“The Eight Banners take qishe 騎射 (horse riding and archery) as their root. To their left is wu 武 (military skills) and to their right is wen 文 (civil and literary skills).” This dictum from the Draft History of the Qing 清史稿 is a retrospective summary of the Manchu state’s objectives in the education of the Bannermen 旗人, the military and political elite of Qing society. And yet, less than half a century since they settled in Peking in 1644, the Bannermen seem to already have forgotten their roots. They devoted themselves entirely to wen, aesthetic pursuits that personified a Chinese literatus: painting, calligraphy, opera, and most important of all, writing poetry. The Nanking poet and critic Yuan Mei 袁枚 (1716-1797) was not exaggerating when he observed in the second half of the 18th century: “Nowadays the Manchus are much more cultivated than the Chinese. Even their military men all write poetry.”
This seminar delves into the aristocratic and poetic world of the Bannerman. A world which underpins Cao Xueqin’s 曹雪芹 masterpiece The Story of the Stone 紅樓夢 (also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber), and which through Cao’s pen achieved supreme and lasting form.
Notes & Zoom password will be distributed prior to the seminar. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.