April 3, Hongxia Dong

Monday, April.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

云冈石窟与女性“在场”   The Female Presence in the Yungang Grottoes

董虹霞 Hongxia Dong

Associate Professor, Taiyuan University of Technology

*Please notice the special time of the talk, also notice that the presentation will be given in Chinese

二佛并坐像 云冈石窟第九窟前室北壁上层西龛


云冈石窟作为中国最早的由少数民族政权开凿的皇家佛教石窟,自1902年被日本建筑史学家伊东忠太重新发现以来,得到了来自日本、 欧美和国内学者的关注与研究,他们的努力极大地推动了云冈石窟价值的彰显。其中,日本学者Z. Tsukamoto提出关于北魏石窟赞助人的研究可以分为三个层次:(1)皇家和拓跋氏贵族的赞助;(2)僧侣的赞助;(3)信众的赞助。而来自英属哥伦比亚大学( The University of British Columbia)的学者 James O. Caswell 补充建议道:每一层次中还应该分出男女。 James在这里暗示出了“女性”在其中的特别与重要性。“云冈石窟与女性在场”这一课题便以“想象性在场”和“推论性在场”两种方式,带有实验性地探讨了北魏“女性”在云冈石窟早期、中期、中晚期的“在场”情形,其中涉及到皇太后、太皇太后这类强势女主,也有清信女、比丘尼、贵族妻等民间女性。希望以此课题丰富我们对于云冈石窟的认识与想象。


Monday, April.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact  Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)


March.10, Jonathan Hay

Friday, March.10, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Action and Enaction: Cities, Tombs, Paintings

Jonathan Hay

Ailsa Mellon Bruce Professor of Fine Arts, the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Please notice that this workshop will be conducted in the format of a seminar with a 10-15 minute introduction by Prof. Hay. Please read following three readings and prepare for some questions in advance. 

The three articles are:

“The Reproductive Hand” (2013)



“Seeing through Dead Eyes: How Early Tang Tombs Staged the afterlife”(2014)



“Green Beijing: Ecologies of Movement in the New Capital C. 1450.” (2016)



Prof. Hay has also provided a guideline of how these texts should be approached, and it reads:

“I have selected for discussion three texts on different aspects of Chinese art, none of which is long and two of which are quite short. The longest, the research article “Seeing through Dead Eyes,” proposes a way of approaching tomb art that would supplement Wu Hung’s highly developed methods. The article explores the hypothesis that tomb building and tomb decoration at the beginning of the eighth century C.E. can be understood partly as a technology for the creation of afterlife choices by the soul of the deceased. The technology transformed the enclosed architectural space of the tomb into a vast residential compound with a multitude of possibilities of movement that extended even to visits from one afterlife residence to another. At the workshop, I will develop a point not discussed in the article itself: that this technology reflected an aristocratic view of life as the possibility of choices, in opposition to the absence of choice in imprisonment, servitude, and slavery. The theoretical essay, “The Reproductive Hand,” develops the theme of technology along different lines in order to understand better the practice of replication of paintings, especially during the period prior to the fifteenth century. I argue that the production of replicas is best understood as a cyborg technology in which the human practitioner effectively made himself into a machine. “Seeing through Dead Eyes” makes the theoretical argument that the concept of representation, which has long dominated art historical interpretation, is incomplete. When the central question of art history shifts from “What does the artwork mean?” to “How does the artwork make sense?” (alternatively, “What does the artwork do?”), it becomes necessary to balance representation with a separate concept of enactment. “The Reproductive Hand” extends the concept of enactment to include reenactment.


In a separate direction, the article “Green Beijing” sketches out a method for analyzing a city (Beijing ca. 1450) in art historical terms. More obviously than a tomb or a painting, a city is in constant movement, reconfiguring itself from moment to moment. And to a greater degree than a tomb or a painting, a city coordinates multiple elements. How can one do justice to this movement and multiplicity? The article argues for the usefulness of two interelated concepts, situation and scape, both of which have a counterpart in the Chinese concept of shi. As I use the terms in this article and elsewhere, situation is the interpretative counterpart to the epistemological concept of scape.


My practice as an art historian has been to multiply theoretical approaches and areas of inquiry without worrying too much about intersections and convergences. Nonetheless these occur. One could discuss the early eighth-century tombs or the pre-fifteenth century paintings in terms of situation and scape, just as one could discuss fifteenth-century Beijing in terms of technologies of enactment and reenactment. If you find it useful, we can do so during the workshop.”

Friday, March.10, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

March. 3, Panpan Yang

Friday, March.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

The Romance of Lychee and Mirror: Teochew Opera Film and the Question of Remediation

Panpan Yang

Ph.D. Student, Department of Cinema and Media Studies & Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Judith Zeitlin (William R Kenan, Jr. Professor, East Asian Languages & Civilizations) will serve as discussant.

