China and Sweden: Treasured Memories


First Section


The legacy of the Goteborg 1743-1745


The ship Goteborg was an 18th century Swedish merchant ship, and was one of the largest ocean going transport vessels of the Swedish East India Company at the time.

After the completion of its construction, which had started in 1738, it traveled, for the first time, to the port of Canton, China, during the period between January 1739 and June 1740. Since then, it made two more journeys to Canton, from February 1741 to July 1742, and from May 1743 to September 1745.

Unfortunately, during the third trip's homecoming, when it was just 900 meters away from the dock of the harbor, the Goteborg ran into a rock and sank. Luckily no one lost his life.

The Swedish East India Company

The Swedish East India Company was established in 1731. In the early 17th century, the Portuguese had pioneered western trade relations over the sea with China, and then the Netherlands, England, France, and Denmark did the same. Sweden followed those countries and opened another trading center in Canton, China, and at the same time obtained a trade permit from the Qing government, so that their merchant ships could directly enter the port of Canton. In this way, Chinese goods could be directly loaded onto ships to be sent to Sweden as well as other European countries.

The Swedish East India Company was founded by three men: the Scottish Colin Campbell, the Swedish Hendrich König who was a German descendant, as well as the Swedish Nicolas Sahlgren. The formation of the company played important role in the 18th century European-Chinese trade. Sweden's government gave them a royal charter granting them the monopoly to trade from Sweden.

At first, the charter was only for 15 years, and was changed later to 20 years. The contract was signed a total of five times, and business was conducted for 70 years. Between the years of 1732 and 1733, Colin Campbell experienced the ongoing business and trade in China, and even recorded all that he saw and heard in his diary. Henceforth, the Swedish East India Company dispatched 37 different merchant vessels, which altogether made 135 trips to and from China to conduct trade and business.

The cargo of the Gothenburg in 1743-45

The merchant ship Goteborg was over 40 meters long, over 10 meters wide, approximately 50 meters tall, and had a cargo capacity of 1,350 tons. The return cargo from China included 2,677 chests of tea weighing a total of 366 tons, 19 chests of silk, 11.4 tons of spices, about 100 tons of porcelain, plus rattan. The total value of an average cargo could equal the national budget of Sweden at that time.

According to various literature and statistics, from the 15th year to the 20th year of the Qianlong reign (1750-1755), about 11 million pieces of porcelain were shipped to Sweden from Canton, China. Later, from 1766 to 1786, the East India Company also carried to Sweden another 11 million pieces of Chinese porcelain. At that time, Chinese porcelain was a symbol of class and status in the eyes of Europeans, and thus was highly regarded.

Just the earnings from auctioning the Goteborg's salvaged cargo surpassed the total cost of the ship; this reflects the significant value of Chinese goods to the West at the time. From the sunken ship, 30 tons of tea leaves, 80 bolts of silk cloth, and a large amount of porcelain were salvaged at the time of the loss.

250 years later, in 1986, along with the advancement of technology for underwater archaeology, the plan to conduct another salvage of the Goteborg was launched by Anders Wästfelt, and after 10 years of excavating, another 9 tons of porcelain shards and many items in the once-lost cargo, including over 400 pieces of unbroken porcelain, tea, ginger, silk, and spices, were recovered.

Questions regarding the Gotheborg

Although the Gothenburg sank exactly 250 years ago, people today still take delight in talking about its story. For 250 years, we have continuously tried to find out what truly happened to the sunken ship. On September 12, 1745, after the Goteborg experienced an arduous two-and-half-year voyage, it suddenly ran into an underwater reef, for no apparent reason, and sunk just 900 meters away from the dock of the Gothenburg harbor as the relatives of those on board were looking forward to the return of the ship.

Up to this day, the reason behind the Gothenburg incident is still a mystery.

