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A glass apart

Updated: 2024-03-05 08:25 ( China Daily Global )
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Glass containers, dated between the 17th and 20th centuries, in the collection of the Palace Museum, are on display. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Exquisite pieces of glassware from the Palace Museum's collection, dating back to the 17th century and embodying the creativity born of cooperation between artisans from the East and the West, go on display in Beijing, Lin Qi reports.

Of the European missionaries serving at the court of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Kangxi, Bernard-Kilian Stumpf (1655-1720), from Wurzburg, in what is now Germany, was a notable figure. His wide-ranging knowledge and versatility impressed the emperor — he was good at maths, astronomy and machinery fabrication.

What Kangxi appreciated most, though, was Stumpf's gift in mastering glassmaking techniques. The emperor, who had a keen interest in Western arts, crafts and science, designated the German missionary to head his glassworks, situated in an alley not far from the Forbidden City, and to innovate the presentation of glass art.

In the years he dedicated to technical progress at Kangxi's workshop, Stumpf achieved success in propelling the artistry of imperial glassware to a new height. Meanwhile, he helped train Chinese glass artisans who, after his death, continued to develop new methods in the field and create beautiful objects.

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