Week 12: Chinese collectors

Nov. 9 - 15.

Final project:

In the list of assignments you'll find at the end of this week an outline and a written paragraph of your final project is due. This is another small step to make sure you're still on the right track. It is due on Friday. Usual rules about extentions apply: you can get them, but don't crowd it all together for the end of the semester when you'll be busy (as will I)

Chinese collectors

(Rich) Chinese people collected art objects, and competed to get the best pieces. They showed them to their friends and colleagues, sometimes to show off, but sometimes also because they genuinely were fascinated by these works of art, their history, and their beauty. They did not always have our modern scientific methods to discern fake from genuine antiques, but they knew a few tricks! They also had different concerns and valued compared to present-day collectors.

So what happens when objects become collectibles? What are the different types of values that make an object an item worthy of inclusion in the collection? And how did the Chinese elite (scholars, officials, emperors) think about and interact with such objects and the past they represented?

In this week's materials, you get to learn about the way Ming dynasty (1368-1644) collectors saw art objects. In a slight departure from the usual initial post, you get a chance to impersonate a buyer of the middle/late Ming period for a "lot" (a group of items), and provide an assessment. You can collaborate and co-write a blog post post, just post a link to the shared post on your own blog. (Details below in Assignments)

Next week, we'll have a closer look at how the West looked at, and collected Chinese art objects, and you can then of course begin to contrast and compare.

Table of contents


Basic set

  • Clunas, Craig. Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China. Honolulu: Univ Of Hawai'i Press, 2016. (PDF)
    • Scholars of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) were interested in things from the past. They collected them, and there was a thriving market for art as well as for forgeries. What were the reasons scholars collected things of the past? How did these change through the dynasty? How did they deal with what we would describe as fakes and forgeries?
      • Note that Clunas makes explicit comparisons with the European world of the same period; and that Ricci was a Jesuit missionary working at the Ming court at the time.
    • You will use the information from this reading to "role play" a buyer of art objects in the Ming period, so take good notes. Check the Initial Post instructions carefully this week.

Optional extras

Read/view as time and curiosity guide you:

  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. Emperor Huizong. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press 2014.
    • A short extract from a recent book with a detailed biography of Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126), who was an avid collector of art. How did he influence the imperial collections? What is the role of politics in art collection, and what are some of the major differences between the emperor and the scholar-officials in seeing items worthy of inclusion in the imperial collection? (PDF, est. 12 min)
  • Discover: "The World of Science: Chinese Bronze Forgery" (Youtube video, 10 min)
    • Can machines detect forgeries? This is a somewhat older video, but a lot of the techniques used to fake the bronze were also used in the Song and Ming.
    • This is a slighly older video, and in the years since, the techniques of detection have only become more sophisticated. But forgers have also become more savvy!


Feedback on the reflections about artisans:

2 points, due by Tuesday Nov. 10, 11.59PM

You know the drill 🙂 Read more and become a better reader and writer, as you learn from others' insights and feedback. Here are two students' Reflection posts on buildings, please comment on both:

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Comment using Hypothes.is group HST137
  • Content: example: draw the writer's attention to something they missed, or point out how they highlight something you weren't aware of.
  • Style: do you have tips how the writer can make their reflection pack a tighter punch? Does the writer have great sentences or choice of words? What would you like to emulate? Share it!
    • Note: Spelling and phrasing are not the most important, but if you notice a pattern, it is helpful to point it out.

When you're ready, head over to Canvas and fill out the Declaration Quiz to claim your points.

- I commented on two fellow students' end of week reflections on readings about artisans/craftspeople, using the Hypothes.is group HST137.
- I made sure to leave substantial comments that help the writer to improve the post, or to identify their strengths.
- I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Initial Blog post with a twist

Due Tuesday, Nov. 10, 11.59PM

NOTE: You can collaborate with a friend for this week's initial post

  • Step 1: Read Craig Clunas' piece (see Readings), and get in the mindset of a collector of the Ming period.
  • Step 2: Pick one of the following three lots
  • Step 3: Based on the information from Clunas, and from the websites where you find the object images, what would a Ming period buyer (1368-1644) look for? How would they try to authenticate these pieces? What would make them want to add these pieces to the collection?

If you collaborate with a friend, you can write 1 post, and then post a link on your blog to that post. You both fill out the declaration (because you both did the work!)