The Romance of Lychee and Mirror (荔鏡記/陳三五娘, dir. Zhu Shilin, 1962)


In the late 1950s, as a response to China’s national opera reform movement, Teochew opera—a minor opera originating in the Teochew region in Guangdong Province, China—abolished its “all children cast” tradition and tapped into the territory of opera film. In the early 1960s, a robust body of Teochew opera films, co-produced by Hong Kong and China, attained unprecedented popularity in southern China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. This paper traces the fascinating but unknown history of Teochew opera film, exploring the crafting of a distinct opera film genre through melding opera with the cinematic, its translocal reception, and the question of remediation.


The emergence of Teochew opera film can be read as an intense process of remediation between cinema and opera. Is the process of remediation a tension-filled competition between different media or a two-way fertilization? Can the technique of elliptical editing be creatively used to avoid the incongruities between suppositional operatic performance and realistic film sets and props? How does Teochew opera film translate a cinematic and an operatic organization of time? Is Southeast Asian audiences’ repeated viewing of Teochew opera film secretly linked to nostalgia? These questions invite a renewed understanding of the “medium” as a concept and shed light on the making of a minor culture in an increasingly connected world.

Friday, March.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao(yunfeishao@uchicago.edu) or Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)

Feb.10. Meng Zhao

Friday, Feb.24, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156 

Alone in A Magnitude: Wandering Scholar in Fishing Village in Light Snow

Meng Zhao

Ph.D. Student, Art History, University of Chicago

Fishing Village in Light Snow 漁村小雪圖, Wang Shen, Northern Song Dynasty, Ink and color on silk, The Palace Museum


The end of the eleventh century witnessed a profound transformation of expectations regarding Chinese landscape painting and of the perception of nature itself. In departing from normative monumental landscape aesthetics that characterizes the preceding Northern Song landscape art, Wang Shen, an aristocratic bureaucrat and artist, crafted a so-called “dream landscape” defined by insubstantial forms, animated structure, and the play between proximity and distance. It is within this rhythmic setting that the wandering scholar first makes his debut in the history of Chinese landscape painting. In separating this scholarly wanderer from countless human figures oft depicted “decorating” natural environments, such as fishermen and woodcutters, this paper attempts to articulate and account for the otherness of the wandering scholar in landscape, as partly informed by the compositional logic of a richly atmospheric handscroll by Wang Shen, Fishing Village in Light Snow. For the first time in Chinese landscape painting, the individual mind is necessarily externalized as a human figure that endows landscape with a totalizing tenor which defines the theme of Light Snow as primarily human’s encounter with nature.

Friday, Feb.24, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao(yunfeishao@uchicago.edu) or Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)

Feb.10, QI LU

Friday, Feb.10, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Camp for Posthumous Life: Spatial Conception of Liao Khitan Royal Tombs

Qi LU, Ph.D. Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Summer Landscape, Detail of Peonies and deer, South-west Wall, Central Chamber of the Eastern Mausoleum [After Tamura Jitsuzo and Kobayashi Yukio, Keiryo (Kyoto:Kyoto daigaku bungakubu, 1953), Plate 53.]


This paper explores the unique spatial conception of Liao royal tombs by investigating the murals in the Liao Eastern Mausoleum located at Qingling, with a special focus on the four seasonal landscape paintings. Though seen in tombs as early as the Han period, the landscape mural from the late Tang and Song onwards were often framed like screens that decorated the burial chamber as part of its interior furnishing. The four seasonal landscape murals installed on the four walls of the Eastern Mausoleum’s middle chamber have been discussed in the same line, but this paper argues for a different interpretation. Rather than used to help imagine an interior space, the mural’s monumental sizes and the zigzag composition with no frame that continue through all four murals immediately bring the inhabitable open field into the tomb space. As city culture flourished during the Tang-Song period, open country was conceptualized into a notion of wildness contrary to the cultivation of city. This concept of space is manifested in the pictorial programs in contemporaneous Han Chinese people’s tombs. However, the depiction of the inhabitable open country in the Khitan tombs actually reminds of their camp life and the blurry boundary between the living space and nature, interior and exterior. In the case of the Eastern Mausoleum, moving the four inhabitable hills into the tomb space in the cycle of the year, the subterranean chambers are transformed into an ideal yurt complex that is able to encamp at a different open space in each season, an effective way to bring about the nomadic lifestyle in the otherwise immobile underground space. In the later Khitan royal tombs, the yurt complex that the Eastern Mausoleum modeled after became a motif—a small-scaled replica—prevalently portrayed on the walls of the tomb passages. Rather than merely a model of the ideal structure, the yurt complex is placed on the camel chariot. Thus the logic reverses: people did not directly bring the mountains and trees into the tombs as seen in the Eastern Mausoleum, but the chariot, with the ideal yurt complex on it, is a movable home that allows the deceased to leave the “camp” and to move to the vast inhabitable open country outside the tomb. In other words, the pictorial program in the tomb over the Liao period in a sense turned the permanent underground space into a temporary camp for the emperor’s posthumous life.

