CHINA, s. In the sense of porcelain this word (Chini, &c.) is used in Asiatic languages as well as in English. In English it does not occur in Minshew (2nd ed. 1627), though it does in some earlier publications. [The earliest quotation in N.E.D. is from Cogan’s Pinto, 1653.] The phrase China-dishes as occurring in Drake and in Shakspere, shows how the word took the sense of porcelain in our own and other languages. The phrase China-dishes as first used was analogous to Turkey-carpets. But in the latter we have never lost the geographical sense of the adjective. In the word turquoises, again, the phrase was no doubt originally pierres turquoises, or the like, and here, as in china dishes, the specific has superseded the generic sense. The use of arab in India for an Arab horse is analogous to china. The word is used in the sense of a china dish in Lane’s Arabian Nights, iii. 492 ; [Burton, I. 375].

851.—“There is in China a very fine clay with which they make vases transparent like bottles ; water can be seen inside of them. These vases are made of clay.”—Reinaud, Relations, i. 34.

c. 1350.—“China- ware (al-fakhkhar al-Siniy) is not made except in the cities of Zaitun and of Sin Kalan.…”—Ibn Batuta, iv. 256.

c. 1530.—“I was passing one day along a street in Damascus, when I saw a slave-boy let fall from his hands a great China dish (sahfat min al-bakhkhar al-Siniy) which they call in that country sahn. It broke, and a crowd gathered round the little Mameluke.”—Ibn Batuta, i. 238.

c. 1567.—“Le mercantie ch’andauano ogn’ anno da Goa a Bezeneger erano molti caualli Arabi…e anche pezze di China, zafaran, e scarlatti.”—Cesare de’ Federici, in Ramusio, iii. 389.

1579.—“…we met with one ship more loaden with linnen, China silke, and China dishes.…”—Drake, World Encompassed, in Hak. Soc. 112.

c. 1580.—“Usum vasorum aureorum et argenteorum Aegyptii rejecerunt, ubi murrhina vasa adinvenere ; quae ex India afferuntur, et ex ea regione quam Sini vocant, ubi conficiuntur ex variis lapidibus, praecipueque ex jaspide.”—Prosp. Alpinus, Pt. I. p. 55.

c. 1590.—“The gold and silver dishes are tied up in red cloths, and those in Copper and China (chini) in white ones.”—Ain, i. 58.

c. 1603.—“…as it were in a fruit-dish, a dish of some threepence, your honours have seen such dishes ; they are not China dishes, but very good dishes.”—Measure for Measure, ii. 1.

1608–9.—“A faire China dish (which cost ninetie Rupias, or forty-five Reals of eight) was broken.”—Hawkins, in Purchas, i. 220.

1609.—“He has a lodging in the Strand for the purpose, or to watch when ladies are gone to the China-house, or the Exchange, that he may meet them by chance and give them presents.…”

“Ay, sir : his wife was the rich China-woman, that the courtiers visited so often.”—Ben Jonson, Silent Woman, i. 1.


“…Oh had I now my Wishes,
Sure you should learn to make their China

Doggrel prefixed to Coryat’s Crudities.

c. 1690.—Kaempfer in his account of the Persian Court mentions that the department where porcelain and plate dishes, &c., were kept and cleaned was called Chin- khana, ‘the China-closet’ ; and those servants who carried in the dishes were called Chinikash.—Amoen. Exot., p. 125.

1711.—“Purselaine, or China-ware is so tender a Commodity that good Instructions are as necessary for Package as Purchase.”—Lockyer, 126.

1747.—“The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy ; which far Exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet Published. By a Lady. London. Printed for the Author, and Sold by Mrs. Asburn a China Shop Woman, Corner of Fleet Ditch, MDCCXLVII.” This the title of the original edition of Mrs. Glass’s Cookery, as given by G. A. Sala, in Illd. News, May 12, 1883.

1876.—“Schuyler mentions that the best native earthenware in Turkistan is called Chini, and bears a clumsy imitation of a Chinese mark”—(see Turkistan, i. 187.)

For the following interesting note on the Arabic use we are indebted to Professor Robertson Smith :—

Siniya i s spoken of thus in the Lataifo’lma’arif of al-Th’alibi, ed. De Jong, Leyden, 1867, a book written in A.D. 990. “The Arabs were wont to call all elegant vessels and the like Siniya (i.e. Chinese), whatever they really were, because of the specialty of the Chinese in objects of vertu ; and this usage remains in the common word sawana (pl. of siniya) to the present day.”

So in the Tajaribo’l-Omam of Ibn Maskowaih (Fr. Hist. Ar. ii. 457), it is said that at the wedding of Mamun with Buran “her grandmother strewed over her 1000 pearls from a siniya of gold.” In Egypt the familiar round brass trays used to dine off, are now called siniya (vulgo saniya), [the sini, seni of N. India] and so is a European saucer.

The expression siniyat al sin, “A Chinese siniya,” is quoted again by De Goeje from a poem of Abul-shibl Agani, xiii. 27. [See SNEAKER.]

  By PanEris using Melati.

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