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February 5, 2024

The discussion will take place from 1:30–3 pm with a reception to follow from 3–4 pm.

Tickets are $10 for SAM members, $15 for general public, and $5 for students. Admission to the Seattle Art Museum’s galleries is included with the purchase of a ticket to this event.

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Accruing new meaning as they move from one place and context to another, material objects enable imaginative encounters between the indigenous and foreign, the familiar and unfamiliar. As curious containers of knowledge, culture, and purpose, these objects can spark a variety of reactions, from rejection to assimilation to appropriation and creative transformation.

This roundtable includes four ten-minute presentations on examples that embody conceptions of space and spatial movement within maritime Asia: Dutch and Portuguese maps of Indonesian islands, trade ceramics and spices, mirrors painted in Canton for domestic and western markets, and images illustrating the cosmopolitan Qing empire of the Manchus. Held in conjunction with the ongoing exhibition Chronicles of a Global East at the Seattle Art Museum, we invite you to join historians and archaeologists for a conversation that will deepen your understanding of the interconnected ancient global world.


Peter Lape
Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, and Curator of Archaeology, Burke Museum
A critical center of the spice trade, the Banda Islands of eastern Indonesia were once the world’s sole source of nutmeg and mace: Portuguese and Dutch traders mapped the islands beginning in the 16th century. Peter will discuss three European maps from this period to explore the islands’ political landscapes through European eyes, in comparison with alternative views gained from archaeological data and surviving indigenous Bandanese accounts.

Joss Whittaker
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington
Mainland Asian trade ceramics traveled to the eastern edges of Island Southeast Asia, including to New Guinea and the Aru Islands by the 17th century. At first, they were scarce and captivatingly different from the local pottery. In a new context, these vessels gained in power all their own, and some of this power survives in the practices of today’s Aruese people. Joss will discuss some of the folklore and history surrounding ceramic tradeware, providing examples of the ritual and social roles they still play.

Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art, Seattle Art Museum, and Affiliate Associate Professor, School of Art + Art History + Design, University of Washington
Mostly intended for export, 18th-century mirrors painted in Canton offered romanticized visions of China for Western eyes. Ping will discuss a mirror recently discovered in SAM’s collection that replaces the usual Oriental fantasy with an imagined Occident for Chinese eyes, placing its traditional Lunar New Year subject of “one hundred boys” within a pastoral European landscape, featuring Chinese palaces lit by crystal chandeliers rather than lanterns. Ping will also consider some interiors for displaying decorated looking-glass mirrors, from an 18th-century palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City to a 20th-century English-style country home in America.

Tonio Andrade
Professor of Chinese and Global History, Department of History, Emory University
The Qing Empire (1644–1911) was once considered an arrogant empire, isolated and closed to the world, but recent scholarship paints a different picture, one of inclusivity. The Manchu rulers of the Qing managed a vast territory that was home to Han Chinese, Mongols, Tibetans, Uighurs, and others. Deliberate state policy created a vibrant, cosmopolitan state that integrated diverse cultures, religions, languages, and ethnicities. The Manchus, themselves a minority, welcomed visitors from throughout the world. Tonio will explore Qing relations with the wider world through art objects, focusing in particular on relations with maritime Europeans such as the Dutch and British.

This program is organized and funded by the Seattle Art Museum, the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, University of Washington Taiwan Studies Arts & Culture Program, University of Washington East Asia Center, University of Washington Center for Southeast Asia and its Diasporas. Additional funding from Tuan Jong-chern in honor of Yuyann Hu and Enlei Tuan. This program is supported with Title VI funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education.