The Porcelain Tower at Nankin [Nanjing, China]

No. 2 of 51 (PAJ2051 - PAJ2101): inscribed by the artist on the album page 'Porcelain tower at Nankin (destroyed by Taipings in 1858)'. A partial date .../65 under the bottom left corner of the drawing may indicate it was done in England, since Butt's title shows why he could not have seen what it represents, though the date of destruction was in fact 1856. The tower, also called the Porcelain Pagoda was a celebrated Buddhist structure, built at Nanjing in the early 15th century of elaborately decorated white-glazed ceramic brick and illuminated at night with about 140 lamps, as shown on the drawing. It was nine storeys, 260 feet tall (79 m) and 97 feet (30 m) across the octagonal base, with a central staircase. In 1801 it was damaged by lightning and restored, but during the Taeping rebellion of the 1850s the rebels who took over the city first destroyed the stairway to prevent its use as an observation tower against them and in 1856 completely demolished it. It was then largely forgotten until later archaeological investigation recovered parts, many now in the Nanjing Museum, and there have been recent proposals to rebuild it. There are various Western eyewitness accounts of the tower, and images of it. Butt's view is apparently based on a rather more heavily populated British 19th-century landscape-format engraving, adapted to vertical format.

Object Details

ID: PAJ2052
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Lt James Henry Butt
Date made: 1865?
People: Butt, James Henry
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 235 x 165 mm
Parts: Album of topographical views, mainly on the coasts of Japan, China and Formosa (Taiwan) (Album)

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