A Chinese wallpaper illustrating tea production

Bruijn, Emile de. A Chinese wallpaper illustrating tea production. Treasure Hunt : National Trust Collections. 24 August 2016. URL : https://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/category/wallpaper/ (consulté le 3 septembre 2016)

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper on silk in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram, showing two men watering tea shrubs. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail from the Chinese wallpaper on silk in the Chinese Bedroom at Saltram, showing two men watering tea shrubs. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel two men watering tea plants from wooden buckets.

I am writing a book about Chinese wallpapers in the British Isles – a follow-up, slightly more ambitious in scope, of the small catalogue of the Chinese wallpapers in the care of the National Trust that was published in 2014.

In the process of writing I came upon these detailed images of the Chinese wallpaper on silk at Saltram. This is a panoramic landscape wallpaper which shows the growing and treating of tea.

Quite a few eighteenth-century Chinese wallpapers and paintings show scenes of agriculture or manufacturing, including the production of rice, tea, silk, and porcelain. The images tended to be based on illustrated treatises, such as the famous Yuzhi Gengzhitu, or ‘Treatise on Tilling and Weaving.’

For the Chinese these images confirmed the productive and orderly structure of their society, in which everyone was supposed to work together and know their place. This is expressed through the different types seen in this wallpaper, including labourers and craftsmen with the tools of their trade, clerks with lists at the ready and mandarins in their official robes and hats. For westerners these wallpapers provided a picturesque glimpse of how desirable products like porcelain, silk and tea were actually produced.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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