Imperial Aesthetics is a powerful tool for political hegemony. In this article, we will explore the role of imperial aesthetics in classifying, separating, and aestheticizing women’s work in the Pacific region. By doing so, we will see how the Qianlong emperor was able to create a vision of beauty for his empire that is both sympathetic and reprehensible.
Classifying Imperial Aesthetics involves understanding the various strategies used by imperialist states to rule their colonies. As a result, they developed an aesthetics of empire that shaped the way they ruled. These strategies were accompanied by diverse engagements with their colonies. In some cases, these engagements involved the classifying and separating of peoples based on their level of civilization and capacity for self-government. Ultimately, imperial aesthetics helped normalize the various forms of colonial dominion.
Decolonial aesthetics, on the other hand, works to move beyond Euro-centered concepts of the arts. These works acknowledge that the existence of multiple identities and differences in one’s country is essential to human dignity. As such, they are incompatible with the homogenizing tendencies of global imperialism, which seek to create a more homogeneous world.
The decolonial aesthetics of the present seeks to recognize liberating modes of being, experiencing, and relating to the world. Such aesthetics challenges the legacies of modernity and its subsequent reincarnations as postmodernity and later modernity.
At the juncture between aesthetics and empire, visual representations played an important role. Theorists such as Mirzoeff have conceptualized visuality as a “complex” that is constituted by the intersection of information and imagination in the creation of space. Visuality is not just visual culture; it is also a discourse, in the Foucauldian sense. Moreover, it is a system of operations that produces material effects. These aesthetics were deployed to set up an opposition between civilization and the primitive, often expressed in gendered terms.
Apart from addressing this problem from a critical perspective, Separating Imperial Aesthetics explores how aesthetic experiences in the art are used to challenge and subvert imperial categories. In this way, the contributors to this volume offer us new modes of thinking, sensing, and living. Moreover, their work reveals alternative forms of political life in East Asia.
Another important example is the “Eustace Diamonds” by Anthony Trollope, a sustained fictional meditation on the Indian subcontinent. It is considered a major example of a naturalistic narrative of capitalist globalization, and it channels the author’s increasing disdain for New Imperialism.
Imperial Aesthetics is a critical book that explores the intersection between aesthetics and politics. The book analyzes how aesthetic experiences are used to challenge imperial categories and proposes alternative ways of thinking and living. It examines aesthetic critiques of sovereignty and neoliberalism, particularly in East Asia. The book also examines the circuits of power between nation and capital.
Ultimately, aestheticizing the past is a process of thinking about aesthetics from a historical perspective. Aesthetics reflects the values and aims of culture. A culture’s aesthetics has been shaped by its history and has implications for the present. For example, the aesthetics of an empire reflects the history of its political and economic dominance. In the case of imperialism, aestheticizing means defining aesthetics in terms of racial, class, and economic dominance.
Qianlong emperor’s appreciation of and innovation in the arts
In the Manchu language, “Qianlong” means “blessing by god.” This emperor was a man of letters and a poet. He was also a collector and had over three thousand volumes copied for his library. In 1796, he retired and was named Emeritus Emperor. This honor was meant to honor his grandfather, Kangxi. He died a year later. One of his greatest achievements is the painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival, which depicts the wealth, beneficence and happiness of a prosperous land.
As the most energetic royal patron of the arts since Huizong of the Song Dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor amassed an imperial collection of more than 4,000 works of art. Despite his extensive collection, Qianlong’s taste in art tended toward the decorative and delicate. He also drew upon the services of foreign missionaries, whose artists adopted the three-point perspective in painting.
During the Qianlong emperor’s reign, Chinese influences on western culture increased. The Qing emperor embraced the culture of the Manchus and their practices while respecting the traditions of the Han Chinese. The emperor’s appreciation of the arts was particularly evident in his collection of Buddhist art. The emperor also used artistic works to develop diplomatic alliances with Mongolia and Tibet. His hybrid court dress was symbolic of his right to rule over a multi-ethnic empire.