Craig Clunas

Craig Clunas is professor of the history of art at Oxford. His most recent book is Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China.

In the autumn of 1609, the Chinese diarist Li Rihua recorded the talk at a dinner party attended by a number of ‘old coastal hands’ who had served as officials in the south-eastern provinces of the Ming empire. Conversation turned to the geopolitics of this sensitive frontier region, its trading enclaves and the various peoples who came to them. He heard about the most famous of...

There are few enough points of continuity between the official state ideology of Maoist China and the ideology espoused by the country’s leaders today. But the significance of Qin Shi Huangdi, First August and Divine Emperor and subject of the outstandingly popular BM exhibition, The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army, might be one of them.* In the mid-1970s he had a starring...

At the Royal Academy: Art of the Emperors

Craig Clunas, 1 December 2005

The emperors​ in question in the exhibition China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795 (at the Royal Academy until next April) are Kangxi (ruled 1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-35) and Qianlong (1736-95). The hard-to-pronounce imperial names were avoided in the exhibition’s title, but the show has a Chinese title which is prominently displayed in the publicity material. Sheng shi hua zhang is a...

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