Conference | The Inexplicable and the Unfathomable: China and Britain

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on November 7, 2016

This weekend at The Courtauld:

The Inexplicable and the Unfathomable: China and Britain, 1600–1900
The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 11–12 November 2016

Organized by David Park, Lars Tharp, and Frances Wood

image-600x600The “Chinese character seems at present inexplicable,” observed Lord Macartney during his celebrated embassy to China in the 1790s, while the Chinese themselves at this time often described “western ocean barbarians” as “unfathomable.” The failure of Macartney’s embassy is well known, not least the Emperor Qianlong’s dismissive comment that “we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures.”

A sense of bafflement might therefore overwhelm the present-day visitor to the Forbidden City, on encountering its glorious array of English clocks, many imported during Qianlong’s reign. The present conference will consider some of the endless misunderstandings and deliberate deceptions that characterised relations between Britain and China in the four centuries under review, in fields as varied as religion and art, and commerce and literature. It will also explore, however, the burgeoning range of contacts between the two countries, and the increased mutual understanding achieved by two cultures separated by “the confines of many seas.”

Advance booking required: £16 general admission / £11 students and concessions.

David Park, The Courtauld Institute of Art
Lars Tharp, Ceramics Historian, Curator and Broadcaster
Frances Wood, Former Curator of Chinese Collections, The British Library

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

F R I D A Y ,  1 1  N O V E M B E R  2 0 1 6

17.30  Registration

18.00  Keynote Address
• Donald S. Lopez (University of Michigan), Britain and Buddhism: George Bogle in Tibet, 1774–75

19.15  Reception

S A T U R D A Y ,  1 2  N O V E M B E R  2 0 1 6

9.45  Registration

10.15  Session 1 – Chair: Roderick Whitfield
• Greg Clingham (Bucknell University, PA), Cosmology and Commerce on Lord Macartney’s Embassy to China, 1792–94
• Catherine Pagani (University of Alabama), Elaborate Clocks and Sino-British Encounters in the Eighteenth Century

11.25  Tea and coffee

11.55  Session 2 – Chair: David Park
• Tang Hui (University of Warwick), ‘The Finest of Earth’: Selling Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century Canton
• Lars Tharp, China on a Plate: Images from Hogarth to Whistler

13.00  Lunch break

14.30  Session 3 – Chair: Frances Wood
• Jessica Harrison-Hall (The British Museum), Collecting Chinese Art at the British Museum, 1760–1860
• Edward Weech and Nancy Charley (Royal Asiatic Society), The Thomas Manning Archive and Prospects for a New Perspective on British Intellectual Engagement with China in the Early 1800s

15.45  Tea and coffee

16.45  Session 4 – Chair: Lars Tharp
• Elizabeth Chang (University of Missouri), Writing Personhood from the Frontier of Western China
• Frances Wood, The View from the Other Side: China’s Reactions to the West

17.45  Concluding remarks




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