Western Architecture Out of This World

Chapter 5.1: Eighteenth-Century Imperial Chinese Taste

Weeds give way to beauty; Water methods arrange for a spectacle. Western history celebrates the upright; From far over the oceans for me to see. -The Qianlong Emperor

The Qianlong Emperor loved southern gardens and was also fascinated with western culture. The western-style buildings at the Changchun Garden in the Old Summer Palace were once known as the “Versailles of the East,” marking the first large-scale imitation of western architecture and gardening at an imperial garden in China. Qianlong, however, had a very unique perspective on western taste.

For example, the first draft of the fountains at the Haiyan Hall by the famous Italian court artist, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), specified nude ladies. Instead, Qianlong had them changed to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac which became the famous water clock with twelve animal heads. The emperor also was quite partial to fountains and western methods of timekeeping. He admired western printmaking, leaving behind a fascinating testimony to Sino-Western cultural exchange during the eighteenth century. This section of the exhibit integrates modern forms of art and technology to reinterpret the twelve animal heads, providing a glimpse at imperial taste in the eighteenth century.

Chapter 5.2: Eighteenth-century Copperplate Printing

After the invention of copperplate printing in Europe during the fifteenth century, technological advances and development continued. European artists began to use copperplate printing to create works of art, a notable example being creations of the famous German artist Albrect Durer (1471-1528).

Copperplate prints of the eighteenth century accompanied Western missionaries to China and were taken to the court. The Italian Jesuit Matteo Ripa (1682-1745) was the first to successfully

adopt this technique for a local production, as represented by Copperplate Prints of the Thirty-six Views at the Chengde Mountain Resort, which dates to 1713. During the Qianlong reign, it began to be used on a larger scale. In one instance, the painters of the court, Giuseppe Castiglione, Jean Denis Attiret (1702-1768), and Joannas-Damascenus Salusti (1727-1781), were ordered to compose drafts for the prints, which were then sent to France to be etched.

Chapter 5.3: King George III and the Qianlong Emperor

With the western timekeeping pieces and delicate enamelware presented as a tribute from King George III of England to the Qianlong Emperor, and Qianlong’s reciprocal presentation of a jade ruyi scepter to George III, audiences can understand another aspect of Sino-Western exchanges in the eighteenth century along with the mutual influences of learning and the arts.

This section of the exhibit benefits from the research efforts of the Royal Museum of England along with the display of artifacts to express the meeting of the East and West at the time.