (...)
  • 83  S. Rakotovololona, 1994, p. 20; P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 334.
  • 84 L.C. Prinsloo, N. Wood, M. Loubser, S.M.C. Verryn, S. Tiley, 2005.
  • 85  The analysis had been done within the international research program “Analyses of glass trade bead (...)

36A tiny number of Chinese ceramic sherds discovered in African land sites for the period prior to the early 16th century can be summarized here. One so-called Yue green-glazed stoneware sherd was found at the 10th century site of Mteza, located inland from the Kenyan coast.82 It should be remembered that among the corpus of Chinese sherds from island sites of phase I, only very few Yue green-glazed stoneware fragments from Manda have been identified as dating back to the 9th century. For phase II, Yue green-glazed stoneware sherds have been unearthed exclusively from the Dembeni and Lamu Island sites. Evidence of inland penetration of Chinese ceramics during phases I and II thus remains scarce. Qingbai or white ware sherds, green-glazed stoneware sherds, and blue-and-white ware sherds were reported to have been found at the 12th–15th century Ankadivory site, located in the high mountain area of Madagascar.83 For phases III and IV, blue-and-white ware sherds have been found at the sites of two sets of sherds from Mapungubwe (South Africa) and Great Zimbabwe. These two sites were among the main suppliers of African gold during the period ca. 1200–1450. Having been discovered and excavated in the 19th and early 20th century, these two sites were heavily pillaged and many of the archaeological artifacts were stolen. From Mapungubwe, only three fragments belonging to a small pot or small ewer in Longquan-style green-glazed stoneware remain today and are kept in a public collection (fig. 30). Laboratory analysis reveals that the glaze contains an unusually high percentage of potassium oxide. This piece of information suggests a later date and an origin other than the main Longquan kiln sites.84 In addition, analyses performed by Dr Linda Prinsloo during the summer of 2014 have discredited the hypothesis that they originated from the Jingdezhen kiln site.85 The corpus of sherds excavated from Great Zimbabwe and currently kept in museums in Zimbabwe and South Africa includes around 20 bowl and plate sherds of Longquan green-glazed stoneware, a green-grey glazed stoneware bowl fragment from the Zhuangbian kiln site (Putian in Fujian Province), and three blue-and-white porcelain sherds from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi (fig. 31, 32, 33). They are all dated to the period from the beginning of the 14th to the end of the 15th century (i.e. phases III and IV).

  • 86  P. Beaujard, 2012, t. 2, p. 287-289.
  • 87  P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 150-152. For a synthesis of glass beads found at East African coastal and in (...)
  • 88  P. Garlake, 1973, pl. XII; B. Zhao, 2015b, p. 378-379.
  • 89  B. Zhao, 2012, p. 50, 81
  • 90  P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 153-154; T. Huffman, 2000, p. 14, 15, 20.

37Obviously, available archaeological evidence reveals a second dissymmetry in the Chinese ceramic diffusion between the Swahili coast and inland areas. However, this scarcity needs to be qualified. Firstly, inland settlements, built mainly in perishable materials, are far more difficult to be discovered. Secondly, archaeologists have mainly focused on coastal stonetown sites, and few inland sites, unfortunately, have been investigated. Most importantly, the diffusion of Chinese-style ceramics into inland areas seems not to be linked with the penetration of Islam, no mosque remains having been identified either at the Great Zimbabwe site or at the Mapungubwe site. As historians have demonstrated, it was probably not coastal Swahili merchants but alien local coastal merchants who operated direct exchange with inland areas.86 They brought with them exotic goods, firstly Indo-Pacific glass beads early in the 7th–8th century, then from the 10th century onward Egyptian glassware.87 The available corpus from the Great Zimbabwe and the Mapungubwe sites attests that Chinese ceramics may have arrived later, from the 12th century onwards.88 For the period of the 13th–early 16th centuries, Kilwa played a role in local distribution of Chinese imports coming from the Indian Ocean into the inland sites that provided gold, copper, and other highly sought commodities in global trade.89 It is interesting to note that Chinese-style ceramics, as well as glass beads, reached inland areas through another network, different from that operated along the Swahili coast. Meanwhile, archaeology confirms a similar role as social symbol, as these imports were found in a high concentration at the tombs of elite that were involved in maritime trade.90 These exotic goods functioned thus as a symbol and materialization of mercantile power.

The multi-partner global trade in Chinese-style ceramics in the Indian Ocean

  • 91  T. Terada, 1988, p. 97-98.

38According to Takano Terada, the rich culture of Swahili city-states was closely linked to trade with China, where demand for exotic natural products from East Africa increased considerably from the 11th century onward.91 It is thus appropriate to situate Chinese ceramics found in East Africa in the context of Sino-Swahili commerce to better understand their trade modality.

The multi-channel exportation of Chinese-style ceramics

  • 92  R. Finlay, 2010, p. 215.
  • 93  F. Gipouloux, 2009, p. 101.
  • 94  D.-K. Liao, 1990.
  • 95  J. Chaffee, 2006, p. 406.
  • 96  C.-Y. Huang, 2003; B. So, 2000.

39From the Han Dynasty onward, Chinese foreign trade functioned as a tribute payments (gong 貢) system whose main object was to ensure China’s suzerainty and centrality in commercial exchanges with alien countries. This system survived for several centuries because its practice represented an effective, flexible, and useful blend of cultural propaganda, reasoned diplomacy, and economic pragmatism.92 From a theoretical point of view, the imperial court supervised and regulated all transactions with foreign countries in order to levy taxes and maintain the monopoly of certain commodities for itself. The countries linked to China through this system were, for the most part, those of East and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, this tributary trade, in spite of its stately appearance, was in fact a type of regulated commerce (shi ), from which the Chinese central, regional, and local governments sought to gain maximum profit.93 As a consequence of the Chinese defeat at the battle of Talas River in 751 and the rise of An Lushan (755–763 CE), Tibetans definitively controlled the eastern part of the Silk Road from the end of the 8th century onward. The Chinese thus turned progressively to southern maritime areas to develop exchanges with the West through the Indian Ocean. During the period from the second half of the 10th century and the 11th century, the Song Dynasty (960–1278 CE) court established a series of Maritime Trade Bureaus (shibosi 市舶司) in southern ports. From the 11th century onward, these same offices depended in practice on a group of yaren 牙人 (private merchants) as intermediaries to operate. The latter were responsible, for example, for evaluating the price and volume of merchandise, ensuring that the court received its quota, and vouching for the legality of the transactions.94 In addition, it is well known today that in the 12th and 13th centuries, the golden age of private maritime trade, the Chinese government organized joint-venture commercial expeditions with private merchants. For instance, the Guangdong and Fujian regional and local governments provided the junks, while private merchants organized the trade, with profits being shared 70% by government and 30% by private merchants.95 Furthermore, under the Yuan Dynasty, some high-level government officials in charge of maritime trade affairs possessed their own private fleets and took advantage of their administrative positions in order to conduct their own personal business.96

  • 97  T. Harrison, 1957.
  • 98  R. Brown, 2009.
  • 99  M. Wan, 2007.

40Based on studies of imperial sources, historians had long insisted on the heavy impact of the closure of the maritime trade under the Ming Dynasty. Consequently, the ‘Ming Gap’ theory was born in Southeast Asia in the 1950s, when Tom Harrison concluded that no archaeological site in Sarawak contained any early Ming ceramics.97 Basing herself on the remarkably low percentage of the blue-and-white porcelain ware in the cargos of shipwrecks between 1440 and 1488, R. Brown proposed that the ‘Ming Gap’ theory could be applied more specifically to this period of time.98 This ‘export gap’ theory seemed to be well founded, because it could be supported by official Chinese sources. According to these sources, the emperors of the Ming Dynasty strictly forbade foreign trade by sea during the period 1371–1567. However, in the last 30 years, a series of shipwrecks discovered in Southeast Asian waters have brought to light a body of evidence suggesting illicit maritime trading in the 15th century, particularly during the last quarter of the century. Furthermore, as we have noted, during the period of the 13th–15th century, the main Chinese ceramic category exported into the Indian Ocean was green-glazed stoneware, but not blue-and-white ware. Recently, Chinese scholars have worked on local gazetteer records and discovered that the foreign commodities imported under the Ming Dynasty were curiously important in variety and in volume. Future research will better reveal the reality of foreign exchanges even under the early period of the Ming Dynasty.99

  • 100  J. Finlay, 2010, p. 222.
  • 101  Quote by G. Zhen, Xiyang fanguo zhi (History of the Western Country), ed. Xuxiu siku quanshu, vol. (...)

41The primary mission of the Zheng He expeditions launched by the Yongle emperor (r. 1402–1422) of the Ming Dynasty was to reinforce diplomatic relations between China, the countries of the Asian maritime zone, and those of the western Indian Ocean. In addition, commercial interests were also at stake. Regarding Chinese exported commodities, from the 8th century onward ceramics and silk constituted the two main exported goods; and from the 12th century onward, they became definitively the first Chinese exported goods. Based on the sole imperial command for ceramics, scholars have estimated that Zheng He’s fleets may have officially traded 3,104,500 pieces of ceramic.100 Along with this official trade, the crew of the fleets seem to have been authorized to load Chinese manufactured products, in particular ceramics and iron tools, intended for sale in a private capacity.101 Added to these various forms of legal private trade were other, illegal activities, such as false official delegations, the illegal participation of private merchants in official expeditions, and smuggling.

  • 102  C.-M. Ho, S.N. Malcolm, 1999, p. 11-13. R. Ptak, 2012.
  • 103  P.-Y. Manguin, 2010.
  • 104  G.-Y. Wang, 2010, p. 231-232.
  • 105  C.-M. Ho, S.N. Malcolm, 1999, p. 21-24.
  • 106  G.G. Correia, 1975, vol. 1, p. 69. Quote in J.M. dos Santos Alves, 2005, p. 45, n. 20. For the act (...)

42During the Song and Yuan dynasties, encouraged by the court and stimulated by the dynamism of domestic and foreign markets, private Chinese maritime trade underwent unprecedented expansion. Thanks to their large size and to Chinese sailors’ know-how, Chinese junks surpassed Muslim-owned ships in commercial maritime exchanges between China and India from the 12th century onward. Beginning in 1294, the Yuan court banned maritime trade on three occasions, but each time for a period of only a few years. From 1371 to 1568, the Ming court had, for its part, boasted a long-term policy of closure to maritime trade. However, recent research founded on closer readings of Chinese written records shows that the existence of these prohibitionist laws did not in fact put a complete stop to tributary trade. Moreover, in reaction to the ban, private, illicit maritime trade developed along the coastal regions from Guangdong to Zhejiang. Chinese sailors and merchants from these regions allied themselves with the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia and in the Kingdom of Ryukyu.102 They thus formed a powerful, illicit, transnational network, which at first developed by means of a fleet of Chinese ships, then through the use of ‘hybrid’ ships combining Chinese and South Asian naval technology.103 While the Kingdom of Ryukyu benefited from the tributary trade during the official ban on maritime trade from 1372, 15th-century Chinese sources show that Ryukyu merchants also illegally procured ceramics from Zhejiang and Fujian.104 Official Ryukyu archives confirm the considerable volume of Longquan and Fujian green-glazed stoneware exported toward Southeast Asia via Ryukyu during the 15th century.105 Early 16th-century Portuguese sources bear witness to the presence of Ryukyu merchants side by side with their Chinese counterparts at the royal courts of Kerala in India.106 This body of information implies that the great distribution of Zhejiang and Fujian ceramics in the western Indian Ocean during the period of the 13th–15th century may have been closely tied to the activities of the Ryukyu merchants.

