Kai Jun Chen, "Porcelain for the Emperor: Manufacture and Technocracy in Qing China" (U Washington Press, 2023)


Porcelain for the Emperor: Manufacture and Technology in Qing China (University of Washington Press; 2023) looks at the history of court-sponsored porcelain production in Qing China through the work and career of the Manchu polymath Tang Ying (1682-1756). Viewing him as a technocrat — an official who combined technological specialization and managerial expertise — Kai Jun Chen uses Tang to explore how porcelain manufacture was carried out in the Qing, how technological innovations were created and passed on, and how technocrats learned their skills. At the same time, the book shows how technocrats imposed and extended imperial order over local society, and how essential technocrats were to the operation and success of Qing cultural policies.

Lucidly written and complete with truly striking images, Porcelain for the Emperor is a beautiful combination of the study of material culture, literature, art history, and technology. This book should be of interest not only to historians of the Qing and the early modern world, but also art historians and curators, as well as anyone who has ever seen a piece of Qing porcelain and wondered how it came to be. Curious readers should also seek out Making the Palace Machine Workco-edited by Kai Jun Chen, Martina Siebert, and Dorothy Ko.

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at sbramaoramos@g.harvard.edu

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Sarah Bramao-Ramos

Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a Research Assistant Professor at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. She is a cultural historian of Qing China (1644–1911), with a particular interest in Manchu studies. She can be reached at sarahbr@hku.hk
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