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The Fusheng Quantu: An Exceptional Maritime Painting in Nineteenth Century China

Wednesday 3 November 2021
China Seminar

This presentation introduces our readers to the Fusheng quantu, an exceptional maritime painting that was produced in nineteenth century China. The discovery of this curio amidst the stacks of the Library of Congress is remarkable and encouraging. It is extremely rare to find a maritime painting from late imperial China and the artwork itself offers deeper insight into the history of maritime visual culture, the seascape of Fuzhou, and the idea of the Qing’s coastal defence and maritime engagement as it was conceptualised in the nineteenth century. Additionally, the Fusheng quantu provides us with effective pointers to further complicate some of the existing historical narratives concerning Sino-American relations in the age of high imperialism (ca. 1850s-1900s). More than a piece of artistic production, this historical evidence demonstrates a much-needed history of maritime China from an artistic perspective, one that is conventionally relegated to a marginal category of maritime studies. This notable discovery will also appeal to students and scholars who are keen to examine the dynamics between maritime culture and the so-called oriental style we see in the visualised representation fashioned in this remarkable work of art.

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