Sooa Im McCormick, June 2

Speaker: Sooa Im McCormick (Curator of Korean Art, Cleveland Museum)

Korean Paper, a Trendy Item in Late Ming Literati Circle

Discussant: Yoon-Jee Choi (PhD student, Department of Art History)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021
4:45 – 6:45 pm CST, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



Any wars result in, not to mention significant loss of life, economic destruction, and human dislocation, but also opportunities for unexpected cultural and material transfers. Korean papers of variety including Mirror Surface Paper 鏡面紙, White Silky Paper 白綿紙 were among stable tributary gifts to the Ming imperial court, but during the Japanese invasion (1592-1598) they were increasingly demanded than before. These imported Korean papers were not exclusively used in the imperial court, but soon gained a new life as a trendy commodity when it entered the circle of leading literati artists such as Dong Qichang.

By locating Korean paper in the material world of late Ming-period literati artists, this research attempts to uncover how gift-exchange in a tributary system between China and Korea fashioned new artistic identities of Korean paper, to examine what materialistic features of Korean paper led late Ming artists to involve it in their artistic endeavors, such as the case of Dong Qichang’s River and Mountains on a Clear Autumn Day 江山秋霽圖 in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and finally to highlight the role of Korean imports in Chinese visual and material culture.
Dong Qichang 董其昌, River and Mountains on a Clear Autumn Day 江山秋霽圖 (1624–27), Handscroll: Ink on Korean paper, Painting only: 38.4 x 136.8 cm, The Cleveland Museum of Art.


Zoom Registration Link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (Recently, Zoom confirmations also tend to be categorized as Spam. Please also check your spam box for the confirmation email.).




Dr. Sooa Im McCormick is Curator of Korean Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She holds a PhD from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree from Rutgers University. Recently, she curated the exhibitions Interpretation of Materiality: Gold (4/30/2021-10/24/2021), as well as Gold Needles: Korean Embroidery Arts (3/8/2020-10/25/2020). While pursuing her curatorial career, Dr. McCormick remains active as a cutting-edge scholar. Her publications include “Re-Reading the Imagery of Tilling and Weaving of Eighteenth-Century Korean Genre Painting in the Context of the Little Ice Age,” in Anthology of Mountains and Rivers (without) End: Eco-Art History in Asia (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019) and “The Politics of Frugality: Environmental Crisis and Eighteenth-Century Korean Visual Culture,” in Forces of Nature (Cornell University Press, 2022).


Yoon-Jee Choi is a PhD student whose research revolves around material culture and inter-regional influence within East Asian art history, particularly concentrating on the latter half of Joseon Dynasty and modern Korean art history. She received her BA in Division of International Studies and History of Art from Ewha Womans University. She has completed her coursework for her MA in History of Art and is currently working on her thesis on Korean monkey paintings during the late Joseon Dynasty. She has interned for the National Museum of Korea and worked as a research assistant for the Asian Museum Institute in Seoul. Her current interests lie in Korean paintings that reflect diverse foreign interactions during the late 19th century.

Wang Lianming, May 7

Speaker: Wang Lianming (Assistant Professor of Chinese Art History, Heidelberg University)

Revisiting the Jesuit Gardens in Eighteenth-Century Beijing

Discussant: Yin Wu (PhD candidate, Art History, The University of Chicago)

May 7th (Friday), 2021

12-2pm CDT, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)


In the early modern world, the Jesuit gardens arguably became a transcultural phenomenon mate-rializing the transfer of elite knowledge, culture, and ideas. Drawing on a variety of recently un-covered materials from Paris and St. Petersburg, this talk discusses the crucial role of the Beijing Jesuit gardens played in the early-modern dynamics of botanical and horticultural practices. This is achieved by examining their functions as walk-in spaces of transcultural experience, experi-mental spaces of artistic entanglements, and places of fruitful encounters of knowledge. These garden sites, as I will argue, were the missing link between European Renaissance culture and knowledge, Qing court art, and collecting practices of the European Jesuit patrons.

The panoramic view of the Jesuit Beitang residence and its garden space, color on paper, ca. 1830/31. St. Petersburg, Kunstkamera – Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, inventory number 667-261.


Zoom Registration Link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (Recently, Zoom confirmations also tend to be categorized as Spam. Please also check your spam box for the confirmation email.).


