Contemporary Economic & Cultural Capital in Chinese Tea Ceremony

Emperor Yongzheng (r. 1722 - 1735, 雍正帝) in his library at the Old Summer Palace (圆明园,Yuanmingyuan, “Gardens of Perfect Brightness”). Page of an album, Qing Dynasty, unknown court artist. The Palace Museum, Beijing.

This portrait of the Yongzheng Emperor[1], painted during his lifetime, shows the man as he wished to be seen – as a literati-scholar in the dynastic Chinese tradition. Emperor Yongzheng sits with his feet by a stove on a cold winter day, book diligently in hand, surrounded by the accoutrements of the literati: behind him, a shelf holding rare books, hand scrolls, and ancient ceramics. Before him sits a teapot and two red tea cups[2] (known to have been in his collection and pictured below), next to a food box containing sustenance for long hours of study. To Yongzheng, a man at the pinnacle of society, with access to the wealth and wares of the empire at his command: this is what the accumulation of economic and cultural capital looked like[3].