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Strange machines from the West : European curiosities at the Qing imperial courts, 1644-1796
AuthorBraun, Stephanie Eva
University of Hong Kong 香港大學
Pub. LocationHong Kong 香港PublisherUniversity of Hong Kong 香港大學
Date2011Phys. Desc.dig.pdf. [x, 270 p. :col. ill., col. map ; 30 cm.]
LocationDigital ArchivesCall NumberTS545.B83 2011d
"Strange machines" from the West : European curiosities at the Qing imperial courts, 1644-1796 / by Stephanie Braun.
Thesis (M. Phil.)--University of Hong Kong, 2011.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 263-270).
Online at HKU Scholars Hub.
Local access dig.pdf. [Braun-Western Machines.pdf]

Abstract:
During the early to middle Qing period, from 1644-1796, Manchu emperors were keen collectors of so-called ‘strange machines’ from Europe. These included scientific, primarily astronomical, instruments such as globes, armillary spheres or sundials, as well as mechanical clocks, watches and automata. European missionaries and trade delegations introduced these items as gifts to the Qing imperial emperors to further their respective religious and commercial agendas. Manchu rulers initially appreciated clocks and scientific instruments as a means of facilitating the control of time and space, essential in asserting imperial legitimacy. By incorporating European objects into the multicultural identity cultivated at court, they confirmed their status as universal rulers.

This thesis examines the changing role of European objects within the visual and material culture of the Qing courts across the reign periods of emperors Kangxi (r.1662-1722), Yongzheng (r.1723-1735) and Qianlong (r.1736-1796). It will show their transformation from statecraft instruments of high political and ritual significance to decorative domestic collectibles, ultimately rejected as insignificant toys. European clocks and instruments will be investigated not as technical, but as art objects in their own right in an examination of Qing court painting, architecture and decorative arts alongside key examples of the objects themselves.

As patronage and collecting were regarded as an essential imperial duty, requiring high personal involvement from each emperor, the way in which European objects were integrated into Qing court culture varied considerably under each ruler. Kangxi created the foundation for the role of clocks and instruments at court through his engagement with the European sciences, which he employed to fully consolidate his emperorship. Yongzheng maintained, but did not further develop, his father’s legacy with regard to objects from Europe. Qianlong embraced the ‘strange machines’ from Europe, albeit less as tools for statecraft, but as highly decorative collectibles, which appealed to his taste for foreign exotica. Over time, and with flourishing production in the imperial palace workshops, curiosities from Europe became highly integrated into the visual culture developed under each emperor, remaining foreign by nature, but appearing increasingly as familiar court objects, enhanced with symbolic ornaments reflecting the different cultures within the Qing empire, or merged with traditional signifiers of imperial power. This development highlights the way in which the concept of Europe, and its representation through certain types of objects, was actively used to shape the ‘otherness’ that defined the visual identity of the Manchus, thereby promoting the emperors’ legitimacy as universal rulers. Each emperor’s personality and taste influenced the visual expressions of their reign through patronage and collecting habits. In their roles as collectors and patrons, Qing emperors exercised their own form of time and space control over the ‘strange machines’ they owned through manipulation of their context, form and original function.

Subject(s)Clocks and watches--China--History--Qing dynasty, 1644-1911
Clocks and watches, European--China--History
Astronomical instruments--China--History
Astronomical clocks--China--History
Automata (Machines)--China--History
Machinery--Curious devices--China--History--17th-18th centuries
Jesuits--China--Qing dynasty, 1644-1911--Contributions in science and technology
Rec. TypeThesis/Dissertation (PDF)LanguageEnglish
CollectionRicci Institute LibraryRec. #18578
OCLC727645235