  • Include the information about the materials you choose to work with (name of object, museum where it's housed), so we know which ones you picked.
  • Add an image that illustrates the topic of your post, with a caption and credit for the image (e.g. a hyperlink to the source).
  • Include the word collector in the title
  • Add it to the category hst137 on your blog.
  • If you collaborated, and your colleague hosts the post, provide a link to that post on your blog (so you have proof that you did the work)

When you're done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.


- I (individually or with a colleague from the class) wrote a post about one of the three lots "for sale" in the exercise, from the point of view of Ming dynasty buyer.

-I included the information about the objects (museum, name of object) to help identify the materials
- I included an image, and provided a caption and credit (source) for the image.
- I use the word collector in the title, added the post to category hst137

Discussion and comments in Hypothes.is

2 points, due Thursday Nov. 12 by 11.59pm.

Below you find links to four blog posts from your fellow students. If one of the websites is your own, or it is twice the same person's, refresh the page, and you should get new sites. Please comment on all four:

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:
  • Post 4:

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students, using Hypothes.is group HST137. You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around a bit deeper in the materials you maybe gave less attention in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures (memes! [yes, there she is again]), videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you've commented on four posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

- I commented on four fellow students' initial posts on the readings about artisans, using Hypothes.is group HST137.
- I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond a "nice" or "great".
- I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Final project: outline and a paragraph:

Due Friday Nov. 13., 11.59PM

All the details on this webpage, including a video with tips on how to navigate the Trexler Library catalogue to find sources using the equivalent of "hashtags".

For more info on the final project: check out the webpage.

End of week reflection (on Chinese art collectors)

3 points, due on Sunday, Nov. 15 by 11:59PM

If you really engaged with the topic of art collectors in China, your insights have changed over the course of the week, and you'll likely have encountered new information in your colleagues' posts that you did not cover in your readings. What have you learned about art objects, how they were valued, how the market operated, or even about... fakes? How is that different from what you know about the present, either in your own culture, or in the West?

Just like before, in your post you will also include three bullet points “Things I learned this week” – what do you know now about this topic in premodern China that you did not know at the start of this week?

  • Write a blog post of appr. 200 words (more is fine if you have Ideas), include the bibliographic details of the texts you refer to or engage with.
    • How have your ideas changed?
    • How do you think now about collecting art objects?
    • What new research questions can you ask, that you never thought about before?
  • Add your three bullet points with “Things I learned this week”.
  • Use the word Reflection in the title, and use the tag week11, and add to category hst137.

When you're done, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

- I wrote a blog post of appr. 200 words to demonstrate my changed/enhanced understanding of collectors in late Imperial China.
- I included a list with the bibliographic references of the texts I used to create my post.
- I added three bullet points under the heading “Three things I learned this week”.
- I use the word Reflection in the title, used the tag week12, and added the post to category hst137 .

Extra Credit Tasks

EC 12-1: Introduce an image

3 points, due Sunday Nov. 15 11.59pm

All the details on this webpage, incl. a link to declaration quiz.

EC 12-2: Rewrite a post

2 points, due by Sunday, Nov 15, 11.59pm

Unhappy about a post you wrote? Feeling you can do better now than a few weeks ago? Had a bad week and rushed to get it in but now you're ready to do something you can be proud of? Now you can rewrite that post and get some extra credit for it!

  • Pick one post from a previous week and use the comments you received, and your new insights, to rewrite it.
  • Add a brief paragraph at the end explaining how you rewrote the post: which comments did you address, how did you go about the process (e.g. starting from new blank page vs. tinkering; focusing on structure or word choice or adding/correcting facts,...), and what you learned through the process of rewriting.
  • tag the post with extra, and add "rewrite" to the title
    • (Note: it should already be in the category hst137)

Read the following Declaration carefully, and then head on over to Canvas to collect your points in the Declaration Quiz:

I selected a post from a previous week and rewrote it, using feedback and insights I gained since writing it.
I added a brief paragraph at the end explaining what I did to rewrite the post, and what I learned about rewriting
I added the tag extra to the post, and added the word rewrite to the title.
I made sure the post is still in the category hst137.

Where to ask questions?

Remember that it is highly likely that you are not the only one with that question. Save me time, and help your fellow students by asking questions where others can see them. If you know the answer to a question, jump in! I can’t be everywhere all the time.

Missing link? Wrong information? Typos? Email me!

"See something? Say something!"

[1] This is an example of a note.
[2] This is another example of a footnote.