Roslyn Hammers

University of Hong Kong
Nantes IAS
Art & Art History
10 months


Research interests: history of Chinese art and art theory, representations of labor and technologically informed imagery

Research Project

Pictures of Cotton: Labor, the Economy, and the Imperial Production of Technological Knowledge in 18th-century China

This research project focuses on the pictorial reprensentation of cotton production in China during the 18th century. It concentrates on the Pictures of Cotton, a type of imagery that depicts the sequential steps of labor involved in the growing, harvesting, and the weavering of cotton. The study considers the motivations for the novel formation of this pictorial genre that was sponsored by Fang Guancheng (1696 / 1698 - 1768), a prominent beaureaucrat. Fang advocated for the role of cotton in the economy as he supplied explanatory texts for each of the steps, clarifying the procedures for presentation to the emperor. Classical Chinese theories of governance dictacte that the emperor needs to evince concern for the wellbeing of farming families. The Pictures of Cotton can be regarded as a means to advance displays of imperial benevolence while articulating innovations in technological knowledge. Both text and imagery work to incorporate claims to the classical heritage of China while drawing upon aspects of European empiricism. The Pictures of Cotton provide an alternative example of technological knowledge inspired by direct observation of laborers at work.


Roslyn Lee Hammers is an Associate Professor in the Art History Department of the University of Hong Kong. She earned her Ph.D in art history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Before taking on her position at the University of Hong Kong in 2006 she taught art history and Asian studies at Whitman College, Washington. She also was an Andrew W. Mellon fellow at the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge University, UK.
Roslyn conducts research on the history of Chinese art and art theory. Her main interest is in the representations of labor and technologically informed imagery. She applies an interdisciplinary approach to her studies, incorporating the history of science and technology, literary studies, economics history, and history. Through her research she aims to foster greater understanding of the roles of artistic production to shape discussions on social and cultural issues both past and present.