Hidden Jade in a Ball of Mud? Taiwan’s Imagined Geography in Qing Travel Writing

Key information

1:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Brunei Gallery
Event type
Summer school

About this event

Emma Teng
As part of the 2022 SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies Summer School, we kindly ask that you register to attend.
*Please be aware that this session follows British Summer Time (BST) .

Also available via Microsoft Teams


This talk examines how literati travel writing, ethnographic illustrations, and maps played a vital role in expressing and producing Chinese ideologies of imperial expansion following the Qing conquest of Taiwan in 1683. In particular, it traces how dominant tropes of Taiwan as a “ball of mud” were gradually replaced by imagery of the island’s landscape and terrain as a “hidden jade,” holding forth the promise of valuable natural resources, arable land, and other sources of colonial profit. Colonial representations of Taiwan as an “uninhabited wilderness” and “empty landscape” paved the way for environmental depredation by Han Chinese settlers, and further facilitated the exploitation and elimination of indigenous peoples who were the original owners of the land.

Speaker Bio

Emma J. Teng is the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations at MIT, where she is a member of the history faculty, and Director of Global Languages. Teng’s first monograph, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683-1895 (2004) a study of Chinese colonial discourses on Taiwan, places the China-Taiwan relationship in the historical context of Chinese imperial expansionism. Her second book, Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China and Hong Kong, 1842-1943 (2013), examines ideas concerning racial intermixing and the lived experiences of mixed families in China and the US between 1842 and 1943. Her current research focuses on Chinese educational migration to the US under Chinese Exclusion.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

Contact email: hl55@soas.ac.uk