  • 107  D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 103-104.
  • 108  G.-Y. Wang, 2010, p. 224.

43Based on the quality of the ceramics found at Kenyan coastal sites and evidence of one Yongle-reign coin recently found at the Mambrui site by a Chinese archaeological team, Qin Dashu argued that Zheng He’s expeditions allowed for the export of Jingdezhen blue-and-white porcelain and Longquan green-glazed stoneware of imperial quality to the Kenyan coast.107 Wang Guangyao shows that in the middle of the 15th century, blue-and-white porcelain was subject to state monopoly, while this was not the case for green-glazed stoneware from Longquan.108 These case studies thus show clearly that Chinese regulations concerning ceramic trade monopolies evolved often during the first half of the 15th century. As we have seen above, trade channels for Chinese-style ceramics to the Indian Ocean were numerous: diplomatic gifts, tributary trade, legal private trade, and illicit private trade. These channels may be intertwined with or superimposed on each other depending on the politico-commercial contexts. As a result, a single category of ceramics does not fall into a single commercial channel.

The indirect nature of the Chinese-style ceramic global trade

  • 109  T. Terada, 1988, p. 101-102; for a short summary of different opinions supported by Chinese schola (...)
  • 110  T. Terada, 1988, p. 98-99.
  • 111  E. Vallet, 2015.

44Some Chinese and Japanese historians support the hypothesis of a direct and regular shipping route between China and the Swahili world during the medieval period.109 These scholars base their conclusions primarily on Chinese written evidence and particularly on passages describing maritime itineraries and the Swahili landscape. Chinese artifacts, ceramic sherds, and coins found at Swahili sites have also aided in constructing an argument to support their Sino-centric theses. Yet, these coins circulated widely in all of Southeast Asia and in the Indian Ocean, and their presence at a site cannot, under any circumstances, constitute a reliable argument confirming the presence of Chinese merchants at the same site. One archival item in Arabic attests to the presence of a Chinese junk at the port of Aden on 31 January 1423, most probably from the fleet of Zheng He.110 For Eric Vallet, the astonishment expressed in this piece from the archives of the Rasulid of Yemen obviously suggests the absence of Chinese junks in the previous period.111 From a quantitative point of view, however, the volume of Chinese-style ceramics found at East African sites is of little significance in comparison with other commodities, such as African pottery and Islamic ceramics. European scholars consider that during the medieval period long-distance trade in the western Indian Ocean was successively under the control of Gulf, Red Sea, and then Indian merchants for the 15th century. We argue that a series of inter-regional networks from the China Sea to East Africa existed for an active but indirect Chinese-style ceramic trade.

Conclusion

45In this case study dedicated to Chinese-style ceramic sherds excavated from archaeological sites in East Africa, we have attempted to apply an approach that is at once local, regional, and global. The objective of our study was to test the contribution of these vestiges to the historical study of commercial and cultural exchanges. We have made use of multiple approaches. Firstly, from a local viewpoint, the density of Chinese-style ceramic sherds at a site may be used as a measurement tool to evaluate the degree of its involvement in long-distance trade. What is worth mentioning is that, from a geographical viewpoint, Chinese-style ceramics travelled globally from the production sites in China and in Southeast Asia to East African inland consumption sites, passing through different regional terrestrial and maritime networks. Each network was precisely defined in geographical, economic, and social terms. A network existed as a chain-link system, interconnected continuously from one link to the next and so on to the last link, thereby forming a global network. Chinese-style ceramics circulated within this multi-partner global network.

  • 112  N. Chittick, 1984, p. 71-79; M. Horton, C.M. Clark, 1985, p. 169.

46Secondly, the periodization of Chinese imports in East Africa appears to show that commerce played a role in the double evolution of trade networks in Asian waters and in the western Indian Ocean (fig. 34, 35). To be precise, each phase falls within a particular trade network. For phase I, the Changsha sherds are at present the best identified in the western Indian Ocean. Islamic decorative elements in Changsha ware may be interpreted as material proof of the important role that Muslim merchants played early on in the distribution of Chinese ceramics in the Indian Ocean. In addition, numerous Chinese sources relate the presence of Arab-Persian communities in China, in particular at the ports of Canton, Yangzhou, and Quanzhou, as well as on Hainan Island. Archaeological study confirms that during this period it was primarily Muslim-owned ships that were sailing between the China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The ports of the Persian Gulf, in particular that of Siraf, played an essential role in putting East African products on the long-distance trade market during this period. For East Africa, the Changsha sherds are at present the best identified. These first importations are concentrated on the island sites of the Lamu Archipelago and Zanzibar.112 The Swahili coast is considered by some scholars a semi-peripheral region in the world-system of the Indian Ocean. At the beginning of the 9th century, however, the central region of the Swahili coast was one of the most important consumption centers of Chinese ceramics in the western Indian Ocean.