Friday, Feb.10, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao(yunfeishao@uchicago.edu) or Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)

Feb.8 & 9, Jin Xu

***This is a mock job talk. The same talk will be given twice in order to suit different schedule of the faculty. Participants are welcomed to attend either one. ***

Wednesday, Feb.8, 12 PM to 1 PM, CWAC 157

Thursday, Feb.9, 5 PM to 6 PM, CWAC 157

“Persian Brocades:” World, Community and Self in Chinese Sogdian Art

Jin Xu,Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Chicago

Sogdians were an Iranian people originating in Central Asia. From the 3rd to 9th century CE, Sogdian merchants traveled extensively along the Silk Road, dominating the trade between the East and the West before the advent of Islamic civilization. Focusing on some best-known examples of their ritual and religious art, this talk discusses how Sogdian immigrant merchants in 6th-century China used “Persian Brocades” to express their cosmopolitan vision of the world, shared identity as a community, and individualistic view of the self. It is hoped that, through the eyes of Sogdian immigrants, we can gain confidence to handle the challenges the world is facing at the moment.

Wednesday, Feb.8, 12 PM to 1 PM, CWAC 157

Thursday, Feb.9, 5 PM to 6 PM, CWAC 157

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao(yunfeishao@uchicago.edu) or Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)


Friday, Feb.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Artists, Protesters, Museum Administrators: Singapore and Hong Kong

Mechtild Widrich,

Professor of the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at School of Art Institute of Chicago

(photocredit: Sampson Wong)

How do the globally positioned art hubs of contemporary art engage native and visiting audiences? How do institutions like museums and universities negotiate the tension between national politics and global art and intellectual discourses? And how do artists engage in local struggles and broader circuits of publicity? I investigate these questions by comparing two art geographies, that of Singapore and Hong Kong, that have much in common culturally and economically (former colonies and vibrant trade centers) but also radically divergent political structures and art communities.


In Singapore, I focus particularly on the trio of the recently opened National Gallery Singapore, with its simultaneous claim to pan-ethnic national and regional coverage; the NTU Center for Contemporary Art at Gillman’s Barracks, which stakes a claim to cosmopolitan art discourse within an art-gallery and university setting; and the Freeport, a for-profit art storage concept originating in Switzerland. In the case of the NGS and the Gillman’s Barracks, the reuse of British colonial buildings adds to the complexity of the image of a post-ethnic city state; I accordingly pay attention also to critiques of this ideal in the work of Singapore and foreign artists.

In Hong Kong, the recent ascent of the art scene to global prominence (with, e.g., the opening of the Art Basel Hong Kong) has taken place at the same time as the tense transition to Mainland Chinese political sovereignty. This is important to the city’s most dynamic art institutions, notably the M+ museum in the Kowloon Culture District (already operating, the building to be opened in 2019). Indeed, the Umbrella Movement, an activist Hong-Kong based democratic student movement, introduced a conscious merging of art and activism to East Asia. Sampson Wong, urbanist, artist, and writer, and Wen Yau, cross-media artist, curator, writer were involved in the movement and in the production of activist props now being archived by Wong. These items are design pieces, memorabilia, and potent political props, as discussion around the potential incorporation of these items into collections, notably the M+, shows.

Friday, Feb.3, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)

Jan. 20, Elizabeth Lillehoj

Friday, Jan.20, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Art, War, and Hideyoshi: The 1596 Ming Investiture of a King of Japan and an East Asian Diplomatic Disaster

Elizabeth Lillehoj

Professor of the Department of History of Art & Architecture at DePaul University

The largest war anywhere in the world in the sixteenth century was the Sino-Japanese-Korean War. It began in 1592 when Japanese forces serving under Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea, where they were met by allied Joseon and Ming armies. The war resulted in horrific destruction to Joseon culture. Libraries were looted, religious centers razed, treasured heritage destroyed. Tens of thousands of Koreans were abducted and many more died. Not only were Koreans victimized, but Chinese defenders also paid a terrible price for intervening to save their neighbor and vassal state. Recent research reveals that Japan suffered a great loss, as well, a fact that few Edo-period sources acknowledged.

Many important documents on the Sino-Japanese-Korean War have been overlooked because they are images not texts. Yet, paintings, printed books, garments, and other works of visual culture tell us a great deal about the war and the diplomacy meant to end it. Several particularly meaningful works reveal the perspectives of the combatants—perspectives so disparate that rulers were deceived and diplomacy completely failed. Among these works are two portrait paintings with potent ideological messages, one capturing the Japanese warlord Hideyoshi and the other depicting Ming Emperor Wanli. Another significant but lost painting documents diplomatic efforts: Soga Chokuan’s Goshawk, which bears an inscription dated 1596 by Yang Fangheng, the deputy Ming investiture envoy. Yang had arrived in Japan during a truce to secure peace, and it is said that he nearly lost his life when Hideyoshi realized that the Ming investiture did not confer upon him the spoils of war he expected.

Also central to the story of Ming diplomacy are investiture robes and handscrolls with appointments from Wanli presented to Hideyoshi to install him as King of Japan and thus signifying his status below the Ming emperor. Hideyoshi was duped; he thought the envoys had arrived to concede a Ming loss in the war. Soon he learned that the envoys had just pronounced his vassalage to the Ming emperor. The diplomats who arranged the truce had lied to both Hideyoshi and Wanli in their attempt to settle the costly military engagement. Although the Ming envoys escaped with their heads, Hideyoshi immediately ordered a resumption of hostilities and Korea was plunged into carnage once again. The war only ended in 1598 with Hideyoshi’s death and Japan’s withdrawal from Korea.

After the demise of Hideyoshi, the purpose and nature of his campaign was obscured—whitewashed, really—but in the late eighteenth century scenes of the war were published in printed pages of the Taikōki (Chronicles of the Regent Hideyoshi), with a romanticized focus on the heroism of Hideyoshi’s generals. About the same time, a number of shrine tablets was painted with scenes of ancient Empress Jingū launching her legendary invasion of Korea, a theme Hideyoshi had employed as a call to arms in the 1590s. One such tablet, from the early nineteenth century, retells for late Edo-period audiences the tale of Jingū’s aggression, glorifying the samurai ethic associated with Hideyoshi and pairing it with a notion of sacred imperial authority.

Artworks can tell us things that written documents do not in visually representing the state of East Asian relations in the sixteenth century, along with constructed memory of the Sino-Japanese-Korean War. More than mere reflections of the war, artworks helped to build the conceptual platform based on which the seven-year war was fought.

Friday, Jan.20, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)


Tuesday, Dec.6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

An Interpretation of Yatsuhashi (‘the Eight-plank Bridge’): Space and Memory in Edo Political History

Timon Screech, 

Professor of the History of Art at SOAS, University of London


The Japanese landscape is filled with ‘famous places’, also known as ‘poetic pillows’, meaning sites that figures from the past wrote compellingly about in words that were remembered ever after. Naturally, most sites were near Kyoto, but areas to the East are not entirely devoid of them. Some sites were specific locations, some generic, and others had a specificity that was lost over time.

This talk will be centered on Yatsuhashi, which is in Mikawa, though no one knew quite where. It opens the ‘Decent to the East’ section of the Tales of Ise, which continues with a journey past Shizuoka, over Hakone and to Musashi, Since Musashi was where the Tokugawa family created their shogunate 600 years later, Yatsuhashi acquired special meaning in Edo times.

We will consider the wider meanings of this site, and also of others that the new shogunate sought to associate itself with.

Tuesday, Dec.6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)

Dec.2, Josh Yiu

Friday, Dec.2, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Lui Shou-kwan (1919-1975) and Modern Chinese Art

Josh Yiu, Director of the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


This will be a case study of a marginalized mid-century Chinese artist who pioneered the ink movement that came to be known as ‘contemporary ink’ today.  Born and raised in mainland China, Lui Shou-kwan 呂壽琨(1919-1975) spent most of his adult life in Hong Kong, and his life hardly revolved around the momentous events that shaped the developments of art academies and artists in mainland China.  As modern Chinese art history is largely subsumed within the fabric of political history of modern China, it is understandable that artists outside of mainland China, especially those who were active in Hong Kong and Taiwan, may not sit well in this narrative.  While they are not neglected, they are often portrayed as regional artists in outlying chapters.  Therefore, some of them, including Lui Shou-kwan, have been art historiographically marginalized, even though their work and thinking may be no less progressive than their contemporaries working in the mainland.  My talk will explore Lui’s theoretical thinking that led him to negotiate the classical tradition and Abstract Expressionism, as well as to investigate his unique perspective on contemporary art that was global yet Sino-centric.  The presentation will conclude with the suggestion that the modernism in Chinese art is not–and should not be–simply be defined by visual elements and ‘innovative’ styles.


Friday, Dec. 2, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao(yunfeishao@uchicago.edu) or Zhiyan Yang (zhiyan@uchicago.edu)