The emperor Kangxi (r. 1662-1722) created the Southern Study or Imperial Study (Nanshufang) so that he could have near him, on call at any time of the day or night, Chinese scholar-officials who could teach him calligraphy, help him draft edicts, or compile numerous books published by the court. The officials at the Southern Study also conversed with the emperor on the Confucian classics and histories. They were artistic and cultural advisers for the emperor, composing poems and writing prose for or with him and appreciating and evaluating antiques, paintings, and calligraphy together. They even worked as political advisers for the emperor. After the Grand Council (Junjichu) was established around 1729, the political role of the Southern Study came to be radically diminished.
During the Qianlong period (1736-1795), the role of the Southern Study was limited to the areas of art and culture. Among the members of the Southern Study, the scholar-official painters at the Qianlong court played a significant role in the development of art and culture. They created numerous paintings for Qianlong, catalogued the bronzes, jades, mirrors, ceramics, paintings, and calligraphy in the Qing imperial collection, and appreciated and authenticated works of art with the emperor. They were at the center of the artistic and cultural efflorescence of the Qianlong era.