47For phase II, archaeological discoveries show that the more southern sites—the Tanzanian coast and the Comoros Islands—yielded more material. This period shows a phase of reorganization for trade networks in the western Indian Ocean with the decline of Siraf following an earthquake in 977. It corresponds with the rise of the ceramic industry in southern China. Phase III, dominated by the presence of green-glazed stoneware from Longquan, corresponds to the period during which Ryukyu merchants were active. This period also coincides with the decline of the Persian Gulf trade network and the rise of the Red Sea network, along with the gold trade at the Kilwa and Sofala ports.

48From the 1460s, a double phenomenon may be observed: on the one hand, the Ming court decided to relax its policy of closure; while on the other hand, Southeast Asian merchants arriving in China on their own initiative expressed the desire to be freed of the constraints of the tributary trade system. At the same time, merchants from Jiangnan began to invest heavily in the production and commercialization of Jingdezhen blue-and-white porcelain. These factors strongly favored the development of the ceramics industry in Jingdezhen. Underwater archaeological investigation in Asian waters has in fact confirmed the expanded illicit circulation of Jingdezhen blue-and-white porcelain during Phase IV. Assemblage of Phase IV Chinese-style ceramics in East Africa is thus defined by the activities of Southeast Asian merchants, whether of Chinese or other origin, both for the illegal trade of Jingdezhen blue-and-white porcelain and the increasing volume of Southeast Asian productions.

49Furthermore, no particular type of Chinese ceramic can be observed in the corpus of Chinese-style imports in East Africa. Consequently, we may speak of ‘passive’ trade, which is ultimately dependent on the regional and global context. It should be noted that the ceramics industry in China and in Southeast Asia is also intimately related to the context of maritime trade networks, on both regional and global levels. In summary, Chinese-style ceramics traded to the Swahili world during the medieval era, therefore, fall essentially into the category of private, indirect, transnational commerce. This constitutes an excellent example of the multi-partner global trade system in the Indian Ocean during the medieval period.

  • 113  For example, in 1136 an Arab embassy offered frankincense from the Arabian coast north of Aden, wh (...)
  • 114  W.-H. Zhang, 1956, p. 74-75; M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2011, p. 5-17.

50Numerous Chinese sources dated to the 11th–15th centuries evoke the high-profile nature of maritime trade.113 Regarding the exchanges between China and Southeast Asia, scholars point to its inequitable nature: fancy commodities such as ceramics and iron tools in exchange for high-value natural products.114 From the global context of Sino-Swahili trade, the illegal nature of the Chinese-style ceramics trade against highly valued African commodities should also be mentioned. Nevertheless, our study shows the powerful social symbolic of Chinese ceramics in the Swahili world. From the local lens, it is the phenomenon of a changing value of Chinese ceramics. Indeed, in Swahili city-states, the ‘exotic’ character of Chinese-style ceramics seems to have been intentionally valorized in cultural practices such as feasts and funerary practices. Consequently, these objects actively contributed to the expanding power of the merchant elite, who took full possession of them both materially and symbolically.

Figures

Figure 1: Well sherds from bowls, underglazed brown-iron painted stoneware

Figure 1: Well sherds from bowls, underglazed brown-iron painted stoneware

Tongguan kiln site in Changsha area (Hunan province), from the Shanga site, Kenya, early 9th century.

Photo by D.-S. Qin.

Figure 2: Bowl sherds, stoneware recovered by whitish glazed

Figure 2: Bowl sherds, stoneware recovered by whitish glazed

Fanchang kiln site (Anhui province), from the Manda site, Kenya, later half of the 10th century.

According D.-S. Qin, 2015, fig. 5.

Figure 3: Bowl sherds, green glazed stoneware

Figure 3: Bowl sherds, green glazed stoneware

Yue kiln complex, 9th-10th century, from the Manda site, Kenya.

According D.-S. Qin, 2015, fig. 8.

Figure 4: Green glazed stoneware jar

Figure 4: Green glazed stoneware jar

Southern China, 8th-10th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.

Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.

Figure 5: Qingbai ware sherds

Figure 5: Qingbai ware sherds

Jingdezhen kiln complex and southern China, 11th-early 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 6: Diffusion map of qingbai ware in Arabia and in East Africa

Figure 6: Diffusion map of qingbai ware in Arabia and in East Africa

Copyright B. Zhao.

Figure 7: Base sherd from a bowl, green glazed stoneware

Figure 7: Base sherd from a bowl, green glazed stoneware

Xicun kiln site (Guangdong province), later half of the 12th century, from the site of Sanje ya Kati, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 8: Longquan green glazed stoneware

Figure 8: Longquan green glazed stoneware

12th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 9: Xicun kiln site iron-brown painted stoneware

Figure 9: Xicun kiln site iron-brown painted stoneware

From the site of Sanje ya Kati, 11th-early 12th century, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 10: Ding-style whiteware with molded pattern in the inside

Figure 10: Ding-style whiteware with molded pattern in the inside

Northern kiln site, later half of the 12th century-early 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 11: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware

Figure 11: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware

9th-10th century, Dembeni, Comoro Islands.

Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.

Figure 12: Bowl with carved lotus petals on the exterior

Figure 12: Bowl with carved lotus petals on the exterior

Southern China kiln site, end 10th-1st quart 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.

Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.

Figure 13: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware with carved pattern on the inside

Figure 13: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware with carved pattern on the inside

Later half of the 10th century-early 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoros.

Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.

Figure 14: Green glazed stoneware jar and brown glazed stoneware jar

Figure 14: Green glazed stoneware jar and brown glazed stoneware jar

11th-13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by S. Pradines and drawing by N. Martin.

Figure 15: Incence burner, Yue kiln sites green glazed stoneware

Figure 15: Incence burner, Yue kiln sites green glazed stoneware

End 10th-early 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.

Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.

Figure 16: Lotus bowl, Longquan green glazed stoneware

Figure 16: Lotus bowl, Longquan green glazed stoneware

Mid-3rd quarter of the 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.

Figure 17: Dish with a pair of fishes applied in the centre, Longquan green glazed stoneware

Figure 17: Dish with a pair of fishes applied in the centre, Longquan green glazed stoneware

13th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.

Photo by S. Pradines.

Figure 18: Base sherd from a bottle, green glazed stoneware

Figure 18: Base sherd from a bottle, green glazed stoneware

Longquan kiln complex, later half of the 14th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 19: Bowl base fragment, blue-and-white ware

Figure 19: Bowl base fragment, blue-and-white ware

3rd quarter of the 14th century, Jingdezhen kiln site, collected in early 20th century at Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Collection of British Museum.

Figure 20: Bottle, blue-and-white ware with dragon pattern

Figure 20: Bottle, blue-and-white ware with dragon pattern

Jingdezhen kiln site, last quart of the 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.

According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 43.

Figure 21: Bottle, copper red ware

Figure 21: Bottle, copper red ware

Jingdezhen kiln site, last quart of the 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.

According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 44.

Figure 22: Box fragment with molded lotus panels pattern

Figure 22: Box fragment with molded lotus panels pattern

Dehua kiln sites, end 13th-early 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.

Photo by S. Pradines.

Figure 23: Bowl fragments, qingbai-glazed ware

Figure 23: Bowl fragments, qingbai-glazed ware

Fujian kiln sites, 13th-early 14th century, Gedi site, Kenya.

According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 28.

Figure 24: Large dish, green-glazed stoneware

Figure 24: Large dish, green-glazed stoneware

Longquan kiln complex, diameter: 35,2 cm, late 14th-early 15th century, from the Vohemar site, Madagascar (Musée d’Histoire naturelle de Nîmes).

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 25: Large dish, blue-and-white

Figure 25: Large dish, blue-and-white

Jingdezhen kiln complex, last quarter of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 26: Rim sherd from a bowl, brown colour stoneware paste, iron painted pattern on the well near the rim under ivory-creamy glaze

Figure 26: Rim sherd from a bowl, brown colour stoneware paste, iron painted pattern on the well near the rim under ivory-creamy glaze

Vietnamese production, 13th-14th century, Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 27: Rounded dish sherd, green glazed stoneware

Figure 27: Rounded dish sherd, green glazed stoneware

Twante region, Burma, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 28: Base sherd of dish, red eathernware recovered by opaque tin-glaze

Figure 28: Base sherd of dish, red eathernware recovered by opaque tin-glaze

Twante region? Burma, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 29: Dish fragments with repair holes, blue-and-white ware

Figure 29: Dish fragments with repair holes, blue-and-white ware

Jingdezhen kiln complex, last quarter of the 15th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.

Photo by B. Zhao, drawing by N. Martin.

Figure 30: Three sherds from the same ewer, green-glazed stoneware

Figure 30: Three sherds from the same ewer, green-glazed stoneware

Southern China, 13th-14th century, from the Mapungubwe site, South Africa.

Photo by L. Prinsloo.

Figure 31: Large dish sherds, green glazed stoneware

Figure 31: Large dish sherds, green glazed stoneware

Longquan kiln complex, late 14th-first half of the 15th century, from the Great Zimbabwe site.

Photos by B. Zhao.

Figure 32: Base sherd from a bowl, greyish green glazed stoneware

Figure 32: Base sherd from a bowl, greyish green glazed stoneware

Zhuangbian kiln site (Fujian province), from the Great Zimbabwe site, Zimbabwe.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 33: Dish sherd, blue-and-white

Figure 33: Dish sherd, blue-and-white

Jingdezhen kiln complex, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Great Zimbabwe site, Zimbabwe.

Photo by B. Zhao.

Figure 34: Main Chinese kiln sites that might have provided West Asia and Africa

Figure 34: Main Chinese kiln sites that might have provided West Asia and Africa

Copyright B. Zhao.

Figure 35: Main kiln sites located in South-East mainland that might have provided West Asia and Africa

Figure 35: Main kiln sites located in South-East mainland that might have provided West Asia and Africa

Copyright B. Zhao.

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Notes

1  M. Horton, J. Middleton, 2000, p. 17. P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 102.

2  T. Terada, 1988, p. 97-98.

3  J.J. Duyvendak, 1947, P. Wheatley, 1959 and 1975, F.-W. Shen, 2010, p. 196-215, H. Bielenstein, 2005, p. 362.

4 Guangzhou shi wenhua ju, 2008, vol. 3, p. 96, fig. 100.

5  M. Flecker, 2002, p.94. Some elephant tusks have been excavated from the shipwreck site of Cirebon, but their origin has not been assigned because of the absence of analysis (H. Liebner, 2014, p. 211-212, fig. 2.3-125).

