The Remnant Thing in Qing Poetry

Photo for The Remnant Thing in Qing

Cup in the shape of an archaic vessel with feline dragons (17th Century), Metropolitan Museum of Art (Open Access)


Webinar by Thomas Kelly, Harvard University

Thursday, April 15, 2021
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Live via Zoom

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Please register for Zoom webinar link

My talk considers the fate of “objects from the former dynasty” (qianchao yiwu) in Qing literature and thought. Tracing the unlikely career of a small rhinoceros horn libation cup—an exotic import repurposed for collective protests and the affirmation of loyalist ties—I show how leading antiquarians looked to “remnant things” to voice sentiments that otherwise could not be named. The vaunted biography of this strange antique in Qing poetry illuminates concerns with historical trauma that haunt and exceed the purview of antiquarian scholarship. The talk reveals how prominent Qing poets, by elevating the minor, the contingent, and the fragile, implicitly called into question the type of “thing” a historical monument might be.


Thomas Kelly is an Assistant Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University where he teaches courses on late imperial Chinese literature. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2017 and was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Michigan from 2017 to 2019. His first book examines practices of writing on objects in early modern China. Recent publications have appeared in, or are forthcoming from Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (2020), Late Imperial China (2021), the Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture (2021), and Journal of Chinese History (2019).



Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies