Cross-Cultural Currents in the Qing and Republican Periods

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 1

  • Harrison Huang, “The Qianlong Emperor’s Remembrance and Re-appropriation of the Poet Cai Yan and the Conquest of Xinjiang”
  • Yuan-ju Liu, “The Significance of Ye Dehui’s 葉德輝 (1864–1927) Collection of Works”
  • Wen-huei Cheng, “A Study on the Visual Modernity of Cai Zhefu’s Quasi-Photographic and Natural History Drawings”
  • Federica Casalin, “Insurrection or Revolution? Some Considerations on the Chinese Translation (1902) of Mazzini’s Instructions to the Members of Young Italy (1831)”

This panel centres on cross-cultural intersections in the global flow of emergent technologies, knowledge regimes, and translations in the Qing and early Republican Periods of China. Emphasising intersectionality instead of influence, we frame the interaction between Chinese and Western cultures and institutions in terms of complex mediations, re-appropriations, and disjunctive formations. The first three papers focus on new pictorial and print technologies: Harrison Huang juxtaposes the Jesuit copper-plate prints celebrating the Qianlong emperor’s conquest of Xinjiang with his remembrance and re-purposing of the traditional paintings and centred on Cai Yan (3rd c.), a figure of resistance against foreign steppe peoples; Liu Yuan-ju investigates the paradox presented by the print collection of Ye Dehui (1864–1927), who, despite his reputation as culturally conservative and backwards-looking, had curated prints that exemplified new technologies in visual reproduction and print-making; Cheng Wen-huei examines Cai Zhefu, who innovated pictorial techniques to mimic photographs (xie sheying 攝影) and Western science illustrations, in order to fashion a modern epistemological regime that could act as mutually corroborating interface between Western scientific knowledge and Chinese classics of natural science. In these papers, the aim is not to entrench familiar dichotomies of Chinese and foreign, traditional, and modern, but to recognise the complex interventions and divergent re-appropriations that characterise cross-cultural flows. The fourth paper by Federica Casalin brings together the panel’s larger themes of radical change and global intersectionality by examining the contested meanings of “revolution,” analysed as a process of translingual practice involving key protagonists in the Italian Risorgimento and the new Chinese Republic. Casalin traces the process of textual transmission and cross-cultural translation by which Liang Qichao (1873–1929) engaged with Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872), who, in his efforts to unify the Italian kingdoms, formulated concepts of revolution and insurrection that Chinese reformers adopted, contested, and re-purposed. By emphasising intermediary and interventional processes, Casalin shows that the epitome of modernity—revolution—was not a linear formation but a site of complex intersectionality and divergence within global flows of knowledge.

Harrison Huang, “The Qianlong Emperor’s Remembrance and Re-appropriation of the poet Cai Yan and the Conquest of Xinjiang”

Harrison Huang’s paper analyses the cross-cultural intersectionality of The Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute 胡笳十八拍 (hereafter, Eighteen), a multi-media series of paintings and poems which the Qianlong emperor restored, inscribed by hand, and appended with a verse in 1742. Huang first traces the manifold frames of reference and complex cultural memory embodied in the Eighteen: the touchstone poems of the female martyr Cai Yan 蔡琰 (3rd c. CE), who represented “Chinese” resistance against the foreign Xiongnu; Tang dynasty imitations of these poems; the Song Emperor Gaozong’s (r. 1162–87) commissioning of paintings on Cai Yan, now appropriated to represent Song resistance against the steppe Jurchens; and finally the Qianlong emperor’s re-appropriation of the anti-foreign figure of Cai Yan to represent the Manchu court’s embodiment of Chinese civilisation, in contrast to steppe outsiders. The genealogy of the Eighteen shows how the dichotomy of “Chinese” vs. foreign culture acquires new and fluid, and even disjunctive, frames of reference over time. Huang also contextualises the Eighteen in the Qing conquest of Xinjiang, which Qianlong celebrated with copper-plate depictions painted by Jesuits at his court and engraved by plate makers in France. Situated in this larger geopolitical context and imperial pictorial regime, the Eighteen is examined as a site where the indigenous intersects with the alien, and the traditional Chinese arts of poetry and painting are deployed and refashioned alongside new print technologies from Europe.

