Why wasnt Chinese porcelain/pottery not a popluar as silks as exports on the silk road?

Oct 2012
828
It is perfectly possible that some silk and possibly other products were transported part of the distance along the silk route in in vehicles pulled by draft animals. I don't know how much travel in wagons instead of on pack animals might have happened or how much that might possibly have transporting porcelain more economic.

Certainly some of the societies along the Silk Road might have considered it desirable to built and maintain actual roads in their sectors of the route for the benefit of traveling merchants, and possibly charging tolls for the use of those roads. But I don't know if that was the case.



They could have used small pieces of silk to wrap up porcelain and that might possibly have been as good as bubble wrap. But I don't know if that was done.

Remember that the total trip took hundreds of days. And if all of the transportation was by pack animals, that means that each pack animal would have to be loaded and unloaded at least once a day and thus at least hundreds of times on the trip. it was easy for a bundle of silk to survive being dropped on the ground hundreds of times. I'm not certain that a package of porcelain could survive being dropped on the ground even once, so possibly porcelain packages might have required more careful handling which would have been more time consuming and expensive.
Yes, and it wasn`t like a camel train started from China and after some months it arrived to Constantinople. The goods changed hands and were bought and sold several times en route.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,958
They could have used small pieces of silk to wrap up porcelain and that might possibly have been as good as bubble wrap. But I don't know if that was done.
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Relatively recently (late 20th century) straw was still used in pottery/porcelain boxes... Much cheaper than silk and probably better at absorbing shocks
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,251
Italy, Lago Maggiore
About medieval traders, they used something like rags and shreds to wrap and protect goods.There were centers of production also of those rags [usually producers of tissues] and about some goods, for example animal skin, there were professionals who knew how to wrap the product to protect it during the long travel.

Since some Chinese porcelain objects reached medieval Europe, because there was a limited market, we could wonder how it arrived here. There is a historical answer: between East and West there were two commercial "highways": the Silk Road which passe through Central Asia and ... the Porcelain Road [as actually some historians call it here] which was the chain of routes that traders followed navigating along the costs of the Indian Ocean and then towards the Middle East. They did transport porcelain and generally pottery by sea.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,251
Italy, Lago Maggiore
But medieval ships weren't comparable with the later oceanic vessels. The room was limited and very expensive: better to occupy it with goods of high value and with a wide market in Europe.
 

janusdviveidis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
2,005
Lithuania
One more point against pottery versus silk was that silk is material and end used can decide what he wants to make from it. Pottery needs to be attractive to the end user, tastes in China and Europe were not necessarily same. So, risk in pottery trade would be much higher than with silk.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,446
It seems strange they were transporting silk, spices, and so on by land. Wouldn't the sea link be much more efficient? I realize that by sea, you would also need to transport it in pieces, not one trip the whole way, and there would be some land transportation across the mideast.

Also, did they use pack animals or horse drawn wagons? A wagon can hold 5 tons versus 40 tons in an 18-wheeler truck. A wagon probably needed several horses. If they didn't have wagons that far back, they had something similar. They probably had to use pack animals over some rough terrain.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,975
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
It seems strange they were transporting silk, spices, and so on by land. Wouldn't the sea link be much more efficient? I realize that by sea, you would also need to transport it in pieces, not one trip the whole way, and there would be some land transportation across the mideast.
It wan't like Chinese merchants decided to ship silk to a distant location like Constantinople or Cairo. Instead a typical Chinese merchant would send a caravan to a Central Asian city or to a port in Indochina or India to sell. The silk and other goods would sold at those places. and some of the buyers would be merchants who would take the goods farther west. So the Chinese merchants didn't think about the best way to get their goods to a remote location like Cairo or Constantinople. Instead a merchant in South East China might plan to ship his goods south to a port in Indochina - and obviously a ship would be better than a camel caravan for that - while a merchant in North West China would plan to ship his goods to a city in Central Asia - and obviously a camel caravan would be better than a ship for that.
 
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sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,661
San Diego
porcelain is bulky, heavy, and easy to break.

Think about a porcelain cup- or teapot... It takes up a lot of room and is mostly empty space.
on caravans, space and weight are at a premium.

Silks are ultra-lightweight, compress into a very small space, and are entirely unbreakable.

So- just ask yourself- if you had to run a caravan and you had the choice of carrying 10 million dollars in diamonds... or 10 million dollars in Gold... which is going to take fewer camels, oxen or horses? Which is going to be easier to cross the 20 mountain ranges between you and your destination? Now imagine if gold was as fragile as glass and became worthless once broken...


Porcelain became popular when Bulk cargo shipment became possible by sea.
 
Mar 2018
870
UK
It seems strange they were transporting silk, spices, and so on by land. Wouldn't the sea link be much more efficient? I realize that by sea, you would also need to transport it in pieces, not one trip the whole way, and there would be some land transportation across the mideast.
The short answer is: they did. Far more trade between the far east and Europe happened via the sea route (around SE Asia, India, Arabian sea, and then through Mesopotamia or the red sea). In this case it also wasn't a single ship doing the voyage, but a bunch of merchants doing a single leg each.
 
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