Both Emperors, Huizong and Qianlong, maintain a reputation as artists, collectors, and art patrons. As this paper will try to show, collecting ancient objects, however, became a decisive element of their mode of rulership. In Imperial China, collecting was early tied to the notion of ordering the world by setting out a microcosmic image of it represented by the very objects that were collected. Ancient bronze vessels or jade objects allowed for an imaginative yet powerful appropriation of a foregone past that was idealized as a golden age setting an example for the present day. As the visual embodiments of a virtuous reign Imperial art collections were closely linked to both antiquarianism and aestheticism alike, which allowed for the Emperor to set up his reign on the basis of Confucian morals and aesthetic equivalence.


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