During his reign the Qianlong Emperor oversaw the Ten Great Campaigns which considerably extended the size of the Qing Empire. The most important of these was in Eastern Turkestan where Qing troops fought the Dzungars in a series of battles from 1755 to 1759. In 1764 the Emperor commissioned a series of sixteen drawings from four Jesuits at his Court (Castiglione, Attiret, Sichelbarth and Damascène). The drawings were then sent to Paris to be engraved on to copper plates and returned to Beijing. The Emperor was so pleased with the result that he encouraged the development of engraving skills amongst his own Court artists. During his reign he commissioned a further seven suites of engravings commemorating military campaigns. The present is an extremely rare complete set of twelve prints describing the Taiwan Campaigns against bandits/Ming loyalists between 1787 and 1788.
Lin Shuangwen (1756-1788), the leader of the secret Heaven and Earth Society (tiandihui), launched the largest anti-dynastic rebellion against the Qing dynasty in January 1787. Tiandihui Triads had been operating in Fujian Province and Taiwan for some time. They initially recruited Ming loyalists and at the height of their power could claim around 300,000 followers. Lin even went as far as to pronounce a reign title for himself – namely ‘Obey Heaven’ (shun tian). The Qianlong Emperor sent the Manchu general Fuk’anggan (1753-96) who deployed some 20,000 troops in Taiwan. After a series of battles, the rebellion was crushed in 1788, Lin was arrested and eventually executed. This campaign was most costly, with about 1/3 of the treasury’s annual budget being spent on its suppression.
The present set of prints is extraordinary for its rendition of seascapes and naval battle scenes. There is a vivid narrative quality to these prints that outshines the other battle suites and the rendition of the triumphant return of the navy as well as the final re-enactment of the campaign inside the Forbidden City are a tribute to the skills and the inventiveness of the engravers. Each of the twelve plates carries an engraved valedictory poem of the battles in the hand of the Qianlong Emperor.
12 large engraved prints, each measuring 88 x 51 cm, printed calligraphic inscription by the Qianlong Emperor in the upper margin. Preserved in an early 19th century Chinese silk-covered album. Overall in fine condition.
Stock ID: 97547