Gender, Ethnicity, and Empire in Late Imperial and Republican China
1: Curating the Manchu Ideal: Masculinity, Power, and Personnel at the Yongzheng Court
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 322B
Lex Jing Lu
Clark University, United States
From the outset of his reign, the Yongzheng emperor (r. 1723–1735) asserted control over personnel appointments in officialdom and the military. He used the convention of the palace audience to personally interview candidates for hiring and promotion and to select those officials (including Manchu and Han candidates) who met his vision of masculine strength and power. Yongzheng used his own language and insight to create physical descriptions of Qing officials on more than 2,000 resumé cards. In addition to visual imagery, such as the official portraits that art historians often study, I argue that the textual and mental imagery of Qing officials, preserved in the resumé dossier, provides us with a renewed understanding of masculinity and political appearance in Qing history. While the emperor purposefully restricted the dissemination of the political imagery he personally documented, the men whom Yongzheng promoted for their embodiment of the loyal and masculine Manchu ideals, were appointed to posts at key provincial and border regions. Thus, he presented his desired political image to a broader audience. While prioritizing appearance as a virtue in officialdom, the emperor’s personnel reform also strategically curbed outer-court malfeasance and created a workforce loyal to the throne. Based on original, primary sources, this article contributes to the ongoing discussion in Qing studies of the role of Manchu identity in solidifying rule over the Han population.