Staff profiles

Photo of Dr Yue Zhuang

Dr Yue Zhuang

Senior Lecturer in Chinese, Art History and Visual Culture

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01392 724274

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

Yue 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. From 2011–2013, she was a principal investigator for Matteo Ripa's "Views of Jehol", an Intra-European Fellowship funded by EU Marie Curie Actions. Through an international symposium held in the Rietberg Museum in Zurich in 2013 and a volume of collected essays Entangled Landscapes co-edited by Yue, the project concludes with ‘entangled landscapes’ as a new paradigm for research innovation. From 2014–2018, Yue further developed this new paradigm in her second project ‘Nature Entangled,’ also funded by EU Marie Curie Actions. A sub-theme of this project, with a focus on Sir William Temple and his reception of China, was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016–2017). A recent publication ‘Gardens of happiness: Sir William Temple, temperance and China’ for this project may be viewed here.

Her current projects include completing a monograph for Routledge: Imperial Arcadia: Architecture, Landscape and the Funereal Imagination in 18th century Britain as well as essays exploring further the cultural entanglement surrounding the idea of gardens of happiness linking China and Europe in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century.

She is a core member of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter. She is also a member of the Peer Review College for the Art and Humanities Research Council. 

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

Cultivating Happiness

I am Principal Investigator for the project 'Cultivating Happiness: Sir William Temple, Confucianism, and the English landscape garden' funded by the Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2016-2017). This project examines the seventeenth-century English reception of Confucianism and China through the lens of the essayist and statesman, Sir William Temple, focusing on his concept of happiness. Contextualising Sir William Temple’s writings across the fields of moral philosophy, literary criticism, political thought and sinology, this project reveals that at the fountainhead of the English landscape garden was a strand of early Enlightenment thought advocating a notion of happiness based on one’s tempered passions cultivated by the arts. Temple’s idea of the arts shaping moral-political sensibilities through sensual engagement with the environment demonstrated that late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English high culture was rooted not in a purely English soil, but in the intercultural processes between China and Europe.

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

I am the co-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 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)

Yanping Wu, "Katherine Mansfield, Classical Chinese Literature and Thoughts" (China Scholarship Council-funded, co-supervision)

Lin Zhu (University of Edinburgh), "The Poetics and Politics of Withdrawal in the Cultural Productions of Seventeenth-century China" (China Scholarship Council-funded, external supervisor)

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)