In these printmaking works about China before the First Opium War, Chinese scenery was deeply processed by a subjective way, which is a European imagination of the mysterious East -- a country that can produce such exquisite silk, porcelain, lacquerware, tea, is an idyllic paradise: the people there live and work in peace and contentment The emperor led his officials to manage the country according to the strict Confucian moral life. People of any class can become officials through the fair imperial examination system and participate in the management of public affairs. Voltaire, a famous French thinker in the so-called "Enlightenment", is the promoter of this statement. However, after the publication of the real news of the Magarney Mission in China from 1792 to 1794 in Europe, people were surprised to realize the various ills of the arrogant and narrow Qing Empire. When Hegel read the "Record of the British Envoy Visiting Qianlong" by Stendon in the Magarney Mission, he commented that the autocratic dictatorship of the emperor of the Chinese Empire had deprived everyone in the empire of free will, and the whole Chinese civilization was in a state of stagnation and sleep. However, the weakness of the Qing Empire and the big powers in the military conflict seems to confirm Hegel's statement of this ancient oriental civilization. After the Opium War, the Qing government had to open its doors and gradually open more trading ports to western countries. It also made more real images of China spread through various weekly magazines and pictorial newspapers in European countries.
Today we are going to appreciate these fine works in European antique prints from the 17th to 18th centuries. It is difficult not to ask us why Europeans are so eager to understand China? Why did the ancient Chinese empire have no interest in the world outside itself? Did Hegel's exposition of Chinese civilization hit the drawbacks of imperial autocracy since the Qin regime? From the "Westernization Movement" to the "May 4th Movement", is China's problem only solved by "Mr. Sai" and "Mr. De" or the latest Western "doctrines"?
Here, we hope that everyone who sees these works can ask questions to themselves and try to find out the answers through a free and independent mind.
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