Matteo Ripa’s “Views of Jehol”: Entangled Histories of 18th Century European and Chinese Landscape Representations

Dr Yue Zhuang was the leader of the Marie Curie research project funded by Marie Curie Actions, European Union (2011-2013) and was hosted at the University Research Priority Programme ‘Asia and Europe,’ University of Zurich. From the multidisciplinary perspective of ‘entangled histories’, she examines the dialogues between Matteo Ripa’s copperplate engravings of the ‘Views of Jehol’ and the original woodcuts of Qing Emperor Kangxi’s ‘Thirty-six Views’ designed by Shen Yu, so as to reveal this visual art exchange taking place at the Qing court as an encounter of Kangxi’s imperial project within a syncretist framework of Neo-Confucianism and the Church’s expansion underpinned by Neo-platonic tenets. Furthermore she scrutinizes the 18th-century British conservative elite’s receptions of the missionaries’ images and descriptions of Qing imperial gardens, arguing that the English landscape movement appropriates the Christian-interpreted ‘Chinese’ elements from their desire to build a Neo-Platonic imperial power.

The project highlights the complex connections between European and Chinese landscape gardens within their social, political and economic contexts. It thereby enriches the trans-cultural historiography of landscape gardens and helps to anchor the notion of an interlinked Eurasian art history.

Research results of this project appear in journals like Transcultural Studies and Architecture and Culture. Dr Zhuang is also working on a monograph based on this project.