Design and Material Culture of the Qing Period, 1644–1911


Spring 2011


5th Floor Classroom


François Louis

The Qing period can be divided into three distinct historical epochs: a short transformational 17th century, defined by the Manchu conquest of China; a long, peaceful, and enlightened 18th century; and a tumultuous, war-torn 19th century that saw the demise of imperial rule under the onslaught of foreign business interests and political ideologies. Crafts and design are distinct in each of these epochs, driven by an unprecedented commercialization of society and a trendsetting court in the 18th century. International trade and cultural exchange with Japan, Central Asia, and Europe had a decisive impact on Qing material culture, which accounted 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 Chinese art market. The emphasis in this seminar will be on 18th- and 19th-century materials. The 18th century saw extraordinary innovations in ceramics, jade, and glass production. Nineteenth-century arts, on the other hand, have long been seen as expressions of national decline and humiliation; part of this course will be devoted to finding appropriate approaches for analyzing some of this rich but little-studied material. The class will include several gallery visits. It can fulfill a pre-1800 requirement only if the final paper topic is chosen accordingly. 3 credits.