Rebirth of the Goteborg

After the sinking of the Goteborg, the Swedish East India Company again gave the name Goteborg to a second ship, at the end of the 18th century, which unfortunately sank also, near South Africa.

After hundreds of years, the Swedish people today are bursting out with extraordinary ideas again, and are turning them into reality. In 1994, the Goteborg III project was launched to build a replica of the original Goteborg, and in the following ten years, the new ship has been under construction. It is now anchored at the Gothenburg port, and will officially sail in October 2005. Although the ship was installed with Volvo engines, Sweden's people plans not to use them, and instead wants to rely only on the winds to make the journey that the Goteborg I made 250 years ago, so that they can relive that part of history, and experience the solemnity and challenge of the original journey.


Part One


1. Blue and White Waste bowl With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm 14.5, H. 6.8, Df. 6.6cm Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue, decoration: flower sprig

2. Blue and White Waste bowl with Landscape Pattern
Measurements Dm 15.2, H7.3, Df 6.9cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue; decoration: Seascape

3. Blue and White Waste bowl With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm 15, H. 7.3, Foot Df 6.9 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue; decoration: flower sprig, iron brown color

4. Blue and White Bowl With Dragon and Cloud
Measurements Dm 15.2, H. 6.8, Foot Df 6.2 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue; decoration: dragon among clouds

5. Blue and White Plate With Chicken Pattern
Measurements Dm 22.6, H. 3.1, D12.7 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with under glaze cobalt blue; decoration: contending roosters

6. Blue and White Plate With Chicken Pattern
Md 23 cm, H 2.7 cm, Fd 12.5 cm
From the 1905 excavation by James Keiller
From the wrecked ship Gothenburg
Collection of the AntikWest Company of Gothenburg
With under glaze cobalt blue and white pigment: decoration: two contending roosters in garden with fence and plum, bamboo, vine on the rim and two sprigs on the reverse. Edge is iron brown under glaze.
Deep desert dish

7. Blue and White Pudding Plate
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty c.1743
Md 16.5 cm, H 3 cm, Fd 8.5 cm
From 1905 excavation by James Keiller
From the wrecked ship Gothenburg
Collection of AntikWest Company of Gothenburg
Painted with under glaze cobalt blue; decorated: a cliff, bamboo, chrysanthemum and grapes around rim. Edge is brown under glaze

8. Blue and White Small Plate With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm16.4, H. 3.5, Df 8.2 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain decorated: cobalt under glaze with peonies and lotus

9. Blue and White Small Dish With Hundred Antiquities Design
Measurements Dm 16.1, H. 3.2, Df 8.6 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: cobalt under glaze with flower sprig in center and bamboo and vine border on the brim with "hundred antiquities" pattern in cartouches and diaper on the well

10. Blue and White Small Plate With Lotus Pattern
Measurements Dm 16.7, H. 3.5, Df 9 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: cobalt under glaze, lotus in center lotus, bamboo and vine border on brim

11. Blue and White Brimmed Dish with Flower Design
Measurements Dm 16.4, H.3.5, Df 8.2 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: cobalt with flowers in center and around rim

12. Blue and White Small Plate With Landscape Pattern
Measurements Dm 11.4, H. 1.9, Df 6.8 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Porcelain with cobalt under glaze w/landscape and pagoda

13. Blue and White Big Basin With Peony Pattern
Measurements Dm 39.4, H. 8.5, Df. 25cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: cobalt blue under glaze w/willow and peony

14. Blue and White Incense Burner
Measurements Dm 5.8, H. 4.1, Df 2.8 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: cobalt blue under glaze w/flower sprig and iron brown rim

15. Blue and White Pattern Bowl
Measurements Dm 14.8, H. 6.8, Df 6.7 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Under glaze cobalt blue; decoration on interior and iron brown, café au lait, glaze on exterior (Traces of barnacles-shells)

16. Blue and White Flower Pattern Cup
Measurements Dm. 11, H. 5.8, Df. 4.8 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Color: Outside--iron brown, café au lait glaze; interior-cobalt blue under glaze w/flower sprig

17. Blue and White Landscape Pattern Cup
Measurements Dm. 7.3, H3.7, Df. 3.8
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: outside, iron brown, café au lait glaze; interior cobalt blue under glaze w/landscape

18. Blue and White Peony and Bamboo Cup
Measurements Dm. 7.4, H. 3.9, Df. 3.4 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: iron brown, café au lait glaze outside; under glaze blue decoration inside; inside lip rim w/hatched border.

