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2011 Lecture

Maritime Beijing: Oceans and Empire in the Monuments of the Capital

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It is hard for us today to gain mental access to Ming dynasty Beijing. The Qing modifications of the city impose a heavy filter on the attempt to understand an earlier moment in Beijing’s history. The pre-Ming capitals on the same site—the Yuan capital of Dadu (1260-1368) and the Jin capital of Zhongdu (1153-1214)—are even more difficult to imagine. This lecture will address one surprising dimension of the pre-Qing history of Beijing—the role that an oceanic imaginary played in the city’s urbanism and in the symbolism of its imperial monuments. This imaginary brought into play cosmology, politics, and commerce, articulating imperial attention to the oceans that separated China from a larger world. Much of the lecture will explore the hypothesis that the initial construction of Ming Beijing from 1403 onwards was marked by the great maritime expeditions undertaken by Zheng He between 1405 and 1433.

Jonathan Hay (born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1956) has taught at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, since 1990. He is the author of two books, Shitao: Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China (2001) and Sensuous Surfaces: The Decorative Object in Early Modern China (2010). He writes on a broad range of topics and periods in Chinese art history, as well as on the general theory of art history.

Transcript of Prof. Hay's Lecture

The Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series features a yearly lecture and seminar presented by leading scholars on Chinese art and archaeology.
Event Information
  • Lecture
    Saturday, November 5, 2011
    2:00 PM
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