Workshop Overview

Making the Qing Palace Machine Work

Making the Qing Palace Machine Work

Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 09:30 to Friday, May 29, 2015 - 16:00


Martina Siebert & Kaijun Chen


Main Conference Room, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin

This workshop explores the inner and outer workings of the Chinese imperial palace with a focus on the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). It approaches the palace and its organization as a ‘machine’ with partly distinct, partly overlapping, interwoven and dependent functional parts that produced money, matter and identity for the court. Looking at the organisation and workflow of technologies, the transmission and codification of knowledge, and the coordination of profane, administrative and representative activities, the workshop examines how this range of activities conjointly formed this complex organization and made it work: agendas were drawn up, spaces and roles defined, and rules laid out. Participants investigate particular aspects of the working palace concentrating on either a material (such as jade, porcelain, silk) or a producing and controlling unit (regulations, medical treatment, interior decoration) of the ‘machine’.

Which knowledge spheres evolved within this administrative setting and how did they influence each other? How was planning structured by the materials used, and adapted to changing needs or outside influences? What kinds of small and big planning were involved -- what was important, what neglected, what ignored or “black-boxed”?

On the first day (May 28) participants will give short presentations based on their pre-circulated papers, leaving ample time for discussion. The morning of the second day (May 29) we reserved for a source session, discussing questions and problems and characteristics of our sources.

The workshop is part of the research theme "Histories of Planning" of department III and its working group on the Qing palace (
The program is attached below.

It is possible to observe the workshop, but space is limited. If you wish to attend please fill in the following form: or contact


Attachment: Flyer