Design and Material Culture of the Qing Period (1644–1911)

Historically speaking, the Qing era can be divided into three distinct epochs: a short transformational seventeenth century defined by the Manchu conquest of China and the establishment of the Manchu Qing dynasty, a peaceful and enlightened long eighteenth century, and a tumultuous war-torn nineteenth century that ushered in the demise of China’s imperial rule under the onslaught of foreign colonialist business interests and political ideologies. Crafts and design are distinct in each of these epochs, driven by an unprecedented commercialization of society and a trend-setting court in the eighteenth century. International trade and cultural exchange with Japan, Central Asia, and Europe had a decisive impact on Qing material culture, accounting for a flourishing export industry as well as local exoticist and eventually westernizing tastes. At the same time, the collecting and marketing of Chinese antiquities reached new heights, prefiguring the modern international collectors’ market. The emphasis in this seminar will be on eighteenth and nineteenth-century materials.