Tea and coffee set

ARTIST / MAKER: Wo Shing (maker)
DATE: 19th century (made)
PLACE: Shanghai (made)

From the late 18th century to the early 20th century, silver wares such as this tea set were produced in China specifically for export to the West. As silver was cheap and plentiful in China, European merchants began to ship silver items there to be copied. Initially, Chinese silversmiths produced objects in European styles to cater to Western taste but later began to incorporate East-Asian motifs and decoration within their work. This elaborate Chinese tea set is decorated with ‘Taoist’ dragons and clouds with dragon-shaped handles. Each piece is engraved with a cipher monogram that reads ‘LES’, presumably the initials of their owner. The set comprises a hot water urn, a teapot, a coffee pot, a milk jug, a two-handled covered sugar bowl, a waste bowl, and a tea caddy. Each piece bears the marks for Wo Shing, a silversmith who operated between 1830 and 1910. A Canton-based maker, Wo Shing worked in Shanghai towards the end of the 19th century when this set was made. Various other Chinese silversmiths also used the Taoist dragon motif in their work during this period.