This set of engravings recording the Emperor Qianlong's campaigns (1755-1759) in Central Asia, present-day Xinjiang, was commissioned by the emperor for the palace in Beijing in 1765. The Jesuit missionaries involved in producing the drawings in China were Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), Jean-Denis Attiret (1702-1768), Ignace Sichelbarth (1708-1780) and Jean Damascene (d. 1781). The engravings were executed in Paris under the direction of Charles-Nicolas Cochin of the Académie Royal at the Court of Louis XVI and the individual engravers include Le Bas, Aliamet, Prevost, Saint-Aubin, Masquelier, Choffard and De Launay.
The first four of the sixteen designs were sent to Europe in 1765 and arrived in France in the autumn of 1766. Castiglione and Attiret died before the Emperor Qianlong received a complete set of the engravings by 1775. The commission had been for 100 copies of the set but in fact 200 were actually printed to ensure the safe receipt of at least 100. A small number were reserved for the French king, his ministers and court officials and precautions were taken to ensure none were left with the engravers or printers. A French version of the imperial edict concerning the commission is in the National Archives in Paris.
Complete sets of these engravings are relatively rare: a set is in the Bibliothèque Mazarine; another in the Bibliothèque Nationale; a third in the Musée Guimet; and a set given by Louis XVI to Necker, now in Castle Coppet in Switzerland. Another complete set was sold in these rooms 20/21 March 1997, lot 286. And an incomplete set, of thirteen, was sold by Sotheby's, New York, 19 September 1995, lot 339.