Wang Lianming is an Assistant Professor of Chinese Art History at Heidelberg University. His areas of research include early-modern global encounters of arts and culture and artistic practices and materiality related to transterritorial animals. Wang has taught at the University of Würzburg and was a Postdoc Fellow (2018/19) of the research group “Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices” at the Berlin-based Forum Transregional Studies, led by the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max Planck Society. Wang has organized many workshops and conferences related to Sino-European exchanges, including The Jesuit Legacies: Images, Visuality, and Cosmopolitanism in Qing China (chief organizer, 2015), Reframing Chinese Objects: Practices of Collecting and Displaying in Europe and the Islamic World, 1400-1800 (co-organizer, 2018), and Before the Silk Road: Eurasian Interactions in the First Millennium BC (chief-organizer, 2019). He was awarded the Klaus-Georg and Sigrid Hengstberger Prize by the Heidelberg University in 2018, and the Academy Prize by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 2021.


Yin Wu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History. Her research focuses on the cross-cultural exchange of objects between China and the West at the Qianlong Emperor’s court in the 18th century, exploring how the Western objects were transformed into new visual and material forms and create new political and cultural meanings in the Qing empire.



Zhenru Zhou, Apr 21st

The VMPEA Workshop is pleased to welcome Zhenru Zhou (PhD candidate, Art History) as our next speaker to share her project “Anarchitectonic pagoda images from late-medieval Dunhuang.” We are also very happy to have Dr. Katherine Tsiang (Associate Director, Center for the Art of East Asia) serving as the discussant.

Please watch the Panopto Presentation in advance to join the Zoom session:


Please note this VMPEA session will take a slightly different format and start at a different time:

Wednesday, Apr 21st, 2021

5:30-6:45 pm CDT,

Zoom session for response and questions only (please find the registration link below)


Among the numerous portable artifacts found at the Dunhuang Caves, some are particularly indicative of the production of the unportable art and architecture, namely, the decorated Buddhist cave-temple. While the Dunhuang artists’ sketches and stencils in general have been associated with figural representations as seen in wall paintings and mandalic designs for ceilings or altars, it remains understudied how the cave architecture has been designed, conceptualized, and implemented. In response to the question, this paper explores a curious design trend of de-emphasizing the architectonic construct of an architectural space, which is evident in portable paintings, reliquaries, mural paintings and repaintings, caves, and even cave groups in late-medieval Dunhuang. In particular, the paper juxtaposes a few little-studied drawings originally deposited in the Dunhuang Library Cave with the repainted murals that later concealed the cave to unveil the dialectic relationship between image-making and cave-making. In addition, the study of cross-media artistic practices at Dunhuang will shed new light on a paradigm shift in visualizing the Buddhist Pure Lands in northwest China of the 10-11th centuries.

Picture of Many Sons Pagoda, ink on paper, 41.6 x 28 cm, 9th-10th century CE. Deposited in Mogao Cave 17, Dunhuang, China, now in the National Museum, New Delhi, India.

Zoom Registration Link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (Recently, Zoom confirmations also tend to be categorized as Spam. Please also check your spam box for the confirmation email.).

Zhenru Zhou studies Buddhist art and architecture in China and along the Silk Roads, with a focus on cave-temples in Northwest China. She received an M. Arch degree from Princeton University in 2016, and another M. Arch and a B. Arch degree from Tsinghua University (China). Her dissertation project, titled “Between the Virtual and the Real: A New Architecture of the Mogao Caves (Dunhuang, China) in 781-1036 CE,” explores the complexity of cave architecture regarding its hybrid materiality and visuality, construction and reconstruction over time.

Katherine R. Tsiang is a scholar of Chinese art of the Medieval Period, a period of extensive multicultural interaction during which the northern part of China was controlled predominantly by non-Han Chinese rulers and Buddhism, initially introduced from India and Central Asia, became the predominant religion. Her recent research has focused on the art and visual culture of Chinese tombs and Buddhist cave shrines and deals with the transformative impact of multicultural, social, religious, and funerary ideologies on artistic production of the fifth through eighth centuries.

