CASE 3:  Culture and International Relations in the 18th Century


Jean-Denis Attiret

Jean-Denis Attiret (1702-1768) was a French Jesuit painter and missionary to China. He went to China in 1737 and was conferred the title “Painter to the Emperor” by Emperor Qianlong. Many of Attiret’s works included paintings of natural objects, such as fruit, fish, trees, and other animals, but he also painted portraits of members of the imperial court. Attiret was one of the four Jesuit artists who were commissioned by Emperor Qianlong to depict his successful military battles in Central Asia.

Sir William Chambers

Sir William Chambers (1723-96) was an English architect. As an employee of the Swedish East India Company, he made several voyages to China where he studied Chinese architecture and decoration, making drawings of gardens and buildings. In China, he studied Chinese architecture and tradition. He designed decorative architecture (e.g., Chinese Pagoda) for the Kew Gardens. In 1757, he published a book of Chinese designs which had a significant impact on contemporary taste.

Roger Fry

Roger Fry (1866-1934) was an influential English artist and critic and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Fry’s most significant contribution is formalist aesthetic theory and his 1910 and 1912 Post-Impressionist exhibitions.

Emperor Qianlong

Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty in China. His reign (1735–96) was one of the longest in Chinese history. China’s boundaries reached their greatest extent, encompassing Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Taiwan, and portions of Central Asia. He enjoyed excellent personal relationships with Jesuit missionaries in Beijing. In the first half of his reign, agriculture made great strides and was superior to that in much of Europe. Taxes were light and education was widespread, even among the peasantry.

Ma Hezhi

Ma Hezhi (active c. second half of 12th century) was a painter of classical themes at the Southern Song (1127–1279) court in Lin’an, modern Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and was known for his distinctive brushwork, marked by variations in hand pressure. However, the details of his life are obscure; sparse and contradictory information appears in different sources.

Nian Xiyao

Nian Xiyao (1678–1738) was the director of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province. He wrote Shixue, the first Chinese treatise on Western perspective drawing, which was based on Castiglione’s explanation of Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum (Rome, ca. 1693–1700), written by the illusionistic painter Andrea Pozzo (1642–1709).

Tao Yuanming

Tao Yuanming (365-427), a native of Caisang of Xunyang (today’s southwest of Jiujiang in Jiangxi Province), was born in a family of a downfallen eunuch. He had served as an official for several years, but later abdicated his post. After rejecting the life of an official, he led a reclusive life and made rural life the major subject of his creative works. Contrary to the ornate and flowery language of poetry popular at that time, Tao Yuanming formed his own simple and natural style. Many of Tao Yuanming’s poems reflect his disgust of society and display a strong love for the quiet and simple life in the countryside.

Wang Tingna

Wang Tingna (ca. 1569-1609) was the son of a very wealthy merchant. He was a gifted student and soon came to the attention of some leading figures at the Ming’s southern court at Nanjing. Transformed from merchant to literatus by his studies and circle of acquaintances he began to participate in the examination system. However, for he withdrew from the provincial examination when his father was dying and never again took an examination. He did eventually obtain an official title, but not an appointment to an office. Wang’s life was spent in literary artistic circles. He was a collector and connoisseur of renown. Wang also became a publisher (his publishing business was on his estate) of both extremely fine editions as well as cheap popular books of dramas. His publishing business specialized in illustrated books and set a new standard in woodblock illustration.

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