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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

Soup Plate

China, 1780

Soup PlateMade of Porcelain

Gift of Bruce C. Perkins

This rare soup plate depicts a view of the port of Canton. Now known as Guangzhou, Canton is located in southern China and has long been one of China's most international cities.

Guangzhou was the only port in China open to European and American merchants from 1757 to 1842, and so for most Westerners, was the only part of China that they ever saw. According to Samuel Shaw, one of the first Americans to reach Guangzhou, noted with some disappointment that "Europeans, after a dozen years' residence, have not seen more than what the first month presented to view."

Included on the soup plate are many of the main landmarks of the city; from left to right are depicted the Flowery Pagoda at the Temple of Six Banyan Trees, the Mohammedan Tower (actually a minaret for the Huai Sheng Mosque), the Five-Storied Watchtower, and the city walls. The view is actually slightly incorrect; in reality the Mohammedan Tower should be to the left of the Pagoda.