Scenes from the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, 1783-1786


In summer the emperors lived, worked, and entertained in their palaces outside Beijing's city walls. While this complex was constructed by Chinese craftsmen, some elements were designed by Europeans.

In 1747, Emperor Qianlong employed the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione as designer of European-style palaces and gardens. The French Jesuit Michel Benoist engineered several fountains. This engraving reveals a fusion of styles and knowledge: Chinese zodiac figures and European fountain technology.

At the end of the Second Opium War, in 1860, British and French troops looted and burnt down the palaces.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 457

Tianwen 天文=Ouranographie chinoise

European and Chinese astronomers studied the skies and shared their knowledge. These hand-drawn star maps combine East Asian and European understanding by complementing Chinese names with transcriptions in French. 

Ref. Chinese Crawford 68

Translation of a Barbarian’s Petition to the Court, 1759

China experienced an intense boost in global trade during Emperor Qianlong’s reign. From 1757, the Qing allowed Europeans to trade through the port of Guangzhou (Canton). In this petition, a European merchant makes several complaints including perceived unhelpfulness of Qing interpreters.

Ref. Chinese Crawford 241