Lucien Sun, October 27th

Speaker: Lucien Sun (Ph.D. Student, Department of Art History)

Flipping Over and Stretching Out: Reading an Accordion-Fold Painting

Discussant: Shiqiu Liu (Ph.D. Candidate, University of Melbourne)

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

5:45 – 7:45 pm CT, Remotely via Zoom

*Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting.


A new binding format—a long sheet of paper folded back and forth to formulate the shape of an accordion—emerged in China during the Tang–Song transition. Historians of book usually refer to it as jingzhe zhuang 經折裝. Few have considered, however, the specificity of this accordion-fold binding style as art medium, despite that many sutras contain a multi-page frontispiece illustration. This special format allows the viewer to flip over pages of picture like reading an illustrated bound book and meanwhile stretch out several consecutive pages, fold them, and proceed as if rolling a handscroll. In this paper, I will study a twelfth-century Buddhist painting attributed to the artist Zhang Shengwen 張勝溫 of the Dali Kingdom. My analysis of this painting concentrates on the complicated relations between the accordion-fold medium and the images it bears, a path that hardly anyone has taken before. The first six pages of the painting that depict the procession of the Dali emperor Zhixing and his entourage provide us with a starting point to formulate some structural principles that the artist followed when working on an accordion fold. Several symmetrical scenes of different scale in this painting further demonstrate how the artist reconciled the conflict between the desired iconic composition and the material circumstances of this format. Through a close reading of this painting, I intend to come up with a preliminary set of features that characterize the incredible flexibility of this popular East Asian art medium in relation to the artist, the viewer and the images it bears.


Zhang Shengwen. Dali Emperor Duan Zhixing and his entourage worshipping the Buddha. Pages 1–6. 1173–1176 CE. Each page H. 30.4 cm x W. 12 cm. Color on paper. National Palace Museum, Taipei.


Lucien Sun  is a PhD student in in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Fudan University, Shanghai. He also spent a year at the University of Tokyo studying Japanese collections of Chinese and East Asian art. He is currently interested in how picture in its broad sense moved across space, borders, and visual media in north China between the eleventh to the fourteenth century.


Shiqiu Liu is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and holds a MA from the University of St Andrews. Her current research is on art works produced under the cultural exchanges stimulated by the Mongol rule of Eurasia in the fourteenth century, focusing especially on works made by professional artisans for those ethnically non-Chinese in Yuan China. She is interested in pre-modern artistic exchanges through cultural communications between China and areas around East and Central Asia.

Yoon-Jee Choi

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