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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Patterns of Patronage in Qing Beijing: Decentering Chinese Art History in the Long Eighteenth Century
1: After the Fall: Remembering Han-martial Culture in the Late Eighteenth Century
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
The University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
This paper explores how Han-martial (Hanjun) artists of the Eight Banners dealt with changes to their status in the 1770s and 1780s, as they continually returned to Beijing, the registered home of all bannermen regardless of family origin or place of work. An ostensibly multi-ethnic Qing rule saw the strengthening of Manchu identity alongside the removal of the Hanjun from the Banner rolls, beginning in 1731 and completed by 1780. For Hanjun scholar-officials, moving from the Qing service elite to commoner Chinese subjecthood entailed not only political and economic dislocation; ideologically, the transfer involved jettisoning the “martial” to shift towards essentialized Chinese cultural activities such as poetry and painting.
Zhu Xiaochun (1735-1801) serves here to highlight a particular Hanjun response to expulsion, to commemorate Banner values of inclusiveness and loyalty. Appointed Salt Commissioner in Yangzhou, but best known for his friendship with the “eccentric” artist Luo Ping, Zhu honored his father Zhu Lunhan (favored by the Qianlong emperor for his finger paintings) by publishing his father's poems, followed soon thereafter by his own poetry collection in 1794. As early as the 1750s, Zhu had started laying crucial groundwork for these books by collecting prefaces and epitaphs—as well as over fifty colophons for one of his own paintings—from a cast of Beijing celebrities, with Hanjun and Manchu bannermen among them. Personal and official relationships cultivated from his hereditary birthplace in Shandong to Yangzhou indicate a Beijing art topography that would encompass the empire-wide outposts of bygone Hanjun spheres of sociability.