Research Project


What Does a Dragon Look Like? Appearance Politics in a Time of Usurpation 1380–1424

Lex Jing Lu

My IKGF project focuses on the role of physiognomists in early Ming China. Examining the poems, essays, and physiognomic manuals composed by Yao Guangxiao, Yuan Gong, and Yuan Zhongche, I aim to analyze the ways physiognomists crafted prognoses to enhance political advancement and build legitimacy. The fabricated physiognomic readings of Zhu Di’s face and body served as effective propaganda that rapidly spread throughout the society. It was a method that resonated with the populace because the knowledge of physiognomy was pervasive in traditional China. My goal is to tell the stories of behind-the-scenes political maneuverings in the process of image cultivation.

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