Imperial Steam & Light

Imperial Steam and Light Chinese steampunk series from illustrator James Ng.

Imperial Steam & Light is a project inspired by Chinese history and the English Industrial Revolution. The standard of modernization is basically westernization, as the world becomes more modern, it also becomes more like the West. But what if China was the first to industrialize during the turn of the last century, creating an alternate standard of modernization? Maybe skyscrapers would look like Chinese temples? Cars would look like carriages? Perhaps China will still be in Imperial rule? And maybe we would have fantastical machines that look both futuristic and historical. Each image in the series is my attempt to visualize this alternative world.

Keep reading for current concepts, exhibitions, prints and my plans on developing a comic book!

Selected Samples

Chinese steampunk Imperial Airship flying castle concept art.
Generating mass air pollution in its path, the Imperial Airship is big enough to block out the sun as it approaches a village, demonstrating the overwhelming power of the Imperial family.

Chinese Steampunk Harvester farming robot concept art.
Cuts and waters crops with ease. A mix between a tractor, a robot, and multiple farming tools, the Harvester is the ultimate farming solution.

Chinese steampunk Bridal Carriage wedding chariot illustration.
In traditional Chinese marriage, the hour of the ceremony is crucial and often determined by a fortune teller. Skilled mechanist combined a Bridal Carriage with the power of the steam engine to ensuring the timely arrival of the bride, all the while displaying the wealth of the family.

Chinese steampunk Imperial Inventor character design with clockwork robot assistant.
Losing almost everything in a horrible engineering accident, the Imperial Inventor now focuses all his time creating new machines for the Imperial family. His only companions are his robotic servant, and pet parrot, for whom he also created a robot friend for.

Chinese character design of Immortal Empress steampunk queen.
With the exception of silver hair, the Immortal Empress retains a youthful appearance. She is permanently attached to her floating golden throne, that pumps a mixture of Mitha and advanced medicine directly into her ageing body. Essentially half human half machine, her place on the throne is eternal, as is her rule over the empire.

Night Patrol Chinese steampunk robot character art.
Assassins and thieves beware. Stepping into the circle of light generated by the Night Patrol will not only cause the guard dogs to attack but also set off the gong and baton alarm.

Imperial Sheriff Chinese steampunk swordsman character design.
The famed Imperial Sheriff of the Imperial City, known for his metallic arm The Iron Kirin.

Court Band Chinese steampunk music illustration.
Ever vigilant for assassins in disguise, the Blackguard, the Empress's elite group of servants, have replaced all court performers with Court Band to ensure the safety of the Empress.

Key Keeper and cats Chinese steampunk character design.
The recently deceased Key Keeper organized the keys for the Imperial Dungeon. With him gone, only his cats could pair the thousands of keys to their lock, but they refused to work without their master. The Imperial Inventor reanimated the Keeper's skeleton with steam engines to satisfy the loyal pets until they find a better solution. The skeleton of the eldest cat was also reanimated as a mobile key cutting machine.

Crystal Herbalist steampunk alchemist character design.
Aided by a pack of chipmunks, the Crystal Herbalist fuses ingredients into a smokable extract. Measuring the potency with the gauges in her reinforced organs, she offers the most potent results to the Empress to prolong her youth and reign.

Raccoon Express Chinese steampunk food train illustration.
A combination of steam ingenuity and street food culture, the Raccoon Express is a famous attraction of the Imperial City. A catchy tune performed by the chimney-bots signals its arrival and entices the public. A pack of trained raccoons trail the Express, cleaning up any mess left behind by the hungry mob near the tracks.

Steampunk character design concept art from the Imperial Steam and Light series.
Character Designs inspired by the Imperial Steam & Light world, including: a Clockwork Liondancer; a young couple in a teahouse and a Dimsum Robot; a boss of an underground gambling den, her bouncer and a robot hosting a game of dice; and finally a Pet Walker robot.

If you like the art so far, support the project by sharing with your friends!


Chinese steampunk art prints from Imperial Steam and Light series.

Open edition 10x14" prints of the Imperial Steam & Light series is available on Ebay and Etsy. The print job was managed personally to insure the colors are perfectly reproduced, take a look at the stores!


Gallery exhibitions of Imperial Steam and Light Asian steampunk series.

I'm very honored to have had the chance to exhibit the series in New York, California, Philadelphia, London, Italy, Beijing and Seoul. I had great memories from these events and I look forward to hearing more feedback from my upcoming shows!
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What's next?

Chinese steampunk Lotus Clan character design drafts.

Asian steampunk Elder Council concept art sketches.

Chinese steampunk Black Guard character design work in progress.
I'm currently developing the series into a comic book. I've written the basic story and even 250 years of alternative history that leads to the current setting. These are some first drafts of characters that will appear in the story.

Asian steampunk series Imperial Steam and Light drafts.

Along with character designs, I'm also working out some key scenes and settings in the story. The Imperial Steam & Light project is going to be a challenging endeavour, but it is something I have been working on for years and still feel very passionate about.

Please connect with me on social media for the latest artwork. I would love to hear your feedback!