19. Large Blue and White Saucer, porcelain, Batavia-type
Diam. 21.5 and 13.3 cm, height 3.7 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty c. 1740
Collection of the City Museum of Gothenburg
Decoration: Outside, brown glaze; inside, painted decoration in under-glaze blue: four peonies in inner circle, with small peony in center. Diaper border w/four small reserves, w/flower-spray.
Salvaged in 1862 during diving inspection, initiated by wholesaler James Bourn, at riverside of Gothenburg near Fort Nya Älvsborg, where Gothenburg was wrecked in 1745.

20. Small Blue and White Peony and Bamboo Pattern Plate
Measurement Dm 11.6, H. 2.6, Df 6.5 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Iron brown, café au lait glaze outside w/interior cobalt blue decoration of bamboo and peony

21. Famille-rose Cup With Butterfly Pattern
Measurements Dm. 8.5, H. 4.4, Df 3.8 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Famille rose (fencai) outside iron brown glaze and on interior flowers in over glaze enamels

22. Famille-rose Cup With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm. 7.1, H. 4, Df. 3.2 cm
Qianlong, from the East India man Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Famille rose (fencai) outside iron brown glaze and on interior flowers in over glaze enamels

23. Famille-rose Flower Pattern Saucer
Measurements Dm 11.5, H. 2, Df.6.5 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Famille rose (fencai) outside iron brown glaze and on interior flowers in over glaze enamels degraded by water action

24. Famille-rose Covered Jar With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm 8.5, H10, Df. 4.8 cm
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Brown glaze w/cartouches painted in Canton famille rose (fencai); barnacles-shells on outside

25. Famille-rose Covered Jar With Flower Pattern
Measurements Dm 6.6, H. 7, Df 4
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
café au lait, glaze w/cartouches painted in Canton famille rose, fencai, now degraded

26. Covered Jar and Lid
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty c.1743
D.6.5 cm, H 6.5 cm, Fd 3.5cm
From wreck of East Indiaman Gothenburg, salvaged during Mr. Keiller's diving in 1905. In Europe, this brown color used to be called 'Batavia brown'.
Collection of the AntikWest Company of Gothenburg
Decorated: leaf shaped panels w/ flower sprigs in famille rose enamels, fencai, brown iron glaze

27. Jar Without Lid With Red and Green Pattern
Measurements Dm 8.8, H. 6.8, Df 6
Qianlong period, Qing dynasty
From the East Indiaman Gothenburg
Collection of the Maritime Museum and Aquarium of Gothenburg
Decoration: polychrome enamels with flower patterns
Ladie's needle work box Ladie's needle work box

28. Lady's needle work box
Middle of the 19th century
Length 30.7, width 21.7, height 14 cm
Collection of the City Museum of Gothenburg
Lacquer work, Rectangular box with beveled corners, gilt dragon feet and folding
Cover; fitted with several divisions and sewing implements. Black lacquer on wood, painted decoration in golden lacquers: panels with scenery of people and houses; Background: thick leaf-pattern; sewing implements in ivory
Wood covered tea canister

29. Wooden Tea-box
Early 19th century
Length 26, width 25.5, height 28 cm
Collection of the City Museum of Gothenburg
Wooden canister w/inner case of pewter; double lids of pewter
Painted green w/inscriptions and decorations in black, to include valet serving tea a gentleman