Symposium jointly organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and
University of Chicago

May 3-5, 2018
Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Fullerton and Price Auditoriums

Elaborate bronze vessels and bells are the most impressive artifacts to have survived from ancient China. Their manufacture arose with the emergence of ruling powers that used them in rituals venerating ancestors and spirits. Dramatic in form and exquisitely ornamented, they were more than mere appurtenances, embodying the political authority and elite social status of their owners. Their symbolic significance was revived in later millennia, as ancient bronzes were rediscovered, collected, studied, and reproduced. Bronzes, particularly those with inscriptions, were regarded as the material vestiges of a revered historical past. They signified cultural continuity and collecting them was an expression of a cultivated historical awareness, or “antiquarianism” that anticipated parallel trends in the West by hundreds of years.

Foremost among Song collectors were scholars such as Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) and Li Gonglin (1049-1106) and the emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126), who commissioned catalogues and reproductions of bronzes. During the Qing dynasty the emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) not only assembled large collections, but also commissioned copies in various materials. These bronzes and their copies served as instruments of cultural policy, as well as the visual expression of imperial authority and historical legitimacy. As collecting and studying bronzes became an inherent aspect of literati and popular culture, the reproduction and forgery of bronzes became a flourishing industry.

The Way of the Vessel is the first symposium to explore the cultural roles of Chinese bronzes both in their original contexts and in later times. Scholars in the fields of archaeology, art history, and classical literature will delve into the social, political, and religious meanings and artistic practices of Chinese bronze culture from antiquity down to modern times.


Thursday, May 3, at 6:00 p.m.
Location: Fullerton Hall, the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603)

6:00 pm Welcome by the director of the Art Institute of Chicago

6:05-7:00 pm Keynote Speech
Martin Powers, Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures,
University of Michigan
The Multifarious Afterlives of Classical Chinese Bronze Vessels

Friday, May 4, at 9:30 a.m.
Location: Price Auditorium, Art Institute of Chicago
9:30 am Introductory Remarks: Wu Hung, University of Chicago and Tao Wang,
the Art Institute of Chicago

Panel 1: Early Chinese Bronze Culture
Chair: Yung-ti Li, Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations,
University of Chicago
9:40-10:10 am Sarah Allan, Professor Emerita of Asian Studies, Dartmouth College
The Beginning of Chinese Bronze Culture
10:10-10:40 am Eugene Wang, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
Why Do a Tiger and an Owl Co-exist on a Shang Bronze Vessel?
10:40-11:00 am Break
11:00-11:30 am Liu Yang, Head of Chinese, South and Southeast Asian Art Department & Curator of Chinese Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art
‘Pillsbury’s Owl’: A New Study of the Shang Dynasty Owl-Shaped zun at Mia
11:30-12:00 pm Han Ding, Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology, Henan University
How to Understand Shang Bronze Motifs in their Archaeological Context
12:00-12:30 pm Discussion
12:30-2:00 pm Lunch

Panel 2: Technology and Methodology
Chair: Jenny F. So, Adjunct Professor, Department of Fine Arts,
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Independent Chinese Art Historian
2:00-2:30 pm Su Rongyu, Research Fellow, Institute of the History of Natural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Science
Research on the Separate Casting of Knobs on the Lids on Shang Bronzes
2:30-3:00 pm Guolong Lai, Associate Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, University of Florida
The Two “Song” Tureens: Lessons Learned from the Past Studies of Chinese Bronzes
3:00-3:20 pm Break
3:20-3:50 pm Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, University of Chicago
Did King Cuo have a set of nine tripods?: A methodological reflection
3:50-4:20 pm Tao Wang, Executive Director of Initiatives in Asia, Pritzker Chair of Asian Art, and Curator of Chinese Art, Art Institute of Chicago
A Cultural Analysis of Bronze Color and Patina from the Bronze Age to Modern Times
4:20-4:50 pm Discussion

Saturday, May 5
Panel 3: From the End of Bronze Age to Later Revival
Chair: Wei-cheng Lin, Associate Professor,
Department of Art History, University of Chicago
9:40-10:10 am Lothar von Falkenhausen, Professor of Chinese Archaeology and Art History, University of California at Los Angeles
Han Dynasty Bronze Bells: New Insights from Recent Discoveries
11:00-11:30 am Jeffrey Moser, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Brown University
Fungible Things: Cataloguing Bronzes and Commodifying Antiquity in Song China
10:40-11:00 am Break
11:00-11:30 am Pengliang Lu, Assistant Curator, Department of Asian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rethinking the Archaistic Design of Song-Yuan Bronzes
11:30-12:00 pm Bruce Rusk, Associate Professor of Chinese Studies, University of British Columbia
The Impossible Bronzes of Xuande (1425-36)
12:00-12:30 pm Discussion
12:30-2:00 pm Lunch

Panel 4: Antiquarianism and Dissemination
Chair: Katherine R. Tsiang, Associate Director,
Center for East Asian Art, University of Chicago
2:00-2:30 pm Francois Louis, Associate Professor, Bard Graduate Center, New York
Qianlong’s Jue Tripods and Pre-Antiquarian Learning
2:30-3:00 pm Nancy Berliner, Wu Tung Senior Curator of Chinese Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
From Bronzes to Bogu to Bapo: How the Passion for Ancient Vessels Fostered the Development of a new 19th century Artform
3:00-3:20 pm Break
3:50-4:20 pm Tingting Xu, Assistant Curator, Peabody Essex Museum
Photographed with Bronzes: Duanfang, His Communities, and the Late Qing Antiquarian Practices
3:50-4:20 pm Tai Xiangzhou, Artist and Independent scholar
Picture and Image: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Concepts of Depicting Bronze Vessels from My Experience of Painting the Xiao Chen Zi you
4:20-4:50 pm Discussion