Imaging Diplomacy: The Meridian Gate and the Making of European Perspectives on China (1655–1795)

Tuesday, March 12, 2024
1:00 pm PDT – 2:00 pm PDT

Lecture by Sylvia Tongyan Qiu, Ph.D. Student in Art History, University of California, Los Angeles. Recipient of the 2023–24 Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship

In 1692, Evert Ysbrants Ides, a Danish merchant living in the German quarters of Moscow, was sent to the Kangxi Emperor by Peter the Great as his ambassador. An account of his journey, Three Years of Travel from Moscow to China: thro’ Great Ustiga, Siriania, Permia, Sibiria, Daour, Great Tartary, &c. to Peking was published in 1706 together with fascinating illustrations. Ides wrote: “coming to the outer Gate of the Castle, there is a Pillar, with some Characters Engraven on it, where I was told I must alight, according to their Custom; so that I went on foot through five outer Courts.” As Ides recounts his audience with the Manchu emperor—a brief episode in his long and treacherous journey across various terrains of the Eurasian landmass—the engraved images in the book trace the embassy’s passage into the innermost spaces of the Forbidden City, from the Meridian Gate, through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, and finally to the Hall of Supreme Harmony. By comparing the visual representations of European embassies’ entry into the Forbidden City in printed ambassadorial fictions with Qing court archives, Qiu will discuss how the architecture of the imperial palace was transformed into a theatrical backdrop, an optical device, a topography of overlapping fantasies, and a prototype for chinoiserie through the re-enactment of Eurasian diplomacy in printed media.

Sylvia Tongyan Qiu is a first-year Ph.D. student in Art History at UCLA. Her research explores the intersections of early modern globalization and the visual and material culture of the Qing court. Her dissertation examines the relationship between image-making and diplomacy at Eurasian courts between the 17th and 18th centuries, specifically, the trans-medial construction of European visions of the Qing Empire through illustrated ambassadorial accounts. She received her MA in Art History from UCLA and BA in History of Art from University College London. She held internships and volunteered at the Palace Museum in Beijing, the British Museum, and Sir John Soane Museum. Her previous project at the Clark Library investigated a Qianlong-era celestial globe inlaid with pearls and explored the complex material, religious, ideological, and metaphysical translations that took place in the making of this anomalous globe.

The lecture will take place via Zoom. To register to attend, please fill out the form here.

Image: The Embassadors Introduction into the Audience Hall, Ides, Evert Ysbrants. Three Years Travels from Moscow Over-Land to China: Thro’ Great Ustiga, Siriania, Permia, Sibiria, Daour, Great Tartary, &c. to Peking. London: W Freeman, 1706. Clark Library DS708 .I19E 1706.