Yuan-ju Liu, “The Significance of Ye Dehui’s 葉德輝 (1864–1927) Collection of Works”

Liu Yuan-ju’s paper focuses on the significance of Ye Dehui’s 葉德輝 (1864–1927) collection of works that exemplify various breakthroughs in printmaking. From the late Qing to the early Republican period, photography was not the only reproductive technology: transformative innovations emerged, such as lithography, collotype, and the hand recarving of “shadow” plates—all of which are exemplified in Ye’s collection. Showcasing various reproductive paradigms, his collection includes his own recarving of the woodblock for Collection of Wonders from the Southern Marchmount 南嶽總勝集; a stone rubbing of Notecards in Regular-script from the Jin and Tang 晉唐楷帖; and a colotype print of the Real Vestiges from the Collection of Arts 藝苑留真. Ye’s collection presents a paradox: he was branded as a conservative who looked to the past, yet he was quick to adopt the latest techniques in printmaking. His collection encapsulates sudden technological changes and embodies his particular response to the intellectual and material conditions of his times.

Wen-huei Cheng, “A Study on the Visual Modernity of Cai Zhefu’s Quasi-photographic and Natural History Drawings”

Cheng Wen-huei’s paper explores the revolutionary aesthetic practices and visual modernity of Cai Zhefu 蔡哲夫 (1879–1941), who made drawings that mimicked photographic processes, and conventions of Western scientific illustrations. To accentuate his own methods, Cai adopted new rhetorical strategies such as “quasi-photography” (ni sheying 擬攝影), “ copying photography” (chao sheying 抄攝影), and “tracing photography” (lin sheying 臨攝影), with which he created painting series such as “Sichuan Landscapes” (Suzhong shanshui) and the “Archaeopteryx.” Cheng argues that Cai’s methods were not simply acts of mimicry but represented a new regime of knowledge that enabled verification between Western scientific knowledge, such as visual inspection and authentication, and Chinese natural science classics; while, interfacing with English, German, French, and Japanese translations. This facilitated a deeper connection between the discourse of “technologized visuality” and modern sensory revolutions and ideological enlightenment. Cai’s series of realistic natural-history drawings conveyed a regional consciousness and subject identity, calling for social action that befits patriotism for the homeland. Cai exemplified the scientific truth-seeking spirit of modern rationality had become the new cultural logic governing the translingual practice of modern Chinese intellectuals as they participated in the flow of global knowledge.

Federica Casalin, “Insurrection or Revolution? Some Considerations on the Chinese Translation (1902) of Mazzini’s ‘Instructions to the Members of Young Italy’ (1831)”

Federica Casalin’s paper serves to cap the panel, as it reflects on how radical change was conceived during the transformative cross-cultural currents of early Chinese modernity. Entitled “Insurrection or Revolution? Some Considerations on the Chinese Translation (1902) of Mazzini’s ‘Instructions to the Members of Young Italy’ (1831),” the paper is a case study that analyses the complex meanings of “revolution” as a process of translingual practice in the early Republican period. The case study focuses on Liang Qichao (1873–1929), who was the first to translate into Chinese the “Instructions to the Members of Young Italy” by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872), one of the key protagonists in the unification of the kingdoms of Italy into a modern nation-state and independent republic; as such, Mazzini drew Liang’s attention in his own efforts to reform and modernise the Chinese polity. Casalin traces the textual transmission by which Liang came to engage this text, and compares the source and target texts to analyse the contestation and re-appropriation of “revolution” and “insurrection” in the project for political independence. Germane to the panel’s broad theme, this paper frames how radical upheaval was debated and conceived in the modernity of transformative cross-cultural interactions.

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Room 1