SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Chih-En Chen

BA (Tzu Chi University) MA (U of Toronto)
  • Teaching
  • Research


Chih-En Chen
Chih-En Chen
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Origin, Development and Classification of Trompe L’oeil Porcelain in High Qing China
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

Porcelain imitation of other materials, or so-called ‘trompe l'oeil’ porcelain, popular from the late Yongzheng to the Qianlong period, has been regarded as a representative aesthetic of Chinese emperors as well as iconography of court power. Several studies have been conducted to understand the connection between porcelain and the connoisseurship of emperors; however, much of that research has focused on the porcelain's physical characteristics and the corresponding imageries (Chen, 2017; Lin, 2004; Yu, 2004). Such object-focused methodology overlooks the concept underlying the works, which is inherently related to their very existence—namely, their origin. Pierson (2013) characterizes this traditional approach as ‘outward focused’, and suggests a new methodology to overcome its shortcomings. Following her view, this research proposes some possible rationale behind a considerable number of trompe l'oeil porcelains passed down from the Qing imperial workshops. Based on Huoji dang 活計檔 (imperial workshop records), Chenshe dang 陳設檔 (imperial display records), and other primary textual records from Qing courts, which are widely used to understand the relation between emperors and artworks (Chi, 2006; Hou, 2007; Liao, 2008; Shih, 2013, 2012, 2009), this thesis aims to understand the influence from the West, the origin of this genre, and its iconographic connotations for High Qing emperors.


  • Chen, C. (2018) ‘Da ying bo wu guan ku cang :xi yin shu wu kuan ci fang gu tong han hu zun de lian xiang 大英博物館庫藏-《惜陰書屋》款瓷仿古銅漢壺罇的聯想 (Rethinking the provenance of Xiying Shuwu bronze-imitation porcelains in the British Museum collection )’, The Chinese Culture and Fine Arts
    Association (CCFA) Annual Journal, Taipei, pp. 40–55.
  • Chen, C. (2018) ‘加拿大卡蒂納博物館貝爾青花瓷收藏 - 淺談明朝文人之價值觀與政治語彙 (Blue and white porcelain in the Gardiner Museum: the social value and political status quo of Ming literati)’ in Cultural World Relics, Beijing 北京文物天地, issue 2 & 3.
  • Chen, C. (2017) ‘加拿大卡蒂納博物館貝爾伉儷青花瓷收藏 - 從明朝文房瓷玩看其時代價值觀 (Blue and white porcelain in the Gardiner Museum: examine the aesthetics and social value of Ming literati through the Robert Murray Bell and Ann Walker Bell collection)’ , The Chinese Culture and Fine Arts
    Association (CCFA) Annual Journal, Taipei,, pp. 96-114.


  • Chen, C. (2018) ‘Fooling the eye: trompe l'oeil porcelain in High Qing China’ in « Vrai et Faux: Porcelaine de Chine ». Thématique 3, laboratoire FRAMESPA (UMR 5136), Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès, France, submitted. (Oral presentation on 12 April 2018 which will be followed by a publication)


  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


  • Teaching Assistant, FAH360 Chinese Decorative Art, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, Sep 2014 – Sep 2015


  • East/West exchange
  • Trompe l'oeil art
  • Chinese ceramics
  • Qing dynasty documents