SOAS University of London

Arts of Modern and Contemporary China students visit SOAS Special Collections

21 January 2022
HAA Students visit SOAS Special Collections

On Friday 14th January 2022, Panpan Yang (SOAS lecturer in the arts and visual cultures of modern China) brought students from her postgraduate seminar 'Arts of Modern and Contemporary China since 1800' to SOAS Library's Special Collections to see two special objects: (1) Chen Shu's spectacular Album of Flowers painting series, dated to 1681; and (2) a beautiful black and gold inscribed folding fan. Both items were presented by Henry Puyi, the last Emperor of China, to his tutor Sir Reginald Johnston, who taught at SOAS — then the School of Oriental Studies — between 1931 and 1935.

Peony from Chen Shu's Album of Flowers

Before visiting the exhibition, students watched the 1987 film The Last Emperor directed by acclaimed Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci. The students enjoyed to see the folding fan first in the film, and then to see it again as a physical object in the world that we call reality.

The folding fan

The extensive Reginald Johnston Collection, consisting of over 16,000 volumes, is thought to be one of the finest collections of Chinese and East Asian books in the UK. Below, you can see Professor Shane McCausland's Inaugural Lecture - 'The Art of Quitting Court: Parting Gifts from China’s Last Emperor', which was given at SOAS University of London on 7th December 2017.

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Professor Shane McCausland Inaugural Lecture