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Fig 5: Manchuria windows in the Qinghui Garden of Shunde, Foshan - Life of Guangzhou
“Manchurian windows” are one of the defining characteristics of Lingnan architecture, especially in the urban centers of Guangzhou, Foshan and Dongguan. The term refers to a type of highly decorative yet functional window made in white, as well as a range of bright colors featuring incised, impressed or painted decorations that range from intricate figurative scenes to abstract patterns.
What remains undebatable is the fact that glass production in China at large was influenced by technologies from abroad and, during the Qing dynasty, innovated by European Jesuits under the guidance of the imperial workshops in Beijing.
In addition to Beijing as a center of glass technology and design development, the cosmopolitan harbor city Guangzhou, where regular glass imports from abroad impacted local material cultures, played an important role. In particular, Guangzhou-made reverse glass and mirror paintings are well-known and collected by many museums world-wide.
While these paintings were largely made for export, in Guangzhou itself sheets of imported glass were integrated into segmented wooden frames in the construction of colorful windows known today as “Manchuria Windows”. At the time, Guangzhou was an important center of carpentry, influenced in many ways by the influx of Western materials, styles and types of furniture.
Accordingly, Guangzhou windows were complex and innovative designs made by some of the most skillful carpenter workshops in China at the time. Artisans were taught and inspired by European as well as Chinese technologies and aesthetics.