Crafting identities : tableware for the Meiji Emperor

Redfern, Mary (2015) Crafting identities : tableware for the Meiji Emperor. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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As Japan struggled to free itself of the ‘unequal treaties’ imposed upon it by
foreign powers in the mid-nineteenth century, the Meiji Emperor (1868–1912) was
also seeking to establish his position as ruler in the eyes of both the citizens of
Japan and audiences overseas. While the country embarked on a period of
widespread modernisation along Western lines, building railroads and factories,
educating the masses and developing strong armed forces, the emperor himself
emerged from the seclusion previously expected of Japan’s imperial figurehead,
greeting foreign visitors according to European models of etiquette and hosting
lavish Western-style banquets.
Bridging both Western and Japanese dining styles, and featuring pieces
produced in Japan and Europe during the first half of the Meiji era, this study
examines the ceramic tableware of the imperial court and the documentary sources
that record its commissioning and use. Historically neglected, the study of Meiji-era
ceramics as it has developed over recent years is dominated by export-focused
narratives. By way of redressing this balance, this thesis focuses on the emperor as
consumer before turning to consider the career of Arita potter Tsuji Katsuzō (1848–
1929), a maker of imperial tableware, to explore an alternate aspect of the role
played by ceramics within Meiji-era Japan. Reconstructing the strategies that lay
behind the selection of imperial tableware and examining how it was then used, I
argue that these objects were employed to craft the identity of Japan’s new ruler.
Connecting the emperor to rulers of centuries past and to those of distant lands
through their design and in the material practices of their use, ceramics set on the
imperial table positioned the Meiji Emperor as sovereign and invited others to do
the same.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2016 15:03
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2018 01:38


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