Giuseppe Castiglione Lang Shining New Media Art Exhibition, Exhibition Place:Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, Period:2015/10/31~2016/1/31

When China Meets Europe

Europe of the 16th to 18th centuries witnessed unprecedented progress of science and technology. The discovery of sea routes and the idea of the world as a globe encouraged missionaries to go to Asia to spread the gospel. Many well-educated missionaries from all over the world went to Qing courts during the reigns of Kangxi (1662-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1736-1795). They introduced mechanical clock, telescope and many other science instruments to China and worked as court artists. They promoted cultural exchanges between China and Europe directly or indirectly.

This gallery presents"Illustrations of Tribute Missions' Time Tunnel" to bring visitors to the past. Let's enter Giuseppe Castiglione's world and witness the new culture created by China's first attempt of modernization.

The"Illustrations of Tribute Missions" Time Tunnel

The The"Illustrations of Tribute Missions' Time Tunnel" is inspired by the Illustrations of Tribute Missions of Xie Sui (Qing dynasty). This section presents worldwide tribute missions painted according to sketches supplied by local officers that included envoys from around the world including Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Poland, Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, Korea, and Taiwan. Upon entering the time tunnel, the international envoys would greet the visitors in their native language and guide them to experience the world of Giuseppe Castiglione.


The National Palace Museum

Original work of Art

Illustrations of Tribute Missions by Xie Sui

Xie Sui (active Qianlong Era), Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)

Illustration of the Tribute Missions

  • Illustration of the Tribute Missions
  • Illustration of the Tribute Missions
  • Illustration of the Tribute Missions
  1. ink and color on paper
  2. With commentary by Emperor Qianlong, Liu Tongxun, and Liang Shizheng
  3. 33.9 x 1481.4 cm

A painter from the royal palace during the Qianlong Era, Xie Sui completed the Illustration of the Tribute Missions after studying local area drawings and palace memorials submitted by officials to the emperor. The Illustration of the Tribute Missions, divided into four volumes, comprises a total of 301 paintings. The drawing of Illustration of the Tribute Missions began around 1750 and ended around 1790 (Qianlong's 15th and 55th year of reign, respectively). The Illustration of the Tribute Missions contains painted images of diplomatic envoys travelling from East Asian countries such as Japan, Joseon (now Korea), Ryukyu (now Okinawa), Vietnam, and Brunei as well as those from far away European nations such as England, France, Netherlands, and Italy to offer their tributes to the emperor. The paintings depict the populated and prosperous Qing Dynasty and its place as the focal point in the world. The drawings included the appearance and attire of the male and female diplomatic envoys from the various countries of the world; written descriptions in both Chinese and Manchu were added to explain the history between the Qing Dynasty and each respective country, as well as the festivities of the tributes and trades and the living customs of the people. It illustrated Qing Dynasty's dominant position in the East Asian World. Situated in the Southeastern sea, Ryukyu was divided into three countries (Central Mountain, Southern Mountain, and Northern Mountain) in the early Ming Dynasty. They were later merged to become the Central Mountain Nation during the Xuande Era (Ming Dynasty). This resulted in some Qing Dynasty literature referring to Ryukyu as "Central Mountain". The Qing Dynasty not only engaged in frequent tributes and trades with Ryukyu, the emperor repeatedly bestowed his self-written horizontal inscribed boards, and allowed Ryukyu children to study in the Imperial College. By 1653 (Shunzhi's 10th year of reign), the Dutches have travelled to Guangdong to engage in trades with Chinese merchants. Most male Dutches wore black felt hats and adopted the custom in taking their hats off as a form of greeting. They wore stylish wool clothes and were equipped with personal swords; female Dutches wore buns with blue handkerchiefs, vermilion stone necklaces, and shawls. They wore unadorned clothes which revealed their chest and long skirts with red Zōri shoes.

A Brief History of the National Palace Museum

The Establishment
  • On October 10, 1925, the Forbidden City, at one time the Qing Empire’s palace, reorganized to become the National Palace Museum. Since then, relics owned by Emperors of the past millennium have become museum collections for everyone’s viewing pleasure.
  • In 1933, to protect our national treasures from looting and destruction by Japanese invaders, the National Palace Museum packed most of the relics and transported them to southwestern China, behind the front line. This was the beginning of a long migration. Not until 1948 did the relics finally reach Taiwan. In 1965, the National Palace Museum was re-established in Waishuangxi, Taipei.
The Collection
  • The National Palace Museum has about 700,000 pieces of historical artifacts, including calligraphy, painting, ceramics, jade-ware, lacquerware, curio items, enamelware, fabrics, religious items, rare books and archives collected by the Qing Empire. In recent years, the National Palace Museum has begun to collect Asian relics. The National Palace Museum is a world-famous museum of palace artifacts from China.
Mao-kung Ting

Late Western Zhou period (ca. 9th century to 771 B.C.)

