Skip to main content Skip to navigation

China Plates and Japanned Trays: British Encounters with Chinese and Japanese Aesthetics in the Long 19th Century

Macbeth. An Elegant Lady

James Macbeth (1847-1891), An Elegant Lady Seated by a Fire in a Chinese-Influenced Interior (1873). Pencil and watercolour, 19.7 x 27.9 cm. (7.8 x 11 in.)

Event details

Date: 20th March 2017 (Monday)

Venue: Seminar Room 1, Wolfson Research Exchange, Level 3, Warwick Library

Time: 10.30 - 13.00

(Refreshments and lunch will be provided)

In the second half of the 19th century, decorative objects from China and Japan became more widely available in Britain, thereby encouraging British consumers to conflate the names of these objects with the names of their countries of origin ("china" for porcelain plate; "japan" for lacquer ware). How did this increased exposure to Chinese and Japanese art objects - and the distinctive forms of aesthetics that these objects manifested - affect the production of British art and literature in the 19th and early 20th centuries? Can we compare British responses to Chinese art with British responses to Japanese art? How can such comparisons help us understand the ways in which Britain engaged with China and Japan not only as individual countries, but also as part of a regional entity we might call "East Asia"?

We will address these questions at our seminar with Dr Jenny Holt (Meiji University), who will be presenting research from her current book project. We will read extracts from Jenny's book as well as from Elizabeth Hope Chang's Britain's Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2010).

We welcome researchers from all disciplines, who are working on Britain's relations with East Asia in the long 19th century. If you're interested in attending our seminar, please contact Waiyee Loh at Readings will be circulated before the seminar.

Jenny Holt is Associate Professor in English Literature at Meiji University, Tokyo. Her research examines Anglophone writing on Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the travel writing of Isabella Bird, and Victorian children's literature.

This event is kindly sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Study.


Jenny Holt, “A Lesson to the Western Barbarian: Culture and Civility in British and American Debates on Japanese Decorative Art during the Meiji Period”

Jenny Holt, "“Distressed Micropsia: Size Distortion and Psychological Disturbance in Unbeaten Tracks in Japan and Subsequent Travel Literature of the 1880s and 1890s"

Chapter Two, "Plate," in Elizabeth Hope Chang, Britain's Chinese Eye: Literature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2010)


10.30 Tea and coffee

10.35 - 10.45 Short presentation by Jenny Holt

10.45 - 10.55 Short presentation on Chang reading by Waiyee Loh

10.55 - 12.00 Discussion

12.00 - 13.00 Lunch