Early Chinese Export Masonic Mug


Here is a beautiful porcelain Chinese Export Mug circa 1800-1820.  It is decorated with polychrome Masonic symbols.  The central design is of the pillars of Boaz and Jachin surmounted with the globes.  Underneath is the checkered pavement of good and evil with a blazing sun/star containing the Letter "G".  On either side are the beehive, a symbol of industry; an altar picturing some working tools above, a workbench, rough ashlar, and a Square and Compasses resting on the Holy Bible.  The border design is a blue field with gold grapevine design.  The handle is also designed with a grapevine motif.  It measures 5 1/2 inches tall and 4 1/4 inches in diameter.

Freed from British Trade restrictions following the American independence, Americans lost no time in establishing trade with China.  The first American ship involved in the China Trade was the "Empress of China," which sailed from New York in 1784.  Other American merchants quickly followed and began importing teas, spices, silks, and ceramics like the cider pitcher seen above.  Chinese porcelain was a particularly important item.  By the time Americans entered the China Trade, the Chinese had already developed certain stock patterns, several of which used Masonic symbols.  Since symbolism plays an important part in Chinese art, Chinese decorators must have felt a degree of familiarity in working with designs and symbols. 

Another type of Masonic decoration imported to America were personal monograms with a pseudo-armorial design of Masonic emblems.  The forms of Masonic decorated China Trade porcelain are primarily mugs, punch bowls, tea and coffee pots, and more rarely, entire tea sets.  The notebook of an American trader dated 1797, in the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society, lists the "Price current at Canton for Chinaware" and includes 1 to 1 1/2 gallon Masonic bowls for 2 to 3 dollars each, and Masonic pint mugs for 20 dollars a hundred.  Most of this porcelain was for private use, although the history of some of the larger punch bowls definitely suggests that they were used in Lodges.




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