Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“40 Views of the Yuanming yuan”: Image and Ideology in a Qianlong Imperial Album of Poetry and Paintings
by Finlay, John R., Ph.D., Yale University, 2011, 515; 3497004
Abstract (Summary)

Completed in 1744, the imperial album “40 Views of the Yuanming yuan” contains 40 poems by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–1795) paired with 40 paintings of the garden-palace Yuanming yuan, the “Garden of Perfect Brightness.” Ultimately, the synthesis of texts and images is an embodiment of a Qing imperial ideology. The paintings exhibit the extraordinary level of fmish of the best examples of court painting in the Qianlong era. They are the collaborative work of Tangdai (1673–after 1751), a Manchu official of the imperial court, and Shen Yuan (act. ca. 1728–1748), a Chinese painter attached to the Qing imperial Painting Academy. Tangdai's landscapes are rendered in the style of the scholar-amateur Orthodox School, and Shen Yuan's depiction of the architecture displays the influence of European perspective and modeling taught to Academy painters by European Jesuit missionary-artists.

The album finds historical precedents in the tradition of sets of painted views associated with poetry, which include the Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei's (701–761) poems on his country retreat as well as the Song-dynasty “10 Views of West Lake.” The immediate model for the “40 Views,” however, was the Kangxi emperor's (r. 1662–1722) “36 Views of the Bishu shanzhuang,” his summer palace at Shenyang. The Qianlong “40 Views” were literally surrounded by texts. Among them are the Yongzheng emperor's (r. 1723–1735) “Record of the Yuanming yuan,” which laid out the guiding principles for the construction of the Yuanming yuan, and the Qianlong emperor's “Later Record of the Yuanming yuan,” which expanded on these themes.

The poems and paintings of the “40 Views” were reproduced in 1745 by the imperial printing workshops. Crucial to this publication was the addition of a vast body of citations from the Confucian classics, the standard Histories, the works of famous poets, Buddhist and Daoist texts as well as traditional literary sources. The texts associated with the Yuanming yuan and, specifically, the poems and paintings of the “40 Views” sought to invest the garden-palace with Chinese cultural significance and to project an image of the Qianlong emperor as the just, virtuous and rightful ruler of China.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barnhart, Richard M.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian literature, Art history
Keywords: China, Court painting, Qianlong, Emperor of China, Shen, Yuan, Tangdai, Yuanming yuan
Publication Number: 3497004
ISBN: 978-1-267-18033-9
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