Picturing China - A Study of the Visual Representations of the 18th and 19th Century China Coast

  • LEE, Jack S C (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The major goal of this research project is to investigate the art and cultural, socio- economic-political aspects of 18th and 19th century China (namely the late Qing period) through the study of visual images, including paintings, drawings, prints and photographs that were produced during this period. As a cross-cultural and inter- disciplinary research topic, this study focuses on the landscapes depicted in the late Qing China coast specifically Canton, Hong Kong, Macao, and Shanghai. These places were open to foreigners during the late Qing period, first for trading and later for political reasons due to the decline of the Imperial Court. Landscapes produced in the form of paintings and photographs related to these places, by Chinese and Western professional artists, travellers or amateurs, were well received by foreigners, hence they were produced in large numbers in the last two centuries. Interestingly, the making of these landscapes changed over time, indicating the rise and fall of the significance of a certain place. The artistic representation of these landscapes also changed during different stages of development, showing that both the Chinese and Westerners had different ways of seeing China over time. Thus, to investigate the topographical depictions of the China coast not only enables us to understand the changing perceptions of the artists and patrons towards the places, it at the same time unveils the current socio-economic- political situation hidden in the landscape, thus allowing us to understand and interpret the subject from different perspectives.

Visual images play an increasingly important role in historical study nowadays, widening our scope by providing an alternative to the conventional use of textual evidence. The study of visual representations of the late Qing China coast is intended to be interdisciplinary in nature since it covers not only the arts and cultures of both the Chinese and the West, but also knowledge about topography, tourism, social customs, politics, commerce and so on. Through such a cross-cultural study, the principal investigator hopes to explore the potential and possibility of visual arts study in the realm of Chinese art as well as to strengthen the efficient use of visual information in the academic field.
Effective start/end date1/10/1431/03/17


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