The Western Timepieces in China From the Late Ming to the Middle of the Qing Dynasty

Sisi LI, Francesco Freddolini


Western timepieces were introduced to China in the 16th century and were favored by the Chinese upper class, and then gradually formed “Western Timepieces Consumption Heat” in China. Many Chinese churches, commercial buildings, and public buildings had Western timepieces, and officials, priests, merchants, servants, and actors also wear Western timepieces. As tributes, gifts and commodities, Western timepieces not only opened up new trade and political relations between China and the West, but also served as a material carrier for Chinese and Western art and cultural exchanges. Facing the massive introduction of Western timepieces, the attitude of the Chinese court towards Western timepieces was very different. Some upper class in China was willing to accept the multicultural and advanced ideas behind Western timepieces. Other upper classes, especially literati, had many criticisms of Western timepieces, insisting on the “Chinese Central Theory.” Behind these attitudes reflects the conflict and integration of Chinese and Western cultures and aesthetics, therefore, the introduction of Western timepieces into China has an important value and significance for exploring how Western culture influences the evolution and cultural transformation of early modern Chinese society.


Western timepieces; Sino-western collecting; Early modern period

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