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The Mactaggart Art Collection Lecture Series

 Visualizing China’s Imperial Order (1500-1800)

Session 2: “Making Order Visible”   

February 25 – 27, 2016 

*Notice: Nancy S. Steinhardt's lecture on February 25, 2016 has been postponed until Saturday, February 27 at 11:00 am due to inclement weather.*

*Note the room changed for all lectures to TELUS International Centre (Room 134) - Map*

Headshot Session 2 Update

Registration Links

Friday, February 26, 2016

Registration Closed

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Martin Powers:  Registration Closed

Nancy S. Steinhardt:  Registration Closed

Friday, February 26, 2016

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm 

Registration Closed

Seeing Suzhou in Chinese Painting

Guest Speaker: Prof. Kristina Kleutghen (Washington University, St Louis, MO, U.S.A.)

Location: TELUS International Centre (Room 134)


When the Kangxi emperor’s Southern Tours disembarked in Suzhou in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries, the ruler arrived in a city famous across the empire for its optical devices. Popular use of these devices in and around Suzhou coincided with the Jesuit introduction of optic and catoptric principles at the court in Beijing. The combination of these factors led to the growth of Qing imperial fascination with vision at the same time as the expansion of the imperial painting academy and the strengthening of the empire as an ordered, unified whole. About sixty years after Kangxi first visited Suzhou, his grandson, the Qianlong emperor, arrived there during his own Southern Tours, and made a special visit to the famed Lion Grove Garden. Both emperors later had their visits to Suzhou depicted in paintings, and the Qianlong emperor commissioned an additional work depicting the garden. By looking at Suzhou in person and in paintings, these emperors created complex visual relationships between reality and representation, all within the larger concerns of the empire.

Focusing on two Qing imperial paintings in the Mactaggart Art Collection that depict Suzhou and its Lion Grove Garden, this presentation uses those works as a lens onto the links between place, perception, painting, and power at the High Qing court. By connecting ideas about vision to the deeper meanings inherent in imperial perception, these paintings attempted to represent the experience and memory of real sites in ways that intertwined art, sight, and politics. Through these two paintings of real Suzhou sites visited by two emperors on numerous occasions, a great deal can be learned about how order in the Qing empire had become inseparable from imperial vision itself. The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors’ decisions to have their influential visits to Suzhou, the city with the greatest effect on period conceptions of vision, recreated in paintings begins to reveal the role of sight in the High Qing imperium.


Kristina Kleutghen is a Assistant Professor of Art History and Archaeology and the David W. Mesker Career Development Professor of Art History at Washington University in St. Louis. A specialist in Chinese art, particularly of painting and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), her most recent work has focused on Sino-foreign interaction, the imperial court, optical devices, and connections to science and mathematics. Her research has been supported by the Blakemore Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Needham Research Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Getty Research Institute. Her first book, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces, was published by University of Washington Press in 2015. Her second book now in progress, Lens onto the World: Optical Devices, Art, Science, and Society in China, is under advance contract with University of Washington Press, and will be the first to study the forgotten relationship between Chinese optical devices and art from the fifteenth through early-twentieth centuries.

4:00 pm – 4:15 pm 


4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

Registration Closed

The Emperor Qianlong’s Tours of Southern China in Painting, Poetry, and Logistical Practice

Guest Speaker: Prof. Michael G. Chang (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, U.S.A.)


This presentation will focus on the well-known southern tours of the Qianlong emperor (1711-1799, r. 1736-1795), the fourth Manchu emperor to rule over China-proper. Each of Qianlong’s six southern tours, which took place between 1751 and 1784, were extended affairs during which the emperor and his rather sizeable entourage spent anywhere from three to five months traveling through one of the empire’s most prosperous and critical regions—the Lower Yangtze delta (a.k.a. “Jiangnan”). But what did a southern tour actually look like? And what was the visual impact and symbolic meaning of the mobile court as it journeyed to and through the Lower Yangtze delta?

In this presentation, Chang will address such questions by considering a variety of historical sources including court paintings, imperial poetry, literati accounts, administrative regulations, and archival documents. By reading this array of sources in conjunction with and against each other, Chang hopes to elucidate how court paintings of the Qianlong emperor’s southern tours as well as of other imperial spectacles did not necessarily represent reality in any direct (positivistic) manner. Instead, these paintings were themselves ideologically imbued documents that served to maintain strict and stereotypical boundaries between northern and southern landscapes, between civil and military spheres, and between Chinese and Inner Asian cultural norms and political sensibilities. Equally important, Chang will also detail how the logistical management and written accounts of the mobile court’s two most basic material forms—that is, a court on horseback and a court in camp—symbolically undermined the visual taxonomy constituted by court paintings and thereby generated ethnically imbued projections of imperial authority within the heart of China-proper.


Michael G. Chang teaches Chinese history in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. He received his A.B. in sociology and East Asian Studies from Princeton University and his PhD in Chinese history from the University of California, San Diego.  He is the author of A Court on Horseback: Imperial Touring and the Construction of Qing Rule, 1680-1785 (Harvard, 2007) as well as numerous scholarly articles.