6  D. Kuhn, 1994 and 1996.

7  J. Rawson, 1996, p. 34-37.

8 Y.-M. Shen, 2007. For the mixed cargo of later period, see C. Jörg, 2007.

9  S. Pradines, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010; S. Pradines, P. Blanchard, 2005.

10  C. Allibert, 1993; S. Pradines, P. Brial, 2012 and 2013.

11  Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012.

12  B. Laufer, 1912.

13 Ts. Mikami, 1969; M. Pirazzoli-tSerstevens, 1985.

14 H.T. Wright, 1993, p. 671–672.

15  B. Laufer, 1912, p. 18.

16  B. Zhao, P. Colomban, 2015.

17  M.-F. Dupoizat, N.H. Wibisono, C. Guillot, 2007.

18  M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2003, p. 8; B. Zhao, R. Carter, C. Velde, 2015, p. 158-159.

19  W.-K. Ma, F.-R. Meng, 1987; Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012.

20  B.P. Groslier, 1981, p. 99.

21  John Carswell, studying East Asian ceramic finds from the Maldives, put forward the following hypothesis: the Maldives archipelago might have been one of the entrepôts for East Africa (J. Carswell, 1977). This hypothesis is supported by Randall L. Pouwels, who devoted a detailed study to showing that the Maldives and Madagascar might have played an active role in linking South India to East Africa from the 13th century onward (R. Pouwels, 2002, p. 400-401).

22  In 1974, Immanuel Wallerstein presented his theory of a European-centered world-system, defining 12 main characters of this system (I. Wallerstein, 1974). In response to this modern vision of global trade, scholars working on the Indian Ocean have sought to demonstrate that similar mechanisms already existed in this area several centuries earlier (see for example J.L. Abu-Lughod, 1991). For the place of East Africa in the world-system, see P. Beaujard, 2005; P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 287-289.

23  W.-K. Ma, 1995.

24  R. Krahl, J. Guy, J. Raby, K. Wilson, 2010.

25  Recent analyses undertaken by Dr Cui Jianfeng (School of Archaeology and Museology, Peking University, China) have shown that some of the three colors ware may have been fired at over 1100°C (personal communication of Dr Cui Jianfeng).

26  S. Wong, 2013.

27  M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 395-7; D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 62.

28  N. Chittick, 1984, p.71-79; D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 63, fig. 5.

29  D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 63-64.

30  A.M. Juma, 2004, p. 107.

31 G.P. Murdoch, 1959, p. 205; T. Terada, 1988, p. 97; P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 120-121.

32 Ahbâr as-Sîn wa L-Hind, 1948, vol. 1, p. 72-73.

33  F. Thierry, 1997.

34  C.-Y. Huang, 2003, p. 54.

35  W.E.F. Ward, 1963, vol. 2, p. 199-203.

36  For the debate regarding qingbai ware and white ware, see B. Zhao, 2015a, p. 278-279.

37  S.-F. Peng, F.-M. Fan, 1998.

38  B. Zhao, 2015a, p. 279.

39  The proto-Longquan ware refers to the productions of the Longquan kiln sites prior to the mid-12th century. From a stylistic point of view, they are closest to those of the final phase of the Yue kiln site.

40  For Pemba Island, see J. Fleisher, 2003, p. 278. For Sanje ya Kati, B. Zhao, 2012, p. 63.

41  A. LaViolette, 2008, p. 38.

42  D.-S. Qin, “On Ming Ceramics Discovered in Kenya”, conference given during the international symposium “Ming: Court and Contact 1400–1450”, British Museum, London, October 9–11 2014.

43  Y. Liu, D.-S. Qin, K. Herman, 2012, pls 38, 44.

44  H. Sassoon, 1980, p. 31; B. Zhao, 2012, p. 56

45  B. Zhao, 2012, p. 56.

46  N. Chittick, 1974, vol. 1, p. 214; B. Zhao, 2012, p. 82.

47  J.S. Kirkman, 1963, p. 48, fig. 13q.

48  N. Chittick, 1984, p. 71.

49  N. Chittick, 1974, vol. 2, p. 309-310.

50  For the sites of Sanje ya Kati and Songo Mnara (Kilwa, Tanzania), see B. Zhao, 2012, p. 57.

51  M. Wheeler, 1955.

52  J. Allen de Vere, 1982, 1993.

53  F. Chami, 1994; P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 87-89; S. Wynnes-Jones, J. Fleisher, 2011.

54 J. Fleisher, P. Lane, A. LaViolette, M. Horton, E. Pollard, E. Quintana Morales, T. Vernet, A. Christie, S. Wynne-Jones, 2015, p. 106-107.

55  S. Pradines, 1999. See J.D. Hawkes, S. Wynne-Jones in this issue.

56  M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 387; A. LaViolette, 2008.

57  N. Wood, R. Kerr, 2004, p. 151-157.

58  P. Beaujard, 2005, p. 411.

59  R. Krahl, J. Guy, J. Raby, K. Wilson, 2010, p. 59; M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2005.

60 For the sole quotation related to Chinese ceramics in East Africa, see P. Wheatley, 1975, p. 109.

61  For a blue-and-white bottle discovered with some mortar attached on the base at the Kilwa-Kisiwani site, see N. Chittick, 1974, vol. 1, p. 106, vol. 2, pl. 139d.