Meng Zhao, Feb 10

Meng Zhao (PhD candidate, Department of Art History)

“Crafting Sensuality: Tactual Erotics In Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers

Discussant: Tingting Xu (Mellon Fellow at the Society of Fellows and the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University)

Wednesday, Feb 10
4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers, as one of the most exquisite examples of shinü hua (“paintings of elite women”), grants a glimpse of sheer sensuality of palace beauties in medieval China. The extraordinary limpidity of female imagery manifested in this work obscures intriguingly the question regarding the crafting and aestheticization of womanly beauty, which has curiously received little scholarly attention. This paper contextualizes the eighth-century praxis of painting court ladies through the lens of the coding of tactual experiences in medieval feminine space. I argue, in particular, that visual representations of skin contact, thermal sensation, and bodily awareness, evoke a vision-touch synesthetic experience that plays a constitutive role in the construction of sensuality and eroticism. This study also attempts to situate the sensitivity to tactile sensation within the literary tradition of erotic poetry of the Southern Dynasties (420-589) and Tang (618-907) periods.

Zoom Registration Link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting (recently, Zoom confirmation also tends to be categorized as Spam, please also check your spam box).


Meng Zhao is a PhD candidate studying Chinese art with a focus on painting practice of the middle period (ca. 800-1400). Her doctoral dissertation, “Roaming, Listening, Gazing: Human Presence Onstage in Song-Yuan Landscape Art (960-1368),” investigates the related ways in which major landscapists from the end of the eleventh to the fourteenth century turned their attention to the portrayal of human presence and responded in various efforts to the psychological dimension of multi-layered figure-landscape relationship. She is also interested in pictorial representation of beautiful women and its relation to synesthesia and the mingling of senses, and the imagination and depiction of dreams in the mid- and late Ming Dynasty. Meng is currently a COSI Writing Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is researching for the AIC’s digital project on Chinese paintings.

Tingting Xu is a Mellon Fellow at the Society of Fellows and the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago in 2020. She has broad interests in trans-cultural and trans-medial art production in China from the early modern period onwards. She is currently working on a book manuscript on early Chinese photography and a paper on Gong Xian’s landscapes.

Cybele Tom, Jan 27

Cybele Tom (PhD student, Department of Art History)

Seeking Balance: Material and Meaning in a Polychrome Guanyin

Discussant: Alice Casalini (PhD student, Department of Art History)

Wednesday, Jan 27

 4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link and pre-circulated paper below)



How do we approach objects that are so materially disrupted from their past identities that crucial aspects of their appearance are undefined? A large polychrome wood sculpture of the bodhisattva Guanyin, in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, provides a rich case study for exploring this question from the perspective of conservation and science. The focus of a recent in-depth technical investigation and major restoration treatment, the sculpture was revealed to be a palimpsest of several distinct campaigns of surface decoration, the earliest likely dating back to the 11th or 12th century. This presentation reflects on the sculpture’s complex and severely compromised materiality. The technical findings are summarized as a means to elucidate the contingent nature of its authentic or ”true” appearance(s) and to lay the foundation for a discussion of the challenges of its interpretation. When an object’s material instability undermines its identity and intentionality, the conservator charged with its care faces uncomfortable decisions which, though based on a paradigm of aesthetics, visual coherence, and professional ethics, have potentially profound consequences for its meaning and the kinds of evidence it bears.

The presentation is based on the circulated paper co-authored by AIC scientists Clara Granzotto and Ken Sutherland, and which is currently under consideration at the Art Institute Review. The debut issue will thematize the notion of instability in works of art and the museum world more generally. We welcome your comments and suggestions and hope for a lively discussion. In particular, we look forward to your perspectives from within the discipline of art history. Beyond the issues raised in the paper and presentation, broader questions you might consider are: what is authentic for historical objects that are materially compromised? How does the (at times) constructed legibility of museum objects complicate your study of them? How are the material findings as presented here, for example, applicable (and not) to your research questions? How can conservation and art history work more closely?

Pre-circulated paper:


Zoom Registration Link:


Cybele Tom is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Art History and Assistant Conservator of Objects at the Art Institute of Chicago. More accustomed to working within a framework of categorization based on material characteristics rather than time period or culture, she has research interests spanning centuries and continents. She has an Advanced Certificate and MA from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and serves as Book Review Editor for the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC).


Alice Casalini received her BA and MA in Language and Civilisation of Asia and Mediterranean Africa from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. During her MA, she spent a total of four terms as an exchange student at the department of Archaeology and Museology of Peking University, where she specialized in Buddhist archaeology of Xinjiang. Her MA thesis focused on the Buddhist caves of the kingdom of Kucha. Her current interests lie in early Buddhist art and architecture of Gandhāra and Northern India.


