Defining Yongle

Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China
Y. Watt, James C.
Patry Leidy, Denise
Date published: 
May 2005

The Yongle Emperor (1403–1424) was considered the most powerful, effective, and extravagant ruler of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Major military campaigns and unprecedented maritime expeditions marked his reign. Yongle is also credited with moving the capital from the south to the northern capital of Beijing, establishing the Forbidden City.

In Beijing, Yongle inherited the imperial workshops instituted by the Mongol rulers of the preceding Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). The superb sculptures, lacquers, metalwork, ceramics, textiles, and ivories produced during Yongle’s reign show the following influences: Islamic metalwork and glass on porcelains, and Tibetan Buddhist motifs on decorative arts and sculpture. As this book demonstrates, the art of this phase of the Ming dynasty clearly had a seminal role in the development of later Chinese decorative arts.

Exhibition schedule: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1 April to 10 July 2005