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A Bridge between China and the Rest of the World


Sept 23, Wed: QING EMPERORS AND THEIR CELEBRITY CHEFS by Prof Joanna Waley-Cohen

"What did Qing emperors learn from their celebrity chefs?" by Prof Joanna Waley-Cohen

WHAT:  An RASBJ Zoom talk by Professor Joanna Waley-Cohen, followed by Q&A

WHEN: Sept. 23 Wednesday 19.00-20.00 Beijing Standard Time.

MORE ABOUT THE EVENT: Throughout many dynasties, emperors perceived cooks in a highly political light -- because the art of cooking was a useful metaphor for government. As the early Daoist work Dao De Jing put it: "Governing the country is in principle like cooking a small fish". The prestige of Chinese culture posed a potential threat to imperial control under the Manchu emperors. The great 18th-century Qing emperor Qianlong (1736-95) thus sought to harness that prestige to his own ends. Gastronomy, long a centerpiece of the cultivated life, was central to this campaign. For instance, Qianlong claimed a special predilection for the food of Suzhou, long seen as the epicenter of Chinese haute cuisine, and personally both recruited the finest cooks to work in the palace kitchens and chose the dishes they served him. In doing so he took to new levels the longstanding centrality of food to ruling in China. 

MORE ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Joanna Waley-Cohen is Provost of NYU Shanghai and Julius Silver Professor of History at NYU. She is the author of Exile in Mid-Qing China; The Sextants of Beijing; and The Culture of War in China, as well as numerous articles on food, gastronomy, and culinary culture in imperial China.

HOW MUCH: This event is free and exclusively for members of the RASBJ and other RAS branches. If you know someone who wants to join RASBJ, ask them to add MembershipRASBJ on Wechat or email 

HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT: To become an RASBJ member in order to attend this event, please add MembershipRASBJ on Wechat or email membership.ras.bj@gmail.com to inquire about terms and rates. Join at least two days before the talk to allow time for you to receive the event notice with the advance registration link.

NOTICE OF HOLIDAY: The Royal Asiatic Society Beijing's Zoom series, which usually has a talk every Wednesday, will be on holiday Sept. 30 and October 7. (The Zoom talk "How the pandemic changed consumer habits" is postponed.) Normal programming resumes Wednesday Oct. 14.  Hope to see you then!


 THE TALK OF THE TOWN: RASBJ has held 30 Zoom events since Mar 9 -- from top East Asian scholar Ezra Vogel discusssing China-Japan relations and Peter Frankopan's seminar "Why Study History?" to Frances Wood on "Mahjong in Maida Vale" and Paul French on "Murders of Old China". RASBJ has also resumed in-person events after a successful Aug. 19 in-person screening of the "Shanghai 1937: Where WWII Began" documentary, plus Zoom QA with the director.
    Don't miss our next Zoom talk on Sept. 23: "What Qing Emperors Learned from their Celebrity Chefs" by Joanne Waley-Cohen. PLEASE NOTE THAT SEPT 30 AND OCT 7, RASBJ WILL TAKE A HOLIDAY BREAK
(The talk "How the pandemic changed consumer habits and tastes" has been postponed.) Normal programming resumes Oct. 14.  See you then! 
    ANOTHER RASBJ MEMBERSHIP PERQ: Royal Asiatic Society Beijing members are routinely invited free to Zoom events organized by RAS branches in London, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai. On Sept. 30 the Royal Asiatic Society in London will hold a virtual book launch for Anna McSweeney's "From Granada to Berlin: the Alhambra Cupola" at 6:00 PM British Summer Time. If you'd like to attend the book launch and are an RASBJ member, please email mb@royalasiaticsociety.org   Enjoy!
       RASBJ members enjoy free access to online events and their youTube recordings (note: at the speaker's request a recording of the May 13 talk is not available) plus the RAS China journal -- and priority booking or discounted entry to in-person RASBJ events. If you'd like to become an RASBJ member, please Wechat MembershipRASBJ .

NEWS FOR MEMBERS: To enter the Members' Section on the website, go to the lower lefthand corner of the homepage, find "members login" and enter the password.  If you believe you're an RASBJ member but haven't been given the password, please email communications.ras.bj@gmail.com to ask for it (after ensuring you're fully paid up).   



Royal Asiatic Society Beijing members and their guests are asked to please wear appropriate footwear and attire when attending events or excursions, and to adhere to any safety instructions or other codes of conduct. Please also bear in mind the physical requirements of participating in the event or trip. Participation in events and excursions is at your own risk: the Royal Asiatic Society Beijing accepts no liability for any loss or damage, including personal injury or damage to property.

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