International Research Cooperation on Chinese Export Paintings of the Qing Period

The research project of Chinese Export Paintings of the Qing Period in The British Library was lasted for 8 years and launched by Professor Wang Tzi-Cheng at NCU, Dr. Frances Wood at the British Library, Dr. Andrew Lo at SOAS of London University and Dr. Song Jia-yu at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This is a significant research cooperation on Sinology.

 Chinese Export Paintings of the Qing Period in The British Library (hereafter referred to as “the work”) is first published inChina.  This work includes 748 export paintings of Chinese society and life in the Qing period, and it is the first time that they have been published as a group. Most of the paintings are rare, and some may be unique. They are classified into fifteen categories: (1) Canton harbour and the city of Canton; (2) Costumes of emperors, empresses, officials and commoners; (3) Street and marketplace occupations in Canton; (4) Handicraft workshops in Foshan; (5) Guangdong Government offices, furnishings, and official processional equipment; (6) Punishments; (7) Gardens and mansions; (8)Religious buildings and sacrificial arrangements; (9) The urging of people to stop smoking opium; (10) Indoor furnishings; paintings of plants and birds; (11) TheOceanBannerTemple; (12) Scenes from drama; (13) Boats, ships and river scenes inGuangdongProvince; (14)Beijing life and customs; and (15)Beijing shop signs.

In these volumes, each category of painting includes an introduction and commentary on each painting, in Chinese and English. The introduction gives a background to the topic and a summary of the content of the paintings, while the commentary on each painting includes the title, date of production and painting material, and a concise commentary on the content of the painting, based on Chinese and Western written sources. Dai Yi, Chairman of the National Committee for the Compilation of the Qing History and Professor, Renmin University of China, regards this work highly, and commends the authors for their scholastic contribution in highlighting the historical value of the paintings, of using pictures to corroborate the historical records, and using writing to explain the pictures.

Through the cooperation of Chinese and British scholars, the work is an important achievement, and for the convenience of Chinese and foreign readers, the texts are in traditional Chinese characters and English. These volumes provide rich pictorial and written sources, and is not only a valuable contribution to the study of art history, but also provides precious reference material for studying Qing history, social history, folk history, architectural history, shipping history and Sino-foreign cultural exchange, etc.