I've been reading about the history of toys online, as part of a personal project. One thing that surprised me was that every article I've found lists porcelain toys as having been invented by Europeans. Different sites give dates between the 1500s and 1700s, depending on the country, the type of doll, and the method of manufacture.

This seems odd to me; for obvious reasons I would have expected china dolls to originate ... in China. It's strange that they would have used it to make figurines, decorative objects, etc., but never produced toys intended for children. So to my question:

When and where were the first porcelain or china toys made? Were porcelain toys made in China or Japan prior to the European Renaissance? If so, what were they like?

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Porcelain figurines in China date back to the Tang Dynasty (7th century) if not earlier. But they were statues of Buddha, or other "serious" people. Animal figurines were used for ceremonial burial or "feng shui" (geomancy). Basically, porcelain was considered "too valuable" for "dolls" (other than female replicas) or other "toys."

One of the better illustrations of this mind set is that "ancient" Japanese porcelain dolls for sale date back only to about 1900. This is true even though porcelain itself in Japan goes back 1000 years or more. But in Japan, at least, the idea of making porcelain dolls or toys post dates the European usage.

Wooden Japanese dolls weren't made until the early Edo period (shortly after 1600). That is, even these may post date the earliest European porcelain dolls.(Other Japanese dolls made of silk were available by the late 19th century.)

Put another way, Europeans arrived at "porcelain dolls" via a "top down" process (first porcelain, then dolls), while Asians got there through a "bottom up" process, (wooden dolls, then silk dolls, and finally porcelain dolls). That may explain the apparent paradox of Asians inventing porcelain, while Europeans were the first to produce porcelain dolls.

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