Visiting Scholar Special Workshop: Dong Rui

Dong Rui. PhD., Visiting Scholar, Department of Art History, University of Chicago; Associate Professor, School of Fine Arts, Henan University


Nostalgia for Inner Asia: Form and Idea in the Portrait of the Filial Grandson Yuan Gu on Stone Funerary Couch from the Eastern Wei Dynasty (548 CE)


Discussant: Lin Wei-Cheng, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Friday, Nov 13th, 2020
5-7 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)
This talk will be delivered in Chinese

Abstract: This study focuses on two illustrations of filial grandson Yuan Gu story from an Eastern Wei stone screen attached to a stone funerary couch. This stone funerary couch was excavated in 2007 from Tomb M57 (548 CE) in Anyang, Henan Province. Notably, one illustration of filial grandson Yuan Gu departed from its iconographic convention but presented the theme with Yuan Gu’s parents carrying an empty stretcher, with a standing female figure on the side. A closer examination of this unique illustration of the “filial grandson Yuan Gu” theme will shed light on a more nuanced understanding of Northern Wei rulers’ promotion of Confucianism and their attachment to Inner Asian traditions.

摘要:2007年,在河南省安阳发掘了一座东魏时期的(公元548年)夫妇合葬墓M57, 出土文物中包含了一座刻有二幅孝孙原榖等12幅画像的围屏石棺床。尤为特别的是,其中一幅孝孙原榖画像中,原榖父母所抬的是一副无人的担架,但在担架旁边站立着一女性,这种形式是目前所见孝孙原榖画像中的孤例。该画像从一个侧面反映了北魏统治者在入主中原后对儒家文化的有限接受和对内亚传统文化的留恋。这一实物或许可以从一个新的侧面折射出鲜卑大力推行汉化,却最终还是失败的原因。



Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Dong Rui received his PhD from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2013. From 2005 to 2013, he worked in the office of South–North Water Transfer Project of Henan Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau. In 2013 he starts to work at Henan University in the School of Fine Art as an associate professor, and is currently a visiting scholar with the University of Chicago. His publications appear in a number of journals including Journal of Zhengzhou University, Art History Research, and Huaxia Archaeology. Hs is also the author of The Research of Hollow brick tombs in Han dynasty 汉代空心砖墓研究 (2019).

Wei-Cheng Lin is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. Lin specializes in the history of Chinese art and architecture, with a focus on medieval period, and has published on both Buddhist and funeral art and architecture of medieval China. His first book, Building a Sacred Mountain: Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai, was published in 2014 with the University of Washington Press. He has also written on topics related to traditional architecture in modern China. Lin is currently working on two book projects: Performative Architecture of China, explores architecture’s performative potential through history and the meanings enacted through such architectural performance. Necessarily Incomplete: Fragments of Chinese Artifacts investigate fragments of Chinese artifacts, as well as the cultural practices they solicited and engaged, to locate their agentic power in generating the multivalent significance of those artifacts, otherwise undetectable or overlooked.

Dorothy C. Wong, NOV 6

Speaker: Dorothy C. Wong (Professor, Mcintire Department of Art, University of Virginia)

“Colossal Buddha Statues in China, Past and Present”

Discussant: Jiayi Zhu (PhD student, EALC, University of Chicago)

Friday, Nov 6, 2020
4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Beginning in the northwestern region of India, and spreading through Central Asia and the rest of Asia along the Silk Road, the making of colossal Buddha statues has been a major theme in Buddhist art. The colossal Buddha statues predominantly feature Śākyamuni (the Historical Buddha), Maitreya (the Future Buddha), and Vairocana (the Transcendant Buddha), and they were fashioned out of religious devotion and frequently in conjunction with notions of Buddhist kingship. This paper examines the religious, social and political circumstances under which these colossal statues were made, primarily focusing on examples in China made during the first millennium CE. Beginning in the 1990s, there was a revival of making colossal Buddha statues across China and elsewhere. The second part of the paper attempts to address the contemporary phenomenon in China in relation to issues surrounding cultural heritage, religious and cultural identity, ownership, commodification, pilgrimage, and tourism.

Tzu Shan Monastery, Tai Po District, Hong Kong.

Register in advance for this meeting:–ppz0tHNN9O2rKC6BH_FF27A80D9Jj

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


Dorothy Wong is currently Professor of Art and Director of the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia. Specializing in Buddhist art of medieval China, Dorothy Wong’s research addresses topics of art in relation to religion and society, and of the relationship between religious texts/doctrine and visual representations. In addition to many articles, she has published Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form (2004; Chinese edition 2011), Hōryūji Reconsidered (editor and contributing author, 2008) China and Beyond in the Medieaval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-regional Connections (co-editor with Gustav Heldt, and contributing author, 2014), and Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, ca. 645–770 (2018). Her edited volume, Miraculous Images in Asian Traditions, will be published as volume 50 of the journal Ars Orientalis in late November of 2020.

