Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
East Asian Languages & Civilizations
Nancy S. Steinhardt
Victor H. Mair
Julie N. Davis
After obtaining sovereignty, a new emperor of China often gathers the imperial collections of previous dynasties and uses them as evidence of the legitimacy of the new regime. Some emperors go further, commissioning the compilation projects of bibliographies of books and catalogues of artistic works in their imperial collections not only as inventories but also for proclaiming their imperial power. The imperial collections of art symbolize political and cultural predominance, present contemporary attitudes toward art and connoisseurship, and reflect emperors’ personal taste for art.
The attempt of this research project is to explore the practice of art cataloguing during two of the most important reign periods in imperial China: Emperor Huizong of the Northern Song Dynasty (r. 1101-1125) and Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (r. 1736-1795). Through examining the format and content of the selected painting, calligraphy, and bronze catalogues compiled by both emperors, features of each catalogue reveal the development of cataloguing imperial artistic collections. In addition to constructing a historical line of cataloguing art, this project demonstrates the relationship between contemporary politics, cultures, and art. Further, it offers suggestions about the purpose and function of imperial collections of art, on the one hand, and reflects emperors’ and literati’s attitudes and viewpoints on art and connoisseurship, on the other hand.
CHENG, YEN-WEN, "Tradition and Transformation: Cataloguing Chinese Art in the Middle and Late Imperial Eras" (2010). Publicly accessible Penn Dissertations. Paper 98.