Court and connoisseurship: the collection and artistic taste of Qianlong Emperor

VisAsia Hingyiu Mok Mandarin-language lecture 2017

Sunday 27 August 2017
Duration 90 minutes
No bookings required


Court and connoisseurship: the collection and artistic taste of Qianlong Emperor
Dr Pei-Chin Yu

Dr Pei-Chin Yu is chief curator in the Department of Antiquities at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Chinese emperor Qianlong (who was born in 1711 and died in 1799) ruled from 1736 to 1795 and led the Qing dynasty to a pinnacle of both civil and military achievements. As the longest-living emperor in China, he witnessed seven generations in his family and enjoyed a Hall of Five Blessings and Five Generations. In the Manchu language, ‘Qianlong’ means ‘blessed by heaven’. Qianlong Emperor seemed to receive special blessings throughout his life as the Son of Heaven. He aspired to be versatile and adopted the appellation ‘Old man of versatility’. In 1796, at the age of 85, he abdicated in favour of his 15th son, and at this occasion he reiterated the ideal of a well-rounded ruler. This ideal symbolises the prosperous age under the rule of his grandfather, Kangxi Emperor, and serves as a model to encourage future generations to new accomplishments.

Qianlong was endowed with great intelligence and sensitivity towards art. The rich and vast imperial collection helped him cultivate a deep understanding of the cultural heritage he inherited, allowing him to become a collector, connoisseur and patron of art. This talk presents the results of research on Qianlong’s collection and his ways of selecting and categorising works of art. It aims to introduce his preferences and his influences on culture. Qianlong Emperor’s role as a political ruler and art connoisseur best exemplifies the intricacy between art and politics in the Qing dynasty, and this talk will explain this intricacy by way of analysing Qianlong’s collection.