Visual and Textual Portrayals of “Barbarian” Peoples in Late Imperial China

Friday
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Dmitri Maiatckii
  • Nikolay Samoylov, Chair
  • Dmitri Maiatckii, “Qing Ethnographic Albums: Political, Functional, or Commercial Goals?”
  • Nikolay Samoylov, “The Huang Qing zhi gong tu and Chinese Perceptions of Other Countries and Non-Han Peoples in the Mid-18th Century”
  • Joachim Mittag, “Charting the Non-Chinese Peoples in Late Ming: The Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu, 1591) and the Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui, c. 1609)”
  • Hang Lin, “Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands: Knowledge and Imagination of the World in Late Ming China”
  • Martin Hofmann, “Of Giants, Dogs, and Trees with Heads: Accounts of Distant Countries in Late Imperial Visual and Textual Sources”

Under the combined influence of ancient description and increased maritime activities, China from the fifteenth century witnessed a broad range of literary and visual materials which depict non-Han peoples in and outside China. These materials consist of various genres, including ethnographic pictorials, historical and geographical works, maps, and pieces of classical poetry and prose. As sources of the exotic, they provide abundant information, both real and imagined, on “barbarian” peoples, ranging from physical appearance, history, daily life and folkloristic customs as well as of the geographical location and natural conditions of their respective lands. Even though not always factual, these portrayals in some cases offer a glimpse into the lives of peoples about whom we otherwise know very little. At the same time, these sources reflect traditional Chinese spatial and political concepts, in particular the tribute system. Through an examination of several sources that include visual and textual accounts of “barbarian” peoples, this panel aims to analyse how different modes of representation complemented each other in these works and what functions did this combination serve. By making a conversation with these materials, it further explores to what extent the portrayals in specific text genres differed from each other when dealing with peoples within the Chinese realm, those neighbouring China, or those in the far-away distance.

Dmitri Maiatckii, “Qing Ethnographic Albums: Political, Functional, or Commercial Goals?”

During the Qing Dynasty there appeared a variety of ethnographic albums in China. The library of St. Petersburg State University possesses a collection of at least eight handmade and one xylographic ethnographic albums created in the 18th and 19th centuries. They include Diansheng yixi yinan yiren tushuo (滇省迤西迤南夷人圖, 43 pictures), Quanqian miaotu (全黔苗圖, 28 pictures), two albums of Yunnan minorities without a title (72 and 74 pictures), Huang Qing zhi gong tu and four albums by Zhou Peichun (周培春, in total 117 pictures). The illustrative material of the albums portrays physical appearance, everyday life activities of Han and non-Han people, living mainly in Beijing, Yunnan, Guizhou, and some other places.
The aims of drawing the pictures were quite different. Zhou Peichun made pictures on his own initiative for “export” (waixiaohua 外銷畫), to earn money, to introduce foreigners to Chinese everyday life, trade, and culture. The other albums were created for “internal use”, since they were ordered by the Chinese Emperor or officials who wanted to know more about these peoples. All of the illustrations are supplied with titles, some of them go with annotations. In one case they are even accompanied by the maps of the localities in question.
The albums are an invaluable source of information for those who study the activities that disappeared in the Chinese capital and national territories long time ago.

Nikolay Samoylov, “The Huang Qing zhi gong tu and Chinese Perceptions of Other Countries and Non-Han Peoples in the Mid-18th Century”

This presentation will be focused on Chinese ethnographic album Illustrated Tributaries of the Qing Empire (Huang Qing Zhi Gong Tu 皇清职贡图) and its unique version kept in the Library of St. Petersburg State University. This woodblock book compiled according to the decree of Qianlong Emperor 乾隆 by a special team of officials headed by Fu Heng 傅恒 and printed in the 1750s consists of nine volumes and includes 598 pictures of non-Han peoples who lived in 265 territories.
This book is richly illustrated with black and white engravings accompanied by short descriptions. The book reflects the Chinese worldview and their knowledge about other peoples of the world in the mid-18th century. There we can find and analyse a specific classification of surrounding countries and “barbarian” peoples which was typical of the Qing period. “Barbarians” are divided into three groups: “foreigners” (yi 夷), “minorities” (fan 番) and others. “Fan,” according to the level of their acquaintance with Chinese culture, are sometimes disported into two subgroups: the “civilised” (shu fan 熟番) and the “uncivilised” (sheng fan 生番).
Studying and analysing the Huang Qing Zhi Gong Tu, we can not only reveal important elements of ethnic self-awareness that form the general picture of the Chinese worldview but also contribute to a better understanding of both objective factors and internal motives that determined the foreign policy of the Qing Empire.

Joachim Mittag, “Charting the Non-Chinese Peoples in Late Ming: The Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu, 1591) and the Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui, c. 1609)”

Geographic and ethnographic interest in the non-Chinese peoples culminated in the mid-and late Ming 明 (c. 1530–1650). A formidable example of this trend is the work entitled Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu 咸賓錄), compiled by Luo Yuejiong 羅曰聚 (dates unknown) in 1591. Using the conventional classification of the “barbarians” according to the four cardinal directions, this work surveys altogether 105 states and peoples which had sent tribute to the Ming court. In the great Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui 三才圖會, c. 1609) this number is increased to 171 and an image is added for each people entried, thus being the earliest extant most comprehensive visualisation of non-Chinese peoples. The large increase of entries is mostly accounted for by the inclusion of mythical, legendary, or fantastic peoples from the rich folklore tradition. Leaving the illustrations of these peoples aside, the paper will focus on the encyclopaedic striving after picturing the plenitude of known and actually existing peoples.

Hang Lin, “Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands: Knowledge and Imagination of the World in Late Ming China”

This paper aims to provide a better understanding of Ming China’s complex knowledge and lively fantasies about the cosmos and its inhabitants through an examination of the Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands (Yiyu tuzhi 異域圖志), an illustrated text that was one of the most comprehensive and popular sources of documentation about exotic lands and peoples. Assembling images and descriptions, it encompasses entries of 190 real and imagined countries and polities across Asia, the Indian Ocean region, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Focusing on the hitherto only known copy of the book in the collection of the Cambridge University Library, it will trace the production and circulation routes of these pictorials, mixed with conventional stereotypes and contemporary information from maritime activities, and then explicate how it fell into neglect but revived as a popular text under its alternative title Rubric of Various Barbarians (Zhuyi men 諸夷門) included in different daily-use encyclopedias. In this way, the illustrations and descriptions of the foreigners and foreign lands gained its firm place in the system of knowledge in the Ming. This analysis shall recover a sense of its specific relevance to the cultural and social world of late-Ming China, as well as to observe how these pictorials and descriptions formed part of a global system of exchange involving not only material objects but also forms of knowledge fashioning.

Martin Hofmann, “Of Giants, Dogs, and Trees with Heads: Accounts of Distant Countries in Late Imperial Visual and Textual Sources”

Various late imperial sources include portrayals of foreign countries and their inhabitants with peculiar mixtures of ethnographic and novelistic accounts. This paper will focus on a small number of distant countries. By analysing how Chinese scholars described them in books, and to which places they spatially assigned them on maps, it will demonstrate that the notions of these countries were not uniform. Chinese scholars drew on different sources, collected the information for distinct purposes, and enlisted diverse visual and textual means to highlight the characteristics of the foreigners. The diversity of descriptions suggests that there was not a single coherent perception of foreign countries at a given time, but that different world-views coexisted. Thus, rather than assuming liner progress from fantastic to factual accounts, this paper attempts explore how different textual and visual accounts mutually informed each other, and what information was genre-specific or used only in particular contexts.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room 2
-