SOAS University of London

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

Kexin Ma

BA(the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA), MA (SOAS)
  • Research


Kexin Ma
Kexin Ma
Email address:
Thesis title:
Portraits of Objects: Emperor Yongzheng's 'Guwan tu' and the Agency of Artefacts across Media
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


Kexin Ma is a PhD candidate from the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS. She is currently conducting a research project on two Yongzheng period handscrolls entitled 'Guwan tu' under the supervision of Dr. Stacey Pierson. Her major research interest lies in material culture in medieval and early modern China, with particular attention to the materiality and agency of art objects across media.

In 2018, She presented her paper ‘A Pot of Refined Taste: Numbered Jun Wares in Ming Elite Gardens’ at Song Ceramics after the Song Annual Student Research Seminar at the British Museum. Later in the same year, she presented her paper on the formation of ceramic aesthetics under Emperor Huizong at the International Symposium of the Art of the Song Dynasty organised by Henan University in Kaifeng, China. While continuing her academic journey, Kexin has also worked as curatorial and editorial assistants in a number of art institutions, including the National Gallery of Prague in the Czech Republic, the National Art Museum of China, and the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, China, since the year of 2015.

PhD Research

This research project aims to introduce an alternative approach to the two Yongzheng period handscrolls entitled 'Guwan tu' (Pictures of Ancient Playthings) housed in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Primarily drawn to the high degree of realism achieved in the rendering of the subject matters, most scholars overlooked the scrolls’ identities as paintings and assumed a connection between the scrolls and the practices of collecting and documenting art objects initiated under Emperor Yongzheng.

To fill these research gaps, the research will re-examine the 'Guwan tu' as handscroll paintings in their own rights and as pictorial representations of objects under the context of image-making practices and object consumption in High Qing China. Through consulting primary texts and visual sources that share similar material qualities or subject matters with the scrolls, the research aims to present a fuller picture of how the scrolls would be positioned following, or in contrast against, prevailing canons of painting and object during the Yongzheng period. The research will also explore the mode of thinking and visual trends that triggered the creation of the scrolls, thereby calling attention to the potential changes in the reception of art objects when they were reproduced and redefined across media.


  • A Pot of Refined Taste: Numbered Jun Wares in Ming Elite Gardens' at the 'Song Ceramics after the Song' Annual Student Research Seminar, British Museum (London, UK; May 2018)
  • 'Yizhan huangjia yiqu: Song huizong shiqi taoci meixue de xingcheng' [A Cup of Imperial Taste: The Formation of Ceramic Aesthetics under Emperor Huizong at 2018 International Symposium of the Art of the Song Dynasty in Kaifeng, China, College of Art at Henan University (Kaifeng, China; October 2018)


  • The Oriental Ceramic Society


  • History and historiography of collecting and cataloguing antiquities in Ming-Qing China
  • East Asian Ceramics
  • Materiality and agency of art objects
  • Decorative objects and gendered space