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Student Showcase Archive

Yanling Li

MA work

MA work

Plants, Paperwork and Ordinary People: Chinese Export Botanical Paintings, circa 1770-1830

This dissertation studies botanical paintings, produced in Canton by native Chinese painters for European customers roughly between 1770 and 1830. It proceeds by way of artefact-analysis of paintings located in archives around London while simultaneously developing a theoretical framework. I argue that such botanical export paintings can only be understood properly when considered in their complicated relationship to the wider export art market in Canton. Secondly, in their materiality as spatio-temporal objects, they were part of a larger network of plant collecting involving various things in motion. Lastly, in their production, painters and patrons were in a dynamic process of self-displacement. 



  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2019

  • Yanling Li is a design historian/anthropologist whose interest spans many fields, such as home culture, the built environment, drawing and cognition, craft and making. She moves between the abstract and concrete, between micro and macro questions without, however, a commitment to comprehensiveness. As a researcher, she thinks a lot about storytelling and reflexivity. She also explores various ways – including taking transdisciplinary approaches – to break up unnecessary boundaries and to overcome epistemological limits. 

  • Degrees

  • MA Anthropology (Material and Visual Culture), University College London, 2016; BA Japanese, Shanghai International Studies University, China, 2015
  • Awards

  • Victorian and Albert Museum Anthony Gardner Travel Fund, 2018