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The Constructed Illusion of a European Town in Yuanming Yuan - Western-Chinese Fantastical Imaginings

Part 2 Dissertation 2020
Luisa Marie Sommerer
University of Greenwich | UK
This thesis establishes how, through a rare example of eighteenth century cross-cultural collaboration between the multidisciplinary team of Italian Jesuit painter Guiseppe Castiglione and the Chinese Yangshi-Lei architecture family, a Western/Chinese drawing perspective was developed. This was utilised within the open-air theatre in the Gardens of Yuanming Yuan, and depicted a fantastical Européenerie town. Through historicist research, this thesis implements 3d reconstruction and explores epistemological inaccuracies between Andrea Pozzo’s Western manual on drawing perspective, Perspective et Pictorum et Architectorum, and its Chinese part-translation, the Shi Xue.

Previous scholarship by Kristina Kleughten, establishes discrepancies between the Western and Chinese manual, and draws irresistible connections between the layout of the Shi Xue and the constructed illusion of a European town. Building upon Kleughten’s theory, this thesis speculates how these inaccuracies were not a form of mistranslation, but were, indeed, a creative trigger for a cross-cultural merger of Western and Chinese drawing and perspective techniques, and a coalition of a Western/Chinese design team. Furthermore, Edward Said’s discourse of a unilateral form of Orientalism is critiqued, as this thesis documents an extraordinary example of a bilateral form of appropriation, which serves as a refreshing protest to xenophobia, bigotry, and cultural-appropriation in the twenty-first century.

Luisa Marie Sommerer

Nicholas Boyarsky
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