Maritime Beijing: Oceans and Empire in the Monuments of the Capital

Maritime Beijing: Oceans and Empire in the Monuments of the Capital


Saturday, November 05, 2011
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Lenart Auditorium, Fowler Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90095

It is hard for us today to gain mental access to Ming dynasty Beijing. The Qing modifications of the city impose a heavy filter on the attempt to understand an earlier moment in Beijing’s history. The pre-Ming capitals on the same site—the Yuan capital of Dadu (1260-1368) and the Jin capital of Zhongdu (1153-1214)—are even more difficult to imagine. This lecture will address one surprising dimension of the pre-Qing history of Beijing—the role that an oceanic imaginary played in the city’s urbanism and in the symbolism of its imperial monuments. This imaginary brought into play cosmology, politics, and commerce, articulating imperial attention to the oceans that separated China from a larger world. Much of the lecture will explore the hypothesis that the initial construction of Ming Beijing from 1403 onwards was marked by the great maritime expeditions undertaken by Zheng He between 1405 and 1433.

Jonathan Hay (born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1956) has taught at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, since 1990. He is the author of two books, Shitao: Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China (2001) and Sensuous Surfaces: The Decorative Object in Early Modern China (2010). He writes on a broad range of topics and periods in Chinese art history, as well as on the general theory of art history.


Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture on Chinese Archaeology and Art

First presented in 1982 in celebration of his 80th birthday, the Sammy Yukuan Lee Lectures on Chinese Art and Archaeology honors the life and philanthropy of respected businessman, art collector, and Chinese art authority, Sammy Yukuan Lee. This series is presented annually by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies with support from the Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation, and in partnership with the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Parking on the UCLA campus is $12. Enter UCLA from Sunset Blvd. at Westwood Plaza. Parking attendants will direct you to Lot 4. There is an elevator at the southeast end of Lot 4 and a stairwell at the northeast end, closest to the museum.

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The lecture and museum admission are free and open to the public.
A reception with refreshments will follow the talk.

For directions or more information, please call (310) 825-8683 or email:

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, The Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation