Boyao Ma, March 16

Speaker: Boyao Ma (Visiting Graduate Student, Department of Art History, University of Chicago; Ph.D Candidate, Department of Archaeology, Sichuan University)

Expanding Space in Passageway: the Architectural Space and Image of a 5th-century Tomb in Xi’an”

Discussant: Li Jiang (Ph.D Student, Department of Art History, University of Chicago)

Wednesday, March 16th, 2022
4:45 – 6:45 pm CT, Hybrid (In-person at CWAC 152 + livestream via Zoom)

Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. 

(Aerial view of the painted carved-earth gatehouses at the Zhongzhao tomb, Xi’an.)

The Zhongzhao Tomb in Xi’an, with a total length of over 80 meters and the unusual structure of painted carved-earth gatehouses at the top of connecting corridors, was built for an elite couple during the Sixteen-Kingdoms period (304 CE – 439 CE). The architectural space and pictorial decoration of this tomb work together to create a symbolic space that simulates multiple courtyards. Compared to previous burial, the Zhongzhao tomb represents a significant shift in the spatial expansion of passageway, as evidenced by increases in both physical and symbolic space. The “vermilion pillars and white walls” shown by the painted carved-earth gatehouse is strikingly comparable to the literature description of the gatehouse in Yecheng, one of the capital cities of the time, creating a temporary visual spectacle above-ground amid the funeral activities. The Zhongzhao tomb is an excellent representation of the dimorphic of “hiding” and “showing” in burial, conveying the significance of the spatial expansion in passageway during the early medieval China.
Boyao Ma is currently a visiting graduate student in the Department of Art History, the University of Chicago. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of Archaeology, Sichuan University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree. He primarily focuses on archaeology of burials and buddhism in the early medieval China, currently working on his dissertation about the stone mortuary equipments between the fifth to the eighth century.
Li Jiang is a PhD student of East Asian art history, focusing primarily on funerary art in ancient and early medieval China. Li Jiang received her MA from the University of Chicago in 2018. Her thesis examined the fragments of a lacquer screen from an elite burial of the Northern Wei dynasty. Her current research involves the material cultural and inter-regional issues in northeast Asian tomb arts from the fourth to seventh centuries.


This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures. 

Stephanie Lee, November 10th

Speaker: Stephanie Lee (Ph.D. Candidate, Northwestern University)

“The Social Lives of Picture Postcards

Discussant: Kaeun Park (Ph.D. Student, University of Michigan)

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021 (Rescheduled to January 12, 2022)

4:45 – 6:45 pm CT, Remotely via Zoom

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


This paper reads a select group of colonial Korean picture postcards in the East Asia Image Collection at Lafayette University. These postcards, or e-hagaki 絵葉書 flourished from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. With the standardization of domestic and international postal services and reprographic technologies, ehagaki and its artists illuminated curated snapshots of culture, craft, colonial women, and landscapes for ravenous collectors and tourists. Commissioned by both public bodies like the Government General of Chosŏn and Japanese Government Railways, as well as private entities, like artist-owned sōsaku hanga 創作版画 publishers, postcards allowed Japanese modernist aesthetics, local color, and intimate configurations of labor to be shared with a wide circle of international consumers. In this presentation, I will explore how the picture postcard’s materiality mediates time and knowledge formation at the turn of the century and contemporaneous intimate practices which would change the meanings of the picture postcards.


Envelope for a set of picture postcards. Chosen Customs. Set 3. c.1918-1933. East Asian Image Library, Lafayette University.


Stephanie Lee studies early modern and modern printmaking, specializing in Dutch and Japanese works-on-paper. Her work is particularly concerned with the role of prints and printmaking in the processes of transcultural mediation within the Japanese Empire. She is currently a Legal Fellow at the Center for Legal Studies and a doctoral student in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. 


Kaeun Park looks at histories of modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on photography in Korea. She received her Master’s degree in Art History from Binghamton University, and her thesis was titled “Reconsidering Everyday Life Photography: Saenghwalchuŭi Sajin in South Korea in the 1950s and the 1960s”. Her thesis analyzes the discourse of “everyday life photography” and the photographic practice it sustained in South Korea during the 1950s and 1960s. She examines the cultural, artistic, and political conditions under which the conception of “everyday life photography” emerged and was promoted, analyzing the ways in which “everyday life” photographs related to Koreans’ experience of “everyday life (saenghwal)” and also opened a space for social critique.

In her Ph.D. dissertation, she hopes to continue her research on photography from cross-disciplinary and multiregional perspectives. Her dissertation examines postwar South Korean documentary photographic practices. Besides working on photography, she has written on a wide range of topics related to Korean art such as architecture and commercial design during the colonial period, 1970s performance art, and ecological art practices in the late 1980s, among other things. 

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.