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Framing China: Performativity and Narrative in Museum Displays of Chinese Porcelain

On the 26th of May Pao-Yi Yang successfully defended a doctoral thesis and graduated.

P.Y. Yang
26 May 2021
Leiden Repository

This dissertation explores the performative qualities of the museum presentation of Chinese porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties. It explores the capability of porcelain display to generate a body of surplus meanings with ideological overtones and the underlying Self-Other configurations. It also investigates how certain effects that the display performs are connected with specific viewing experiences. To illustrate these issues, it presents six case studies and provides close readings of the narrative framings built around Chinese porcelain, as well as the spatial narratives constructed by the positioning of objects and specific viewing orders in gallery spaces. The first two case studies are semi-permanent displays in two prominent national museums: The British Museum in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Following these two cases are three high-profile temporary exhibitions: the co-curated exhibitions Asia > Amsterdam (2015-2016) at the Rijksmuseum and Asia in Amsterdam (2016) at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem; and China: Through the Looking Glass (2015) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The final case study is a national museum that, compared to the institutions of the previous case studies, has a more confrontational attitude towards Chinese heritage: The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.


  • Prof. C.J.M. Zijlmans
  • Prof. A.T. Gerritsen
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