Mao-kung Ting

  1. Height: 53.8 cm, depth of belly: 27.2 cm, diameter: 47 cm, weight: 34.7 kg

This "ting" cauldron has a wide, flared mouth, a linked ring motif decorating the rim, upright handles, and three hoofed feet. The inscription, which can be divided into seven sections, describes how when King Xuan of Zhou came to the throne, he was anxious to see the country thrive, and charged his uncle, the Duke of Mao, with governing the domestic and external affairs of state, big and small, and to do so conscientiously and selflessly. The inscription goes on to state that the King then presented the Duke with official vestments and gifts, and that this vessel was cast in order to record the honor given to the Duke for his descendants.

Warming Bowl in the Shape of a Flower with Light

Northern Song dynasty (early 12th century)

Warming Bowl in the Shape of a Flower with Light Bluish-green Glaze, Ju ware

  1. Height: 10.4 cm, diameter: 16.2 cm, diameter of base: 8.0 cm, depth: 7.6 cm

This ten-lobed lotus bowl has gently curved sides, a subtly flaring rim, smooth transition from one petal lobe to the next, and a relatively tall ring foot. The blue-green glaze, from rim to the base, is uniformly thin and opaque, with fine crackling. During firing, this piece was supported by five tiny points underneath the ring foot, and these are the only parts of the body not covered by the glaze. The unglazed ceramic body is grayish-yellow in color.

Jadeite Cabbage, in a cloisonne flowerpot

Qing dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.)

Jadeite Cabbage, in a cloisonne flowerpot

  1. Length: 18.7 cm, width: 9.1 cm, thickness: 5.07 cm

This piece is almost completely identical to a piece of bokchoy cabbage. Carved from verdant jadeite, the familiar subject, purity of the white vegetable body, and brilliant green of the leaves all create for an endearing and approachable work of art. Let's also not forget the two insects that have alighted on the vegetable leaves! They are a locust and katydid, which are traditional metaphors for having numerous children. This work originally was placed in the Forbidden City's Yung-ho Palace, which was the residence of the Guangxu Emperor's (r. 1875-1908) Consort Jin. For this reason, some have surmised that this piece was a dowry gift for Consort Jin to symbolize her purity and offer blessings for bearing many children. Although it is said that the association between the material of jadeite and the form of bokchoy began to become popular in the middle and late Qing dynasty, the theme relating bokchoy and insects actually can be traced back to the professional insect-and-plant paintings of the Yuan to early Ming dynasty (13th-15th c.), when they were quite common and a popular subject among the people for its auspiciousness. In the tradition of literati painting, it has also been borrowed as a subject in painting to express a similar sentiment, indirectly chastising fatuous officials. For example, in a poem written in 1775, the Qianlong Emperor associated the form of a flower holder in the shape of a vegetable with the tradition of metaphorical criticism found in the Tang dynasty poetry of Du Fu, in which an official was unable to recognize a fine vegetable in a garden. The emperor thereupon took this as a warning to be careful and alert. Regardless of whether it is a court craftsman or the maker of this jadeite bokchoy cabbage, all are merely giving play to their imagination and creativity, following the taste and directions of their patrons. Despite not having more historical records to probe these ideas, it nonetheless provides the viewer with greater room for imagination.

Complete Library of the Four Treasuries

Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Complete Library of the Four Treasuries

  1. 31.8 x 20.5 cm (print: 22.4 x 15.4 cm)
  2. Ordered by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795), Qing dynasty
  3. Edited under imperial decree by Chi Yün, et al.
  4. Handwritten Wen-yüan Pavilion edition

Throughout Chinese history, ancient books have been compiled and edited into collections in order to study the ways of the old and honor superior literary works. A monument of this fine tradition is the "Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu” (Complete Library of the Four Treasuries), compiled during the early Qing dynasty.

