Western Luxuries and Chinese Taste


This seminar explores the intercultural dimensions of China’s material culture. Starting from the premise that cultural change is driven in part by intercultural exchange, the class looks at the reconfigurations of Chinese material culture. How were the local craft industries affected by international trade and international politics? How did China’s design traditions respond to the import of exotic luxuries, the foreign demand for export goods, and the presence of foreign craftsmen, merchants, missionaries, and diplomats? Up to the seventeenth century, China defined the “West” mainly as Central Asia, India, Persia, and the Arab world. Since the sixteenth century, interactions with Europe become more prominent. After surveying developments from early and medieval China, this class will focus on the Ming and Qing eras (fifteenth-early twentieth c.). 3 credits. Satisfies the non-Western requirement.