Glass and the imperial palace

Many of these glass objects were probably made in workshops attached to the emperor’s palace in Beijing.

The first palace glass workshop was set up in 1696 by order of the Kangxi emperor (reigned 1662-1722). It was run by a German Jesuit priest called Kilian Stumpf, a skilled glass-maker.

The glass workshops made objects such as vases, cups, bowls, snuff bottles, plant pots, incense burners and items for the scholar’s desk. These were used in the palace or given away as gifts.

Most of the craftsmen were Chinese with glass-making or jade-working experience and came from Shandong in north-west China or Guandong and Suzhou in the south. European Jesuits with glass-making skills also worked in the palace workshops in the 1740s and 1750s.

Chinese imperial glass combined European knowledge of glass recipes and techniques with Chinese glass-making and carving skills.

Click on the images to find out more about them.