Constructed, neglected, rebuilt and expanded over the course of nearly a century, the Qing imperial park of Bishu shanzhuang played a central, but constantly changing, role in the history of the Manchu dynasty for nearly two centuries. Scholars of the site have focused on its final form at the end of the 18th century, taking a single vision of its design and use as descriptive of its entire history.

In this talk, Stephen Whiteman explores the park’s early history under the Kangxi emperor, from its original conception as an imperial retreat to its representation through text and image, and considers the legacy of this history not only in later iterations of the landscape, but also in collective memories of the rise and fall of the dynasty itself.