Speaker: Lianming Wang (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut)

This talk attempts to capture the major moments of Sino-European encounters in the area of hydraulics by examining how Jesuit hydrology reinvigorated the ancient Chinese idea of water and stimulated the making of the Qing political landscape. Particular attention will be paid to the prevalence of fountains and plays of water in eighteenth-century Qing visual and material culture. With the help of Jesuit court artists, the designs of European theatrical fountains were incorporated into the cosmological imagery of court-made clocks and became urban spectacles and focal points of imperial celebrations. This talk will further demonstrate that the cosmological and religious visions (both Taoist and Buddhist) embedded in early Chinese water devices in which the Qianlong Emperor conceived his decades-long ‘Water Palaces’ (Shuifadian) project. It will also be argued that the encounters with Jesuit hydrology provided the major technical and cultural impetus to achieve and transform the ‘Water Palaces’ into a Qing political landscape, which went far beyond the desire of a ‘Chinese Occidenterie’.

Lianming Wang is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut and is the 2021-22 Global Humanities Visiting Professor of East Asian Art and Architecture at the Department of History of Art at the University of Cambridge. Previously, Wang has taught at the University of Würzburg (2009-11) and Heidelberg University (2014-21) as an Assistant Professor. From 2018 to 2019 Wang held an Art History Fellowship in the ‘Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices’ research group at the Berlin-based Forum Transregional Studies (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz). His areas of research include global encounters of arts and culture in early modernity and the artistic practices and materiality associated with trans-territorial animals. Wang is the recipient of the Klaus Georg and Sigrid Hengstberger Prize (2018) and the Academy Prize (2021) of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

IHR Seminar SeriesHistory of Gardens and Landscapes