Where Dragon Veins Meet The Kangxi Emperor and His Estate at Rehe

Stephen Whiteman

In 1702, the second emperor of the Qing dynasty ordered construction of a new summer palace in Rehe (now Chengde, Hebei) to support his annual tours north among the court’s Inner Mongolian allies. The Mountain Estate to Escape the Heat (Bishu Shanzhuang) was strategically located at the node of mountain “veins” through which the Qing empire’s geomantic energy was said to flow. At this site, from late spring through early autumn, the Kangxi emperor presided over rituals of intimacy and exchange that celebrated his rule: garden tours, banquets, entertainments, and gift giving.

Stephen Whiteman draws on resources and methods from art and architectural history, garden and landscape history, early modern global history, and historical geography to reconstruct the Mountain Estate as it evolved under Kangxi, illustrating the importance of landscape as a medium for ideological expression during the early Qing and in the early modern world more broadly. Examination of paintings, prints, historical maps, newly created maps informed by GIS-based research, and personal accounts reveals the significance of geographic space and its representation in the negotiation of Qing imperial ideology. The first monograph in any language to focus solely on the art and architecture of the Kangxi court, Where Dragon Veins Meet illuminates the court’s production and deployment of landscape as a reflection of contemporary concerns and offers new insight into the sources and forms of Qing power through material expressions.


Original Chinese source texts and their English translations are available in the PDF below, under “About the Media.”

Whiteman cover


  • $70.00 cloth, 9780295745800
  • $70.00 ebook, 9780295745817
  • 292 pages
  • 113 color illus., 21 maps, 7 x 10 in.

About the Media


Download Map File

Detailed map of the Mountain Estate to Escape the Heat during the eighteenth century. Map created by Daniel P. Huffman, Kirrily White, and Stephen H. Whiteman. (The link above will take you to a JPG file of the map, while the link below goes to a PDF version. If using the PDF, please open the map in Edge for easiest navigation but in Chrome for sharpest details when you zoom in.)

Mountain_Estate_to_Escape_the_Heat.pdf, 9.83 MB

about the author

Stephen Whiteman’s research and teaching focuses on the visual and spatial cultures of early modern China in their global contexts. His current work looks at connected histories of landscape and space in the Qing Dynasty as expressed through gardens, visual culture, and cultural memory. In Where Dragon Veins Meet: The Kangxi Emperor and His Estate at Rehe (Washington UP, 2020), he explores the construction and deployment of landscape as a medium for imperial ideology in the cosmopolitan early Qing court. Thirty-Six Views: The Kangxi Emperor’s Mountain Estate in Poetry and Prints (Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard UP, 2016), with Richard E. Strassberg, delves deeply into a transcultural garden album published by the Qing court in the 1710s. It received the Foundation for Landscape Studies’s John Brinkerhoff Jackson Book Prize in 2017.

Other major areas of current research include histories of mapping and maritime cultures in China, site-based research in Southeast Asia, and digital methods in art and architectural history. He is the Project Director and co-Chief Investigator for Site and Space in Southeast Asia, a collaborative research project exploring spatial histories of art and architecture in Penang, Malaysia, Yangon, Myanmar, and Huê, Vietnam funded by the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative. His first CAH project, Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, also organised with colleagues at the University of Sydney, appeared as a co-edited volume published by Power Publications and National Gallery Singapore in 2018.

On the digital front, he is working on several projects concerned with mapping, spatial construction, and the perception of space and environment in early modern architecture and art. With partners at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, he is developing Visualizing the Mountain Estate, a project in 3-D cartographic and experiential modelling of an eighteenth century imperial landscape in China that has received support through the Getty Foundation and Wired! Labs’s Visualizing Venice initiative. Other research explores modelling of alternative perspectival systems in Qing visual culture.

Stephen studied history of art, history, and East Asian studies at Brown University, and earned an MA in East Asian studies and his PhD in art history from Stanford University. His research has been supported by fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art and Dumbarton Oaks Library and Research Collection, as well as grants from the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Chiang-Ching Kuo Foundation, CAA, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Mellon Foundation, and the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies, among others. Prior to joining the Courtauld, Stephen was senior lecturer of Asian art, deputy director of the Power Institute for Art and Visual Culture, and associate curator of Asian art at the University of Sydney.