Monarchist Ambition in China’s New Republic: Illustrated Manual of Dress for Ritual Sacrifice for Yuan Shikai’s Presidency
Yuan Shikai (1859–1916) was a Chinese general, politician, and a short-lived president and the debatable last emperor of China. In 1913, he had been made President of the new Republic of China after a series of political reforms. In 1914, he emulated the Qing state ritual of visiting the Temple of Heaven near the Forbidden City. This was a highly symbolic act that anticipated his plan to revive the monarchy with himself on the throne. For this ceremony, a special set of garb was designed for himself, the ranked officials, and the ritual assistants. They included jeweled headdresses, upper and lower garments, belts, sashes, and boots. Because Yuan’s presidency and his imperial reign were brief, little documentation is left of these artifacts. This essay pieces together the concept behind the designs primarily with reference to the Illustrated Manual of Official Dress for Ritual Sacrifices printed by the Bureau of Rites during Yuan’s presidency. The analysis explores the style, construction, and iconography of these garments to elucidate his imperial ambition.
KeywordsYuan shikai Republican china Ritual Sacrifice Monarchic restoration
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