The Place for Thinking


There was a thriving market for Chinese or Chinese-styled goods in 18th-century Britain. Imports of expensive porcelain, silks, wallpaper and lacquerware for the upper classes stimulated the trend, and demand for these fashionable goods grew rapidly, reaching every level of society. Thomas Bowles, a London printmaker with an eye on contemporary fashions, delivered a desirable commodity with this engraving, which is part of a series entitled The Emperor of China’s Palace at Pekin, and his principal Gardens

Published in 1753, the views depict opulent imperial palaces and landscaped gardens in China, and are based on engravings by Matteo Ripa, an Italian missionary priest working for Emperor Kangxi between 1711 and 1723. Ripa is known for having introduced to China the technique of copperplate engraving for pictorial representations and maps.

This plate depicts the Emperor’s summer palace at Jehol (Chengde), while others show gardens, lakes, temples and pleasure houses at the palace in in Peking (Beijing).

Bowles adapted Ripa’s views for a target audience, none or at least very few of whom knew the ‘real’ China. These are idealised visions of ‘Cathay’, the China of fancy, produced to decorate walls and to demonstrate a buyer’s taste in current fashions.

Full title:
The Place for Thinking : A Pleasure House in View of a very pretty little Island.
1753, London
John and Thomas Bowles
Etching / Engraving / View
Thomas Bowles, Matteo Ripa
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Maps 7.Tab.73.

Full catalogue details

Related articles

The gardens at Kew

Article by:
Jocelyn Anderson
Town and city

From 1757 the royal grounds at Kew were transformed with a fabulous scheme of ornamental buildings and pleasure gardens. Engravings in the King’s Topographical Collection document the project, which was undertaken for George III’s mother Augusta. Jocelyn Anderson explores.

Pleasure in pleasure gardens

Article by:
Stephen Bending
Country, Town and city

During the 18th century, public and private gardens were designed as realms for entertainment, polite sociability and leisurely retreat. With reference to items in the King’s Topographical Collection, Stephen Bending explores how pleasure gardens were depicted in contemporary engravings – from the bustling commercial gardens of London to the landscaped parkland of a gentleman’s country estate.

Related collection items