March 2, Noriko Murai

Friday, March 2,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 152

“Current Encounters: Water Imagery in John La Farge’s Japan-Inspired Works”

Professor Noriko Murai

Associate Professor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University

John La Farge (1835-1910), A Rishi Calling Up a Storm, 1897, watercolor and gouache over graphite. Cleveland Museum of Art.

This paper examines the blending of nature and culture that frequently appears in the Japan-inspired works by the American artist John La Farge (1835-1910). In demonstrating the recurrence of water imagery in these works, it proposes that the natural element of water was not only central to La Farge’s imagination of East Asia, but also enabled the artist to visualize an intermediary realm “where the edges of the real and the imaginary melt.” His exploration of such cross-cultural space where ordinary boundaries became destabilized was moreover mediated by Okakura Kakuzō 岡倉 覚三 (aka Tenshin 天心, 1863-1913), the Japanese art historian and critic who became his lifelong friend. In the existing studies on La Farge, Okakura has typically been assigned the role of a “native informant” who taught the American the principles of East Asian philosophy. This paper challenges this one-sided account and demonstrates that their relationship was more synergetic.

Friday, March 2,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 152

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (

May 26, Yu-chih Lai

Friday, May 26,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Manchu Roots: Imperial Politics, Image Discourse, and European Botanical Studies at the Qianlong Court

Yu-chih Lai 賴毓芝

Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica


In 1750, Emperor Qianlong sent the second-rank imperial bodyguard of the Qianqing Palace to organize an expedition group of up to 37 people, including a court painter, to investigate a legendary tree grown in the Changbai Mountain, the sacred cradle of the Manchu origin. This tree was said to have eight branches belonging to eight different kinds of species. After more than one hundred days of climbing and wading, this group finally reached the tree, took the precise measurements, collected its leaves, branches, and cones as the specimens and came back. Sadly, the guard died at the end of the journey.

What is special about this story is that not only Emperor Qianlong composed an imperial rhyme to commemorate the expedition and renamed the tree as “Auspicious Tree” that meant to symbolize the longevity of the empire and the Heaven’s recognition of the Manchu’s ruling, but most importantly, he emphasized the empirical approach to document the existence of this tree and proclaimed that “what I state is all documentary truth, not empty words.” At least four sets of images were produced based on the accompanying painter’s sketches from the trip. Two of them clearly have much to do with the European tradition. One is the album depicting eight kinds of leaves in a style that reminds us of the botanical illustrations using watercolors in the European tradition that flourished since the Renaissance period. The other album contains eight kinds of actual leaves, just like the album of specimens in European fashion.

Why would Emperor Qianlong be so interested in this tree and take all the effort to investigate it first-handedly? Why would the European botanical tradition be adopted in representing it? This paper intends to focus on the reconstruction of the expedition, the making of the sacred tree, and how and what role the European botanical practice played in validating the traditional auspicious politics at the Qianlong court.

Friday, May 26,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (

May 19, Anne Feng

Friday, May 19,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Facing Vulture Peak: Pivoting Perspectives of Lady Vaidehi and a Visual Culture of the Pure Land

Anne Feng

Department of Art History, University of Chicago, Ph.D. candidate

This presentation offers a new framework for understanding the figure of Lady Vaidehī, an enigmatic character who serves as the arch meditator in Pure Land practices. In the textual tradition of narratives that concern Lady Vaidehi, she appears as a figure that is surprisingly difficult to identify with; and yet, a sophisticated visual culture of the Pure Land seems to pivot around her body and her viewpoints. In this talk, I pose a set of questions that have been neglected by previous scholars: What is the significance of this female figure? What does it mean to see through her eyes? I show that, through material and pictorial scaffolding at Dunhuang, she is designed as a viewer/worshipper par excellence, and Tang painters were deeply fascinated by the Buddha’s miraculous ability to traverse space to meet with her face to face.

 Friday, May 19,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact  Zhiyan Yang (

May 12, QIN Zhen

Friday, May 12,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156


The Grotto-heaven: Interpreting the Time and space pattern and Symbolic Structure in the Art of Han Tombs

秦臻  QIN Zhen

四川美术学院 教授, Professor, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute

*This talk will be delivered in Chinese.

成都博物院藏 成都百花潭东汉墓葬出土仙山座


Friday, May 12,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact  Zhiyan Yang (


April 27, Namiko Kunimoto

Thursday, April 27, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Figuration and Dissent

Namiko Kunimoto

Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art, Ohio State University

Katsura Yuki, Gonbe and Crow, 1966

This presentation examines the work of Katsura Yuki (1913-1991), a Tokyo-based painter and assemblage artist. Katsura enacted political resistance by representing contentious issues such as self-sacrifice in times of war, the United States Castle Bravo nuclear test, the representation of gay lovers, and the status of women in Japan. This presentation will focus specifically on her paintings from the 1930s-1960s, as well as her illustrations of the James Baldwin novel, Another Country, that were featured in the Asahi Journal in the 1960s. Katsura’s body of work evaded the overdetermined masculine heroics of abstract expressionism and action art that had taken Japan by storm in the postwar period, forging an innovative mode of expression that was whimsical and strange in its tone, but nonetheless bore a potent political thrust.


By experimenting with the visibility and invisibility of the body, I argue Katsura enacted what Jacques Rancière terms political “dissensus.” Rancière sees genuine art and politics as those that create new relations between the visible and the invisible, liberating bodies from their assigned places and breaking with the ‘natural’ order of the sensible. Similarly, by experimenting with the visibility of the Othered body Katsura reoriented aesthetic-political sensibility and opened up a space for a wider discourse on gender and race in Japan.

Thursday, April 27, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact  Zhiyan Yang (

April 14, Yu Hui

Friday, April 14, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

从细节发现历史——中国早期绘画鉴定与研究 Discovering History from Details – Research and Connoisseurship on Early Chinese Paintings

余辉  YU Hui

故宫博物院研究员, 国家文物鉴定委员会委员 Director of Research, Palace Museum in Beijing

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





Friday, April 14, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact  Zhiyan Yang (

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 (


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( or Zhiyan Yang (

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( or Zhiyan Yang (