Jiayi Zhu is a PhD student in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her research interest is medieval Buddhist art and the cultural exchanges among China, Japan and Korea. Currently she is curious about the medium of stone.

Special Workshop Series by Wu Hung

Newly Unearthed Tang Tomb Murals of Simulated Shanshui Paintings — What Do They Tell Us?



Details of the landscape mural in the tomb of Han Xiu 韩休 (740), photo by Wu Hung.


The talk will last about 45 min – 1 hour, with about 1 hour afterwards for Q&A moderated by ZOU Yifan (persons in need of assistance please contact


Part 1: Oct 30 (Friday), 5 pm – 7 pm (CDT)

Registration link:

Part 2: Nov 5 (Thursday), 5 pm – 7 pm (CST) *please note CDT to CST transition

Registration link for Part 2: 

Nancy P. Lin, OCT 21

Speaker: Nancy P. Lin (PhD candidate, Department of Art History)

Sites at the Periphery: Performance, Photography, and the Making of Beijing’s ‘East Village’(selection from dissertation chapter)

Discussant: Madeline Eschenburg (Lecturer, College of Arts and Sciences, Washburn University)

Wednesday, October 21st 2020

4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



The development of experimental contemporary Chinese art outside the official support of government institutions in the 1990s has often been described as “underground” (dixia) or “independent” (duli). Yet I suggest that the term “peripheral” (bianyuan) is a much more apt description as it simultaneously refers to the very spaces in which art has flourished in the physical city and the spatial dynamics of experimental art’s alternative positioning. During a period of massive urban reconstruction, artists living and working in the city’s urban fringes struggled with spatial precarity and social/economic marginality. These sites and living conditions also gave rise to new types of artistic projects, spaces, and a distinctly new artistic identity. This paper explores how collaborations between performance and photographic activities by a group of artists living in Beijing’s “East Village” drew upon the area’s spatial marginality to construct an alternative artistic identity and social network that transformed the run-down village into an art world site. These activities in the mid-1990s will be contextualized within the broader phenomenon of site-based art practices that participated in the creation of new social and institutional spaces for contemporary art in China. This period of artistic activities at the periphery serves as a case study for understanding the complex dynamic between artistic practice, social change, and urban transformation.

RongRong, East Village Beijing, 1994 No. 1, 1994, Gelatin silver print, 20 × 24 in (50.8 × 61 cm)

Zoom Registration Link:


Nancy P. Lin is a PhD candidate specializing in modern and contemporary Chinese art and architecture. She received her B.A. summa cum laude in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. Her dissertation, titled “Making Spaces: Site-based Practice in Contemporary Chinese Art, 1990s-2000s,” focuses on the intersection of art and urbanism in examining locally situated, yet globally oriented spatial and site-specific artistic practices in China. As the 2019-2020 Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Curatorial Intern at the Smart Museum of Art, she worked extensively on the exhibition Allure of Matter: Material Art from China. From 2017 to 2018, she was a fellow of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Urban Art and Urban Form, co-organizing three interdisciplinary symposia that brought together artists, architects, and urban scholars from the sciences and the humanities. She received the 2015 Schiff Foundation Writing Fellowship and, together with fellow collaborators, was a recipient of the 2016 Graham Foundation project grant for the independent publication Building Subjects (Standpunkte, 2019), a study on collective housing in China. Her other publications include an article in the edited volume Visual Arts, Representations and Interventions in Contemporary China: Urbanized Interfaces (Amsterdam University Press, 2018) and a forthcoming article in the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Intellect, Winter 2020).

Her work has been generously supported by The Getty Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Schiff Foundation, Graham Foundation, as well as the Art History Department and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.


Madeline Eschenburg is a lecturer at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. She specializes in contemporary Chinese art with a focus on performance and Social Practice art. She has published articles and book chapters about Chinese performance art and its relationship to documentary practice in the 1990s and early 21st century. She is currently working on a book project which explores the history of contemporary Chinese artists’ inclusion of marginalized communities in performance art and Social Practice projects. She will be presenting a paper titled “Mapping Marginality: Chinese Migrant Workers at the Venice Biennial” at the 2021 College Art Association annual conference.