The "Complete Library of the Four Treasuries" is a collection of major literary works produced in China over successive dynasties. It comprises over 3,400 titles bound in more than 36,000 volumes. These are arranged into four main sections--classical writings, histories, philosophical texts, and literature, which themselves are divided into several sub-categories. Among the included works are assembled editions, palace works, imperial selections, books in general circulation, titles presented to the emperor, and the "Yung-lo ta-tien” (Vast Documents of the Yung-lo Era). Officials of the Library of the Four Treasuries collated and classified each work, selecting rare books and manuscripts among them and adding textual criticisms according to a tradition of exacting standards.

The Complete Library of the Four Treasuries was originally compiled to reconstruct lost works from the "Vast Documents of the Yung-lo Era." The Qianlong Emperor issued a decree in early 1772 to assemble in the capital rare books from all parts of the country and build a library for their preservation. The greater part of the project was completed in 1787. During this 15-year period, seven sets of the collection were copied by more than 3,800 scholars. One set was kept at the imperial palace (Wen-yüan Pavilion) in Peking, and the others were preserved at the Shenyang imperial palace (Wen-su Pavilion), Jehol Mountain Resort (Wen-chin Pavilion) in Ch'eng-teh, Yüan-ming Garden (Wen-yüan pavilion), Chin-shan Temple (Wen-tsung Pavilion) in Chen-chiang, Ta-kuan Hall (Wen-hui Pavilion) in Yangchow, Sheng-yin Temple (Wen-lan Pavilion) in Hangchow, and the Hanlin Imperial Academy. In less than two centuries, three copies of the collection have been destroyed, including those at the Wen-yüan, Wen-tsung, and Wen-hui pavilions. Only parts of the Wen-lan Pavilion copy survive and the Hanlin Academy copy exists in scattered form. The Wen-yüan copy, preserved today at the National Palace Museum, consists of 3,471 titles bound in 36,381 volumes and over 79,300 chüan (chapters). In term of integrity and refinement, it far surpasses the other surviving copies of the Wen-su Pavilion and Wen-chin Pavilion.


Huaisu (fl. ca. 730s-770s), Tang dynasty (618-907)


  1. Handscroll, ink on paper, 28.3 x 755 cm

Huaisu was a monk who originally went by the name Qian Cangzhen. Born in Lingling County, Hunan, he later moved to Changsha. Even as a youth, he was interested in Buddhism, eventually taking the tonsure. Huaisu was also a devotee of the art of cursive script. At around 772, he traveled north to the capital Chang’an and Luoyang. His cursive script was similar in spirit to his free and unrestrained personality. It was therefore greatly admired by famous contemporaries, poets, and other calligraphers, such as Yan Zhenqing (709-785), who all presented him with gifts of prose and poetry. In 777, Huaisu transcribed some of these gifts with a preface in "wild" cursive script to create this handscroll.

In this work, Huaisu used a fine brush to write out large characters. The strokes are rounded and dashing, almost like steel wires curled and bent. The tip of the brush is exposed where it lifts from the paper, leaving a distinctive hook--hence the description "steel strokes and silver hooks" for his calligraphy. A continuous cursive force permeates the entire piece. The brush skirts up, down, left, and right as it speeds across the paper. The crescendos of the brush, as if it were a sword, reveal varying speeds. The calligraphy also appears heavy and light in places. In other words, this work is very much like a symphony with distinct rhythms, harmonies and sections where the instruments are all wonderfully orchestrated for an overall sense of feeling and depth. In addition to the strokes, the dots suggest breaks for the flowing strokes. In the relentless force of the brushwork, the centered brush swirled and danced to create character after character and line after line, only to be punctuated by the impeccably placed dots. Despite this piece being an example of "wild" cursive script, it also has a sense of regularity. Thus, this handscroll represents the ultimate in cursive script--control with freedom and spirit with restraint.

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (Wuyong Version)

Huang Gongwang (1269-1354), Yuan dynasty (1279-1368)

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (Wuyong Version)

  1. Handscroll, ink on paper, 33 x 636.9 cm

Huang Gongwang (original name Lu Jian) went by the style name Zijiu and the sobriquets Dachi and Yifeng daoren. A native of Changshu, Jiangsu, he came from a poor family and was orphaned at an early age. Huang Le of Yongjia was 90-years-old at the time and without a male heir. Appreciating the talents of the young boy, he treated the child as his own. The Lu family thereupon consented to allow Huang to adopt him and carry on the Huang name. Huang exclaimed by saying "Old Man Huang has always longed for a son," which became the basis of Huang Gongwang's style name, which translates literally as "Huang's Longing for a Son." Huang Gongwang was exceptionally gifted as a youth, mastering the Chinese classics at an early age. He also studied Taoism and later became a follower of the Quanzhen sect. Traveling throughout the Songjiang and Hangzhou regions, he made a living by fortune-telling. Like his interest in calligraphy and music, painting was an activity practiced on the side. His landscape paintings are based on the manners of Dong Yuan and Juran, 10th-century artists who depicted the soft rolling landscape of the south. Along with Wu Zhen (1280-1354), Ni Zan (1301-1374), and Wang Meng (1308-1385), Huang Gongwang is considered one of the Four Great Masters of the Yuan and revered as their spiritual leader.

Huang worked on this picture on and off when the mood struck him from about 1347 to 1350, when the major portions of the handscroll were completed. This representation of the Fuchun mountains, painted for a fellow Taoist named Master Wuyong, represents Huang's greatest surviving masterpiece.

Depicted in this handscroll is an idealized panorama of the Fuchun mountains, west of Hangzhou, to which Huang returned in his later years. Beginning with a vast expanse of river scenery at the right, we move on to the mountains and hills, then back to areas of river and marsh that end with a conical peak. We finally come to the end of our wandering through the landscape as it ebbs in the distant ink-wash hills over the water. The composition was first laid out in light ink and then finished with successive applications of darker and drier brushwork. Sometimes shapes were slightly altered, contours strengthened, and texture strokes or tree groups added here and there. Finally, brush dots were distributed across the work as abstracted accents. Buildings, tree limbs and foliage are reduced to the simplest of forms as Nature has been translated into the artist's terms of brush and ink. In his inscription, Huang writes that he created the design in a single outburst of energy.

On the Life of Giuseppe Castiglione, a Painter who has Served Three Chinese Emperors

About Giuseppe Castiglione
  • Born in Milan, Italy, Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) was a Jesuit lay brother. He served as a painter in China's imperial court from his arrival in 1715 to his death in 1766. He used his paintings to praise the beauty of God's creation in the hope that they would raise people's awareness to the existence of the Creator. It was his way to work for the Lord.
  • Before entering China, Castiglione was already a talented and promising young painter. He developed a new painting style which is a combination of Chinese and European techniques after he entered China.
Kangxi Reign(1715-1722)
  • In 1714, Giuseppe Castiglione left Lisbon, Portugal and reached Beijing in the next year's winter. He was introduced to Emperor Kangxi by Matteo Ripa (1682-1745), another missionary, which marked the beginning of his service for the Qing Palace for the next 51 years.
  • In 1721, Castiglione's painting skills was appreciated and approved by the Emperor.
Yongzheng Reign(1723-1735)
  • When Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735) ascended to the throne, he was pleased by Castiglione's painting skills and obedience.

    It was helpful to his mission which was more difficult than ever.
  • During the development of Castiglione's fusion style, Emperor Yongzheng advised and requested Castiglione to meet his standard.

    His criticism mysteriously helped the forming of Castiglione's personal painting style.
    • “Gathering of Auspicious Signs “Gathering of Auspicious Signs" by Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766)
Qianlong Reign(1735-1766)
  • Emperor Qianlong (1735-1766) was an art lover and he liked Castiglione's paintings since he was a prince. As he ascended to the throne, Castiglione became his favored chief court painter. Castiglione established a very good relationship with Emperor Qianlong and used this connection to protect other missionaries.
  • In 1747, Castiglione was ordered to join the design of the European-styled buildings of the Old Summer Palace. He created a European-styled fountain with Chinese zodiac sign themed animal head bronze statutes. The Baroque-styled buildings with yellow glaze tile roofs marked the harmonization of the 18th century Chinese and European cultures. However, they were burned down by the Anglo-French forces in 1860.
  • On July 16, 1766, Castiglione passed away at a venerable age of nearly eighty years. He served the Qing court for 51 years. Emperor Qianlong awarded him with the title of Vice Minister and gave a large amount He was buried in Beijing's missionary graveyard. Giuseppe Castiglione spent his whole life as a painter for the Qing court which left us with many masterpieces.
  • As to his career as a missionary, we may probably conclude it with a Chinese poem generally believed authored by him:
    Enjoyed three Emperors' grace in this glorious age.
    I am proud to serve the Qing Empire.
    I mixed European techniques and Chinese fine line drawing.
    Hoping my vivid still life can bring people to appreciate the creation.
    • The grave of Giuseppe Castiglione, Beijing. The grave of Giuseppe Castiglione, Beijing.
    • A print of the copperplate engraving A print of the copperplate engraving"Storming of the Camp at Gädän-Ola" drafted by Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766)