COAS | The Dragon Throne: Art and the Emperor of China
E103 | 0050 | Nelson

Lecture 0050 4:40p-5:30p 	MW

Corequisite discussions (Choose one):
0051 2:30p-3:20p R 0052 3:35p-4:25p R 0053 4:40p-5:30p R

In traditional China, people admitted to the presence of the emperor entered the “Forbidden City”—the imperial palace compound—by way of a long series of monumental gates, courtyards, and terraces, past bronze incense-burners the size of small cars, to kowtow before the emperor seated in embroidered yellow robes on the Dragon Throne: a grand high-backed seat carved with dragons, brilliant with lacquer and gold, high on a platform in a magnificent audience hall, the “Hall of Eternal Harmony.” This lavish display is one of many aspects of the imperial arts of China—art made for use in private life, for ritual or religious observances, and for public projects designed for propaganda and empire-building.

The works of art with which the emperors of China surrounded themselves over history—buildings, sculptures, pictures, ritual objects, things of daily use—were more than luxurious private possessions; they also played a role in public life and national politics. In exploring this material the course will progress from early to later times, emphasizing the historical context throughout, and offering an overview of many aspects of Chinese art and culture. Subjects to be considered include artifacts used in imperial sacrifices to the spirit world; the structure and furnishings of royal tombs, designed to provide for the emperor in an eternal afterlife; and paintings commissioned to advertise the glory of the ruler and the state. The last unit of the course will focus on the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), and their use of art to reinforce their claims to ownership of China and Chinese culture— and indeed of world culture.

Readings are assembled in a course reader, and images of all the important works of art considered in the class are accessible on the web. Assignments include quizzes, short written assignments, and a final exam. No previous knowledge of Chinese culture is necessary.