62  J. Fleisher, A. LaViolette, 2007, p. 186.

63  M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2005. 

64  For finds from the Gedi site, see S. Pradines, 2004, fig. 207, low and right, fig. 221, low centre. For the finds from the Vohemar site, see E. Vernier, J. Millot, 1971, p. 84, fig. 79. For the Kizimkazi Dimbani site, see E.J. Kleppe, 2001, p. 366. For the finds from the Mombasa site, see H. Sassoon, 1980, p. 31, 33.

65  For a perforated disk made with Longquan green-glazed stoneware with dragon pattern found at the Kilwa-Kisiwani site, see N. Chittick, 1974, vol. II, p. 428.

66  L.W. Donley-Reid, 1990, p. 50.

67  M. Li, 2012.

68  G. Pwiti, 2005, p. 386.

69  0.12 per cent in Shanga (M. Horton, H.W. Brown, N. Mudida, 1996, p. 244, table 9 and p. 273, table 14), 0.9 per cent in Gedi (excavations of S. Pradines; see S. Pradines, 2010, p. 312).

70  J. Fleisher, 2003; S. Wynne-Jones, 2007.

71  L.Y. Andaya, 1993.

72 L.W. Donley-Reid, 1990, p. 47-59.

73  G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, 1962, p. 30.

74  J. Fleisher, 2010.

75  T. Vernet, 2007, p. 408, p. 437-438; S. Wynne-Jones, 2013.

76  A. Rougeulle, 2005.

77  J. Heurgon, 1961, p. 46-51; D. Briquel, 1999, p. 157-175.

78  J. Fleisher, “Between Mosque and House: An Archaeology of Swahili Open Space”, see: http://www.songomnara.rice.edu/pdf/fleisher.pdf.

79  T. Wilson, 1979, p. 34.

80  M. Horton, J. Middleton, 2000, p. 112-113.

81  G. Kuwayama, 1997.

82  T. Insoll, 2003, p. 159. No specialist in Chinese ceramic has had occasion to examine this sherd and to confirm this hypothesis of dating and origin.

83  S. Rakotovololona, 1994, p. 20; P. Beaujard, 2012, vol. 2, p. 334.

84 L.C. Prinsloo, N. Wood, M. Loubser, S.M.C. Verryn, S. Tiley, 2005.

85  The analysis had been done within the international research program “Analyses of glass trade beads and ceramic shards excavated at archaeological sites along the east coast of Africa, as well as inland sites” (2013–2015) under the umbrella of Campus France and National Research Foundation (NRF, South Africa).

86  P. Beaujard, 2012, t. 2, p. 287-289.

87  P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 150-152. For a synthesis of glass beads found at East African coastal and inland sites, see M. Wood, 2000 and L. Dussubieux, C.M. Kusimba, V. Gogte, S.B. Kusimba, B. Gratuze, R. Oka, 2008.

88  P. Garlake, 1973, pl. XII; B. Zhao, 2015b, p. 378-379.

89  B. Zhao, 2012, p. 50, 81

90  P. Sinclair, 1978, p. 153-154; T. Huffman, 2000, p. 14, 15, 20.

91  T. Terada, 1988, p. 97-98.

92  R. Finlay, 2010, p. 215.

93  F. Gipouloux, 2009, p. 101.

94  D.-K. Liao, 1990.

95  J. Chaffee, 2006, p. 406.

96  C.-Y. Huang, 2003; B. So, 2000.

97  T. Harrison, 1957.

98  R. Brown, 2009.

99  M. Wan, 2007.

100  J. Finlay, 2010, p. 222.

101  Quote by G. Zhen, Xiyang fanguo zhi (History of the Western Country), ed. Xuxiu siku quanshu, vol. 742, p. 373, cited in G.-Y. Wang, 2010, p. 221.

102  C.-M. Ho, S.N. Malcolm, 1999, p. 11-13. R. Ptak, 2012.

103  P.-Y. Manguin, 2010.

104  G.-Y. Wang, 2010, p. 231-232.

105  C.-M. Ho, S.N. Malcolm, 1999, p. 21-24.

106  G.G. Correia, 1975, vol. 1, p. 69. Quote in J.M. dos Santos Alves, 2005, p. 45, n. 20. For the activities of Ryukyu merchants in the Indian Ocean trade, see R. Ptak, 2012.

107  D.-S. Qin, 2015, p. 103-104.

108  G.-Y. Wang, 2010, p. 224.

109  T. Terada, 1988, p. 101-102; for a short summary of different opinions supported by Chinese scholars, see F.-W. Shen, 2010, p. 194-196.

110  T. Terada, 1988, p. 98-99.

111  E. Vallet, 2015.

112  N. Chittick, 1984, p. 71-79; M. Horton, C.M. Clark, 1985, p. 169.

113  For example, in 1136 an Arab embassy offered frankincense from the Arabian coast north of Aden, which had been valued by the Maritime Trade Bureau at Quanzhou at 300,000 strings of 1,000 cash (H. Bielenstein, 2005, p. 362).

