Staff profiles

Photo of Dr Yue Zhuang

Dr Yue Zhuang

Senior Lecturer in Chinese, Art History and Visual Culture


01392 724274

Trained as an architect, Yue Zhuang studied for her first PhD in Chinese architectural history and theory at Tianjin University in China, where she was also a permanent lecturer in landscape history.  Her second PhD at the University of Edinburgh broadened her research interests to include the history and theory of the 18th-century British landscape art.  She then spent two years as an EU Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University Research Priority Programme ―Asia and Europe at the University of Zurich before joining the University of Exeter in 2013.

Dr Yue Zhuang specialises in the landscape art history of China and Britain as well as the cross-cultural contacts between China and Europe in the early modern period. Her recent projects, 'Matteo Ripa's "Views of Jehol",' funded by EU Marie Curie Actions, and 'Entangled Landscapes,' funded by SNSF, SAGW, and Hermann und Marianne Straniak Stiftung, initiated an innovative paradigm of research, examining the entangled histories of landscape exchange between China and Europe. Yue is further developing this new paradigm in her second project ‘Nature Entangled,’ also funded by EU Marie Curie Actions. Most recently, she has been awarded a Leverhulme Ressearch Fellowship for her project 'Cultivating Happiness: Sir William Temple, Confucianism, and the English Landscape Garden' (2016-17).

Yue has published extensively in the fields of landscape theory and history of both China and Europe; and in Chinese-European cultural contacts in the early modern as well as in contemporary urban design and environmental issues. Two recent articles were on Sir William Chambers’ Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (Transcultural Studies) and Matteo Ripa’s copperplate engravings of Bishu shanzhuang shi (Getty Research Institute).

She supervises doctoral research in the areas of landscape history in China and Chinese-European cultural exchange from 1700-1800.

She is a core member of the teaching team for Art History and Visual Culture.

Research interests

My main research interest is in the landscape art history of China and Britain in the early modern period, within the broad cultural context of philosophy, rituals, health and wellbeing, and social practices.  I am particularly interested in Chinese-European contacts in relation to landscape imagination in the early modern and how such contacts engaged the changing ideas in the discourses of philosophy, religion, economy and politics that constitute the process of modernity.  

Research Projects

Nature Entangled

I am Principal Investigator for an EU Marie-Curie research grant, ‘Entangled histories of nature in the landscape discourses between China and Europe in the 16th-18th centuries’ (2014-2018).

This project explores the history of conceptualising nature as shared between China and Europe in the landscape discourses during the early modern period, with a focus on the complexity of the often hidden interrelations between China, ‘the ancient’ and ‘the modern’ associated with the idea of ‘imitating nature’. Investigating the landscape discourses within the broad social and cultural contexts, the project aims to demonstrate how this shared historical legacy of landscape imitating nature between China and Europe has shaped and continues to shape our environment and our perceptions of man and nature relations.

Among my contributions to the project will be a monograph on the imagery of Chinese landscapes in the British imagination from 1685 to 1772, with a focus on how a multifaceted image of ‘oriental Arcadia’ was used by the British radical conservative elite to assert a Neo-Platonic utopian regime, counteracting the democratic-capitalist  development mobilized by the middle class.  The grant involves two PhD studentships and a series of workshop or symposia in conjunction with the Chinese Studies Seminar Series at the University of Exeter.

Entangled landscapes

With Professor Andrea Rimenschnitter (Asian and Oriental Institute, University of Zurich) and Professor Hans Thomson (East Asian Art History, University of Zurich), I am the lead editor of a book entitled Entangled landscapes: early modern China and Europe, developed from an international symposium which I convened at the University of Zurich in 2013.The book initiates an innovative research diagram ‘entangled landscapes’, investigating how the exchange of landscape – imagery and knowledge – between early modern China and Europe was moulded by their complex interrelations at the different levels of economy, society, politics and morality and how the exchange contributed to the formation of their citizens' social and cultural identities.

Matteo Ripa’s ‘Views of Jehol’

Between 2011-2013, I was the leader of the Marie Curie research project ‘Matteo Ripa’s “Views of Jehol”: Entangled Histories of 18th Century European and Chinese Landscape Representations,’ funded by Marie Curie Actions, European Union hosted at the University Research Priority Programme ‘Asia and Europe,’ University of Zurich.

This project examines the dialogues between Matteo Ripa’s copperplate engravings of the ‘Views of Jehol’ and the original woodcuts of Qing Emperor Kangxi’s Yuzhi Bishu shanzhuang shi 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 Catholic Church’s expansion underpinned by Neo-platonic tenets. This project also scrutinizes the 18th-century British conservative elite’s receptions of the missionaries’ images and their descriptions of Qing imperial gardens. I argue that the English landscape movement appropriated 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 as a chapter in Qing Encounters (Getty Research Institute) and journal articles in Transcultural Studies and Architecture and Culture.

Research collaborations

With Professor Shaoxin Dong (National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Fudan University), we are co-organizing an international Fudan–Exeter advanced workshop ‘The Senses in Chinese and European Cultural Exchange in the Early Modern Period,’ to be held in 15-18 May, 2015 in Fudan University, Shanghai. We plan to develop a research network based on the workshop theme, promoting interdisciplinary research on the transcultural processes that shaped sensory cultures between China and Europe.

With Professor Feng Qing (School of Architecture, Tsinghua University), we organised a workshop on ‘Encounters and Entanglements: Sino-British interactions in contemporary architecture and urbanism,’ funded by University of Exeter-Tsinghua Fellowship (2014). Research outputs appear in peer-review journals such as Cities: international journal on urban policy and planning.

With Dr Zhiguang Yin (Modern Languages) and others, I co-organize the Chinese Studies Seminar Series at the University of Exeter.

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise students in the fields of landscape and cultural history of China and Britain as well as Chinese and European cultural exchange from the 17th century onwards. 

Research students

Current PhD students

Maria Anesti, "Eremitic Landscape Dwelling in Confucian China and Enlightenment Europe" (College of Humanities Studentship)

Aihua Zhou, "Chinese Face and Western Body: Uncovering Images of Masculinity in Xu Beihong’s Paintings" (co-supervision)

Yunpeng Wang, "The Role of Participation in Heritage Museums" (co-supervision)

Si Xiao, "Yuanmingyuan’s Treasure: Biographies of the Qianlong Emperor’s Manuscript" (China Scholarship Council-funded)

Completed PhDs

Russell Sanchez, "The Sceptre and the Sextant: Imperialism and Scientism in the Travelogues of Johan Nieuhof, Lord George Macartney, and A.E. van Braam Houckgeest" (EU Marie Curie-funded, 2019)  


External impact and engagement

With Tianjin University (School of Architecture), ETH-Zurich (Modern History), University of Zurich (URPP Asia and Europe), I co-ordinated an exhibition, Constructing Qing Imperial Landscapes: Exhibition of the Yangshi Lei Architectural Archives, hosted at ETH Zurich, 10 May–10 June, 2013.

The exhibition was later put on show at the Lakeside museum, Nottingham, co-ordinated by Dr Qi Wang (Nottingham University)

Contribution to discipline

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.