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Luxurious NetworksSalt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China$
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Yulian Wu

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780804798112

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804798112.001.0001

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Collecting as a “Collector”

Collecting as a “Collector”

(p.91) Three Collecting as a “Collector”
Luxurious Networks

Yulian Wu

Stanford University Press

This chapter discusses merchants’ roles in collecting culture during the High Qing period through a study of the salt merchant Wang Qishu and his collection of seals. The Qianlong emperor’s personal interest in collecting and his compilation of a large series of court-sponsored catalogues led to a recognition of collectors in Qing society. Collectors (shoucangjia) emerged as a unique social category, and collecting came to be seen as a valued form of expertise. By locating Wang Qishu’s case in this High Qing context, the author examines how Wang used different elements associated with his seal collection to assert himself as a collector. Wang’s contemporaries also saw him as a collector passionate about seals, as an expert in seal connoisseurship, and as financially capable of amassing a distinguished collection. Through his collection, Wang assumed the role of “collector”—a new social status symbol—and thereby legitimized his position in society.

Keywords:   collecting culture, collector, Wang Qishu, salt merchant, seal, Qianlong emperor, court, identity, Hangzhou, Huizhou

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