Extending impact through consultancy
Dr Pierson is Consultant to the V&A Asia Dept and Geffrye Museum, and is a trustee of the Bath Museum of East Asian Art. Timon Screech, Professor of the History of Art, worked on reordering the Mt Kunô Museum, Japan and through his research is helping to secure Japanese National Treasure status for its most famous object. Together with Dr Stacey Pierson he has supported European business development by teaching East Asian cultures to business executives.
Members of the Department use their expertise to address wider issues of heritage, conservation and education. Highly significant is the work of Elizabeth Moore, Emeritus Professor, with UNESCO: as a member of the World Heritage Nomination Committee, she secured listing of the first site in Myanmar. She has also worked with the government of Dawei province to establish a conservation zone around the proposed deep-water port.
In China, on the trail of the 'last emperor'
In December 2018, Shane McCausland made a lecture tour to China where he presented research on the modernist art world of 1920s Beijing and the former imperial art collection at the court of the 'last emperor', Henry Puyi. SOAS has a close connection with Puyi because his English tutor from 1919-24 was Sir Reginald F. Johnston, Professor of Chinese at SOAS in the early 1930s. The starting point for this research was two artworks, now in SOAS Library, that Puyi gave Johnston. Prof. McCausland's tour began in Nanjing at Southeast University, before moving to Beijing, where he spoke at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and at the Palace Museum.
In Beijing, he viewed artworks in storage at the Beijing Fine Art Academy and at the Palace Museum, courtesy of Mr Yu Hui (pictured). While in the Palace Museum, it was impossible not to pose for a photograph in front of the building that Puyi allocated to Johnston as his office within the palace.
In the Palace Museum, Beijing in December 2018: (left to right) SOAS PhD Dr Shen Shuchi, Prof. Shane McCausland and Palace Museum curator Dr Xu Wanling, in front of the office building provided by the 'last emperor' Puyi for his English tutor, Reginald F. Johnston, beside the Imperial Garden.
Philanthropic donation to research the provenance of objects from China’s Yuanmingyuan or ‘Summer Palace’ (2017-2019)
In 2017, Louise Tythacott, Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology of Asian Art, was awarded a major philanthropic donation to undertake research on the provenance of objects from the Yuanmingyuan, or old ‘Summer Palace’, in Beijing.
Initiated by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) in the early eighteenth century, the ‘Summer Palace’ was developed by the Yongzheng (r.1723-1735) and Qianlong emperors (r. 1736-1795), and used during the eighteenth and nineteenth century as the principle residence of Qing dynasty emperors. It housed part of China’s most important imperial art collection. In October 1860, at the culmination of the Second Opium War, British and French regiments looted the buildings in the Yuanmingyuan: it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of objects were taken from the site, many of these now scattered around the world, in private collections and public museums.
The research project involved detailed research in major museums, libraries, archives and auction houses across the UK, as well as in Paris. Shichun Lei was appointed Research Assistant in 2018, and the project ran until January 2019. It will result in a publication – ‘The Summer Palace Diaspora’ – which analyses the histories and displays of Yuanmingyuan artefacts in Britain and France.
Museum lectures and outreach
All members of the Department give museum lectures and lead outreach activities, such as seminars, gallery talks and object-handling sessions. Stacey Pierson, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Ceramics, has lead hugely popular study days at the British Museum and given Chinese Ceramic handling sessions at the V&A, British Museum and Hong Kong University Museum of Art.