Technocracy and Porcelain Manufacture at Early to Mid Qing Court (1720s-1750s)

Feb 14, 2024, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
202 Jones



Event Description

In this talk, Kai Jun Chen, will examine the imperial control of technological expertise in the Qing Dynasty. Through a detailed study of porcelain manufacture during the mid-eighteenth century, the project rethinks early modern industrial planning in China in dialog with the studies of expert culture in the early modern world. By examining the innovation and hindrance in ceramic production in the realpolitik of the Manchu court, he scrutinizes the crucial roles that multiethnic technocrats played in codifying technological knowledge and in creating distinctive artistic forms that were essential to the cultural policies of the Qing court. Tang Ying (1682-1756), the polymath supervisor of the imperial porcelain manufacture will be our local guide to the porcelain industry, and introduce the community of technocrats, who served as the emperors’ private attendants, acted as hands-on mediators at the center of Eurasian cultural exchange. The project also analyzes the court’s ceramic styles that emulate European wares and imitate ancient ritual wares, as well as the propagandistic rhetoric in ceramic treatises. The ceramic industry centered at the court showcases a technocratic culture that championed empiricism, material experimentalism, and conservative loyalism in art and knowledge production.

Kai Jun Chen is an Assistant Professor specializing in late imperial Chinese material culture and the history of technology in the Department of East Asian Studies at Brown University. His research primarily centers the production and the dissemination of craft knowledge from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. He has authored articles on the intersections of craft and literature, as well as the trade of luxury goods, which have been published in journals such as History and Technology, Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews, Arts of Asia, National Palace Bi-monthly, and more. Prior to his professorship, he held positions at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and the Frick Collection. He was also a fellow at institutions including the Needham Research Institute, Academia Sinica, and he is currently a member at the IAS. His work has received generous support from the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Society, the Metropolitan Museum, the Geiss-Hsu Foundation, College Art Association, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation.

  • East Asian Studies Program
  • The P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art