Topkapi Palace – Porcelain Collection – Second Courtyard
The Second Courtyard of Topkapi Palace includes the Kitchens and the Porcelain collection, including one of the world’s richest collection of Chinese porcelain.
The Silk Road is noted through history as the route of cultural and commerical contacts between Eastern and Western Asia. Beginning in China, they mainly consisted of three routes which were interconnected by secondary ones. Their start and end locations, in addition to the important centers they passed through, have been mapped out.
From historical documents, it can be established that Chinese porcelains were generally transported by the sea route, however, there is also evidence that some transportation of porcelain by land did occur. A tile painting in the Royal Kitchen (see above) depicts the transportation of porcelain. Chinese porcelains that were produced especially for export were loaded into ships in the harbours of China and these travelled the sea route following the south coast of India as well as the south coast of Arabian peninsula, passing through the Malacca Straits, keeping the Ceylon island on their left until the Red Sea. When they reached Jeddah, they were loaded onto stronger ships and transported to the northern most point of the Red Sea. From the Red Sea, they go via Cairo then by the Nile River to Alexandria, and finally the Mediterranean, Istanbul and Europe.
The journey was very difficult and hazardous, however, that didn’t deter the Ottoman sultans from loving their Chinese porcelains. They kept them in their private treasuries and used them for their own special banquets. In the Topkapi Palace collection, there are 2,000 pieces of Chinese porcelains from the 13th – 19th centuries. The Chinese porcelain also influenced Iznik’s porcelain production from the 1520’s onwards. Iznik was a traditional centre of Byzantine earthenware production and in the 15th century, under the Ottomans, the centre of tile production moved to Iznik. For a while, copies of Chinese porcelain were made in the Iznik atelliers, but these never gained the same level of appreciation as the Chinese for the Ottoman Sultans.