Legitimacy from antiquity: Qing imperial ceramic vessels for state ritual
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:32 by Iain M. Clark
"Legitimacy from antiquity : Qing imperial ceramic vessels for state ritual" investigates a little known aspect of material culture in modern Chinese history: namely, the ceramic ritual vessels adopted by the Manchu imperium in 1748 for sacrifices at altars and temples in Beijing dedicated to the state religion of China and used by successive emperors until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. The dissertation examines the vessel forms in detail and provides the historical, religious and social contexts in which they appeared, all necessary for a better understanding of this long neglected, yet important group of objects. The research is founded on the contents of the Illustrated Compendium of Ceremonial Paraphernalia for State Rituals Huangchao liqi tushi 皇朝禮器圖式, more simply the Illustrated Regulations, an imperially endorsed encyclopaedia begun in 1748 and printed in 1766 as part of a program of rectification and refurbishment of state ritual instigated by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-1795). This dissertation describes ritual paraphernalia focussing upon the deng 登, dou 豆, fu 簠, gui 簋, jue 爵, xing 鉶, zhan 盞 and zun 尊 ceramic vessels. The descriptions of these vessels in the Illustrated Regulations are translated here for the first time, helping to inform the investigation in its aim to trace the origins and evolution of these Qing vessels. The documentary descriptions are compared to surviving vessels. The report reveals the physical characteristics of Qing dynasty imperial ceramic ritual vessels used by the Qianlong emperor and his successors, and how and where they were employed. It helps show how the vessels demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding of ancient Chinese culture on the part of the Manchu imperium. Furthermore, the dissertation establishes criteria for a modern identification of Qing imperial ceramic vessels for state ritual and provides a list of surviving vessels held in both public and private collections around the world. By setting out the forms and functions of these rare Qing imperial ceramic vessels for state ritual, this dissertation contributes to the study of Chinese ceramics. It demonstrates the vessels' role in Chinese ritual history as miranda, strengthening Qing claims of legitimacy, and indicates the high degree of Sinification of the Manchu court which sponsored their introduction. In so doing, it also contributes to ongoing discussion concerning the Sinification of the Qing.