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Making the Qianlong Emperor’s Private Garden: Imperialization of the Lion Grove in Eighteenth-Century China Open Access


Other title
imperial landscape
The Lion Grove
Qing visual culture
Qianlong emperor
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Li, Yifan
Supervisor and department
Davis, Walter (Art and Design)
Examining committee member and department
Boone, M. Elizabeth (Art and Design)
Davis, Walter (Art and Design)
Iwasaki, Clara (East Asian Studies)
Department of Art and Design
History of Art, Design and Visual Culture
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Master of Arts
Degree level
This thesis examines the imperialization of the Lion Grove, a time-honored scenic site in Suzhou, during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736-95) in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Qianlong visited the garden during five of his Southern Inspection Tours and initiated a rewriting of the garden’s history in eighteenth-century China. In the first section, I will elaborate how, in addition to physical reconstruction, Qianlong transformed the Lion Grove from a private garden to an imperial landscape through naming, gifting, and replicating the site. This section binds together an array of literary and visual materials: Qianlong’s imperial poems, calligraphy (displayed on a titleboard and a stele), and paintings regarding the Lion Grove, as well as a pictorial representation and architectural replications of the garden commanded by the emperor. In addition, Suzhou’s local government and denizens were profoundly engaged in the process of imperializing the Lion Grove. Section 2 will elaborate the role played by the provincial authority through analyzing the Lion Grove images and texts in a record of Qianlong’s southern tours and gazetteers of Suzhou Prefecture. Meanwhile, Suzhou’s popular publications, primarily a Suzhou perspective print and a travel guide, and the booming tourism tremendously expedited the imperialization of the Lion Grove. My analysis will center on the ways these sources legitimized and broadcasted Qianlong’s imperial authority over the landscape and registered the Lion Grove in his geographical, cultural, and political territories. This thesis challenges the conventional categorization of Chinese gardens and yields an innovative perspective from which we can understand both the famed sites in south China and Qing imperial landscape. More importantly, the imperialization of the Lion Grove epitomizes the strategies employed by a Manchu emperor to realize his cultural and political rulership over an empire with a vast territorial domain and multi-ethnic traditions. Through adroitly employing cultural forms mastered by Han Chinese for centuries, Qianlong claimed and reinforced his cultural and political leadership in China proper. Furthermore, through an investigation of a wide range of visual objects and the reproduction and circulation of emperor-centered texts and images among various surfacescapes, this paper generates a nuanced account of Qing visuality during the Qianlong reign.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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