Kristina Kleutghen, "Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces" (U Washington Press, 2015)


Kristina Kleutghen's beautiful new book offers a fascinating window into the culture of illusion in China in the eighteenth century and beyond. Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces (University of Washington Press, 2015) guides readers into the scenic illusions of the Qing dynasty, focusing on pictorial illusions and the technologies that helped create and contextualize them in high Qing palaces, and especially under the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-95). Imperial Illusions describes and explains a range of visual images and objects that were meant to trick the eye and delight the viewer, from illusionistic murals in tombs and temples, to massive wall- and ceiling-mounted paintings, diagrammed treatises on optics and vision, copperplate engravings, and more. Not only do these illusions help us understand Qianlong - especially when read alongside his poems - but they also inform a broader history of Sino-European artistic and technological exchange and help broaden the very notion of "Chinese painting." This trans-disciplinary book is relevant not just to the history of art and of the high Qing, but also to the history of science and technology! Check out the website for Imperial Illusions for some wonderful multi-media accompaniments to the book!

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