114  W.-H. Zhang, 1956, p. 74-75; M. Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, 2011, p. 5-17.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Well sherds from bowls, underglazed brown-iron painted stoneware
Légende Tongguan kiln site in Changsha area (Hunan province), from the Shanga site, Kenya, early 9th century.
Crédits Photo by D.-S. Qin.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Titre Figure 2: Bowl sherds, stoneware recovered by whitish glazed
Légende Fanchang kiln site (Anhui province), from the Manda site, Kenya, later half of the 10th century.
Crédits According D.-S. Qin, 2015, fig. 5.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Figure 3: Bowl sherds, green glazed stoneware
Légende Yue kiln complex, 9th-10th century, from the Manda site, Kenya.
Crédits According D.-S. Qin, 2015, fig. 8.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 232k
Titre Figure 4: Green glazed stoneware jar
Légende Southern China, 8th-10th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure 5: Qingbai ware sherds
Légende Jingdezhen kiln complex and southern China, 11th-early 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Figure 6: Diffusion map of qingbai ware in Arabia and in East Africa
Crédits Copyright B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Figure 7: Base sherd from a bowl, green glazed stoneware
Légende Xicun kiln site (Guangdong province), later half of the 12th century, from the site of Sanje ya Kati, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Figure 8: Longquan green glazed stoneware
Légende 12th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 9: Xicun kiln site iron-brown painted stoneware
Légende From the site of Sanje ya Kati, 11th-early 12th century, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Figure 10: Ding-style whiteware with molded pattern in the inside
Légende Northern kiln site, later half of the 12th century-early 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure 11: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware
Légende 9th-10th century, Dembeni, Comoro Islands.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 12: Bowl with carved lotus petals on the exterior
Légende Southern China kiln site, end 10th-1st quart 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Figure 13: Bowl in Yue kiln site green glazed stoneware with carved pattern on the inside
Légende Later half of the 10th century-early 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoros.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure 14: Green glazed stoneware jar and brown glazed stoneware jar
Légende 11th-13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines and drawing by N. Martin.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Titre Figure 15: Incence burner, Yue kiln sites green glazed stoneware
Légende End 10th-early 11th century, from the Dembeni site, Comoro Islands.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines, drawing by J. Marchand.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Figure 16: Lotus bowl, Longquan green glazed stoneware
Légende Mid-3rd quarter of the 13th century, from the Sanje ya Kati site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo and drawing by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 28k
Titre Figure 17: Dish with a pair of fishes applied in the centre, Longquan green glazed stoneware
Légende 13th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure 18: Base sherd from a bottle, green glazed stoneware
Légende Longquan kiln complex, later half of the 14th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Figure 19: Bowl base fragment, blue-and-white ware
Légende 3rd quarter of the 14th century, Jingdezhen kiln site, collected in early 20th century at Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Collection of British Museum.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Figure 20: Bottle, blue-and-white ware with dragon pattern
Légende Jingdezhen kiln site, last quart of the 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.
Crédits According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 43.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 52k
Titre Figure 21: Bottle, copper red ware
Légende Jingdezhen kiln site, last quart of the 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.
Crédits According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 44.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure 22: Box fragment with molded lotus panels pattern
Légende Dehua kiln sites, end 13th-early 14th century, from the Gedi site, Kenya.
Crédits Photo by S. Pradines.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 112k
Titre Figure 23: Bowl fragments, qingbai-glazed ware
Légende Fujian kiln sites, 13th-early 14th century, Gedi site, Kenya.
Crédits According to Y. Liu et alii, 2012, fig. 28.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure 24: Large dish, green-glazed stoneware
Légende Longquan kiln complex, diameter: 35,2 cm, late 14th-early 15th century, from the Vohemar site, Madagascar (Musée d’Histoire naturelle de Nîmes).
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure 25: Large dish, blue-and-white
Légende Jingdezhen kiln complex, last quarter of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure 26: Rim sherd from a bowl, brown colour stoneware paste, iron painted pattern on the well near the rim under ivory-creamy glaze
Légende Vietnamese production, 13th-14th century, Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure 27: Rounded dish sherd, green glazed stoneware
Légende Twante region, Burma, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Titre Figure 28: Base sherd of dish, red eathernware recovered by opaque tin-glaze
Légende Twante region? Burma, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Figure 29: Dish fragments with repair holes, blue-and-white ware
Légende Jingdezhen kiln complex, last quarter of the 15th century, from the Songo Mnara site, Kilwa-Masoko, Tanzania.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao, drawing by N. Martin.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-29.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Figure 30: Three sherds from the same ewer, green-glazed stoneware
Légende Southern China, 13th-14th century, from the Mapungubwe site, South Africa.
Crédits Photo by L. Prinsloo.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-30.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Figure 31: Large dish sherds, green glazed stoneware
Légende Longquan kiln complex, late 14th-first half of the 15th century, from the Great Zimbabwe site.
Crédits Photos by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-31.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 100k
Titre Figure 32: Base sherd from a bowl, greyish green glazed stoneware
Légende Zhuangbian kiln site (Fujian province), from the Great Zimbabwe site, Zimbabwe.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-32.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure 33: Dish sherd, blue-and-white
Légende Jingdezhen kiln complex, later half of the 15th century-early 16th century, from the Great Zimbabwe site, Zimbabwe.
Crédits Photo by B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-33.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 60k
Titre Figure 34: Main Chinese kiln sites that might have provided West Asia and Africa
Crédits Copyright B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-34.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 452k
Titre Figure 35: Main kiln sites located in South-East mainland that might have provided West Asia and Africa
Crédits Copyright B. Zhao.
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1836/img-35.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 199k
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Référence électronique

Bing Zhao, « Chinese-style ceramics in East Africa from the 9th to 16th century: A case of changing value and symbols in the multi-partner global trade », Afriques [En ligne], 06 | 2015, mis en ligne le 25 décembre 2015, consulté le 21 octobre 2017. URL : http://afriques.revues.org/1836 ; DOI : 10.4000/afriques.1836

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Auteur

Bing Zhao

Chargée de recherche CNRS, Centre de recherche sur les civilisations de l’Asie orientale (CRCAO)

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