5:15 pm – 5:45 pm 

Question & Answer Session 

  • Prof. Kristina Kleutghen (Washington University, St Louis, MO, U.S.A.)
  • Prof. Michael G. Chang (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, U.S.A.)
* Registering for either session will automatically register you for the Question & Answer Session *

Location: TELUS International Centre (Room 134)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

10:00 am -10:50 am

Registration Closed

Picturing Social Justice in Early Modern China and England

Guest Speaker: Prof. Martin Powers (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.) 

Location: TELUS International Centre (Room 134) (light lunch provided after)


In 1741 Richard Hatchett adapted the Chinese play The Orphan of Zhao as a vehicle for exposing Robert Walpole’s corruption and abuse of power. What Hatchett viewed as corruption, most Englishmen saw as privilege, the inherited rights of a lord, but then this was the debate of the moment. More than 1500 years earlier that same story featured in stone engravings in China, also as a means of exposing a minister’s corruption and abuse of power. Those engravings were the beginning of a long tradition of literary and pictorial exposes of social injustice in China. Artists in England likewise developed socially conscious pictures during the decades just prior to Hatchett’s intervention.  Arguably, in both instances, the appearance of politicized art resulted from the demands of an increasingly literate and independent-minded audience. This lecture explores the implications of parallel development and direct interaction between China and England during the long 18th century.


Martin Powers is the Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, and former Director of the Center for Chinese Studies. In 1993, his Art and Political Expression in Early China, Yale University Press, received the Levenson Prize for the best book in pre-twentieth century Chinese Studies. His Pattern and Person: Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China, was published by Harvard University Press East Asian Series in 2006 and was awarded the Levenson Prize for 2008. In 2009 he was resident at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Currently he is completing a book on the role of "China" in the cultural politics of the English Enlightenment. With Dr. Katherine Tsiang he co-edited the Blackwell Companion to Chinese Art, published in 2015.

11:00 am - 11:45 am

Registration Closed

Visualizing China’s Imperial Order, Or, Why Paint Architecture?

Guest Speaker: Prof. Nancy S. Steinhardt (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)

Location: TELUS International Centre (Room 134)


A surprising number of Chinese paintings include architecture. More surprising, the architecture often has little to do with the painting. Why is it present?

This presentation begins with a brief overview of jiehua (ruled line) painting, works made with measuring devices to aid in the painting of buildings. We see that architecture frames action, divides action, is a focus amid landscape, and sometimes is the subject of painting on a variety of media. We also see that these uses of architecture occur in secular and religious painting as early as the Han dynasty (206 BCE – CE 220) and continue through the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when they are found in masterpieces of Chinese painting such as Wang Hui’s (1632-1717) “Kangxi Emperor’s Inspection Tour” and Xu Yang’s “Qianlong Inspection Tour” of the 18th century in the Mactaggart Art Collection. 

The presentation proposes that architecture in painting imposes an order, and in certain paintings, an imperial order to the environment of the work of art, and further, that the role of architecture in painting is similar to the purpose of three-dimensional architecture of full and small-scale.


Nancy S. Steinhardt is Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Professor of East Asian Art, and Curator of Chinese Art at the University of Pennsylvania where she has taught since 1982. She received her PhD at Harvard in 1981, and was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1978-81. She has broad research interests in the art and architecture of China and China’s border regions, particularly problems that result from the interaction between Chinese art and that of peoples to the North, Northeast, and Northwest.

Steinhardt is author or co-author of Chinese Traditional Architecture (1984), Chinese Imperial City Planning(1990), Liao Architecture (1997), Chinese Architecture (2003), Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture (2005),Chinese Architecture and the Beaux-Arts (2011), Chinese Architecture in an Age of Turmoil, 200-600 (2014),China’s Early Mosques (2015) and more than 70 scholarly articles. She is currently writing Chinese Traditional Architecture: Twelve LecturesThe Borders of Chinese Architecture, and a history of Chinese architecture. In 2014 Steinhardt gave the Reischauer Lectures at Harvard. She is a recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Institute for Advanced Study, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Getty Foundation, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, Social Science Research Council, American Philosophical Society, Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts, Van Berchem Foundation, and Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art. She has given more than 300 public lectures or conference talks and has organized more than ten international conferences. Steinhardt is involved in international collaborations in China, Korea, and Japan. She has been an advisor, guest curator, or author for exhibitions at China Institute, Asia Society, the Metropolitan Museum, Japan Society, Chicago Art Institute, Smart Museum, and the Penn Museum.

11:45 am – 12:15 pm

Light Lunch (please register for either lecture)

12:15 pm – 1:00 pm

Authority, Propaganda, and Fine Arts

Panel Discussion

Registration Closed

  • Prof. Nancy S. Steinhardt (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
  • Prof. Michael G. Chang (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, U.S.A.)
  • Prof. Martin Powers (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.) 

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

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