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Making the Qing Palace Machine Work

May 28, 2015



This workshop explores the inner and outer workings of the Chinese imperial palace with a focus on the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). It approaches the palace and its organization as a “machine” with partly distinct, partly overlapping, interwoven and dependent functional parts that produced money, matter and identity for the court. Looking at the organization and workflow of technologies, the transmission and codification of knowledge, and the coordination of profane, administrative and representative activities, the workshop examines how this range of activities conjointly formed this complex organization and made it work: agendas were drawn up, spaces and roles defined, and rules laid out. Participants investigate particular aspects of the working palace concentrating on either a material (such as jade, porcelain, silk) or a producing and controlling unit (regulations, medical treatment, interior decoration) of the “machine.”
Which knowledge spheres evolved within this administrative setting and how did they influence each other? How was planning structured by the materials used, and adapted to changing needs or outside influences? What kinds of small and big planning were involved — what was important, what neglected, what ignored or “black-boxed”?

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