Tasting Chocolate at the Kangxi Court:
Medicine, Politics, and Global Trade Flows in the 17th Century
Beatriz Puente-Ballesteros, Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz
Cosponsored with the Mahindra Humanities Center and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Organized by James Robson, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and William French, Teaching Fellow in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Between 1697 and 1705, a series of eight tapestries in wool and silk, known collectively as “The Story of the Emperor of China,” were commissioned to be sold to the Duc du Maine, son of Louis XIV. Among the scenes portrayed there, is one entitled “The Collation,” depicting the Kangxi emperor proudly holding a chalice full of chocolate while observing his beloved wife, who is being served a cup of tea. This fascinating piece of chinoiserie inspires the following question: Was this reality or fiction? Qing court documents provide factual evidence that the Manchu ruler indeed tasted chocolate, or cokola, but that it was not to his liking. Why did the Son of Heaven dismiss “the food of the gods” (Theobroma cacao)? With a detailed analysis of this case, Puente-Ballesteros will weave a distinct tapestry in which medicine, Qing imperial politics, and global history are interwoven.
Beatriz Puente-Ballesteros currently has a ZIF Marie Curie postdoctoral research contract at the Zukunftskolleg, Department of History and Sociology of the Universität Konstanz (Germany). Puente-Ballesteros’ research focuses on the social and cultural history of court medicine in late imperial China and medical exchanges between Europe and the Qing court during the Kangxi period, especially on the roles played by members of the Society of Jesus. Puente-Ballesteros obtained her PhD degree in the history of science department at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain). Her thesis was awarded the best doctorate of the Faculty of Medicine in the academic year 2008-2009 as well as with the prize “Hernández Morejón” for the best doctoral dissertation in the history of medicine granted by the Spanish Society for History of Medicine in 2010. After attaining her PhD, Puente-Ballesteros worked three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Sinology of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium).