Identities and literary culture in Qing China: Manchu emperors as Chinese poets, readers, and publishers

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The Qianlong emperor bequeathed the largest number of Chinese poems of any emperor, and perhaps of any poet, in the history of imperial China. But how do we make sense of the fact that Qianlong had been adamant in maintaining and preserving what he considered the essence of Manchu culture: The Manchu language and hunting skills? This articles argues that, despite deliberate staging through various fashions of his image as the ruler of a multiethnic empire, Qianlong failed in sending his message to his diverse subjects because, truly enthralled by Chinese poetry, he could not restrain himself from writing poetry in Chinese. In light of the theory of multiple identities and acculturation of John Berry, it is reasonable to argue that Qianlong, despite his unambiguous identification with the Manchus as the conquering ethnic group, in tortuous ways had come to embrace the identity of a Chinese poet of the host society, in which the technologies of culture to a large degree overdetermine the form of identities and how they can be articulated, internalized, embodied, and staged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-382
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Chinese Literature and Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Acculturation
  • Chinese Poetry
  • Identities
  • New Qing History
  • Qianlong Emperor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Anthropology


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