May 27 Naixi Feng

Friday, May 27, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Stone Drums en route: Text, Thing and the Historical Narrative of Beijing in the mid-seventeenth Century

Naixi Feng
Ph.D. Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, University of Chicago

In 1403, Beiping was elevated to the capital of the Ming Empire and designated as “Bei-jing.” Later on, Beijing experienced a transformation from a military-oriented political center to a culturally significant place, representable and appreciable as a literary milieu. How was the cultural image of Beijing gradually built up in the ending years of the Ming (1368-1644) through literary sketches of urban life? I would like to use the largest book project on Beijing from the Ming dynasty, A Sketch of Sites and Objects in the Imperial Capital (帝京景物略, 1635) as the central material. Focusing on the first essay “the Stone Drums at the Imperial Academy,” this presentation will explore the role of ancient ritual objects in the creation of a legitimate and historically discursive past of Beijing in the final years of the Ming dynasty. I will pursue the following questions: In what ways did these ritual objects endow this previous capital of three non-Chinese regimes (Liao, Jin, Yuan) with an intelligible, legitimate and monumental past? What’s the power of those illegible and mythical characters inscribed on the stone surface? And how did the ritual objects balance the cultural statuses of Beijing in the whole country before and after the Yongle emperor relocated the capital to Beijing in 1403?

Friday, May 27, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

May 20 Lu Pengliang

Friday, May 20, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

The Two-Thousand-Year Journey of the Goosefoot Lamp (Yanzudeng): Exoticism, Antiquarianism and Visual Redesign

Lu Pengliang
Henry A. Kissinger Curatorial Fellow, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Goosefoot Lamp, Western Han dynasty (206BC – 9AD), Bronze, H. 35cm, Excavated in 1992 from Zibo, Shandong Province, Collection of the Zibo Museum

The goosefoot lamp (yanzudeng), a specific type of bronze lighting instrument, appeared in the late Warring States period and enjoyed intermittent interests from the third century BC to the nineteenth century. Following the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD), this type of lamp did not gain popularity again until the eleventh century, when Song-dynasty scholars and collectors re-discovered the form and treated examples as an important antique. In the following centuries, Chinese literati praised the form of the goosefoot lamp, enriched its cultural significance, and created new artwork based upon it. Instead of focusing on one time period and one medium, this study aims to explore the ever-changing meanings of the goosefoot lamp throughout the imperial Chinese history. Relying on recent archaeological discoveries, historical texts, and cross-media comparison, I aim to answer the following questions: Why were lamps cast in the shape of goosefeet, this being a very unusual design in the Chinese bronzes of the Qin and Han period? Why did lamps of this kind become collectable antiques from the Song period onward? And how did Qing-dynasty antiquarians and artists use this specific type of lamp to create new art forms?

Friday, May 20, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

May 16 Chen Chao-Jung

Special Talk:

Monday, May 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC157

This presentation will be held in Chinese.

精⾦金良墨—谈全形拓的沿⾰革与技法
Going 3D the Chinese Way: Full-form Rubbings of Bronze Vessels in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

CHEN Chao-Jung 陳昭容
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan 中央研究院歷史語言研究所

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 11.57.06 AM

Full-form rubbings first appeared in China in the mid 19th century. It is a special reproduction method for recording decorations and shapes of bronze vessels that combines elements of sketching, drawing, rubbing, and paper-cutting in order to produce three-dimensional representations of bronzes on two-dimensional media. The method demands considerable skill and the process is laborious and time-consuming. Artisans routinely produced full-form rubbings in the form of painting scrolls for the literati clientele since the mid 19th century. Many survived in the rubbing collections formed by Late Qing and Early Republican Era scholars. With the rise of modern photography, the tradition of full-form rubbings has been gradually replaced by the faster and more accessible reproduction technology. It is a dying art form carried on by a very small number of artisans today.

Professor Chen’s talk will focus on the history and development of full-form rubbings, including major artisans and their work, the new art form of combining full-form rubbings with traditional literati studio paintings, and the major full-form rubbing collections and their host institutes. She will also introduce briefly the techniques of full-form rubbing.

青銅器形體及紋飾的描寫,早期都以線條繪製為主。全形拓是十九世紀中葉興起的一種特別技藝,結合素描、繪畫、傳拓、剪紙,在平面的拓紙上傳達立體的青銅器形體與花紋。自攝影技術發達之後,需要高超技巧、慢工細作的青銅器全形拓,因傳承不易,成了希罕而珍貴的藝術品。本次演講將介紹宋代金石學興起及主要圖錄、全形拓的發展歷史,每個時期主要的拓工及作品、全形拓與繪畫結合成為廣受歡迎的博古畫、主要全形拓收藏單位,也將談談簡單全形拓技法。

Monday, May 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC157
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

April 15 Kristina Kleutghen

Friday, April 15, 4 to 6pm, CWAC156

Optical Devices, Art, and Visuality in China

Kristina Kleutghen
Assistant Professor, Art History, Washington University in St. Louis

unnamed

When European optical devices were first introduced into early modern East Asia, these devices affected not only viewing experiences and ideas about vision, but also the production of art. In contrast to the well-established effects on Japanese art, the Chinese case has barely been explored, not the least reason being that the science of optics did not develop significantly there prior to the mid-nineteenth century. Yet from the seventeenth century onward, Qing domestic production and use of optical devices resulted in significant relationships with art at the imperial, elite, and popular levels. The devices and the viewing experiences that they mediated created varying levels of foreign intervention into Chinese art, vision, and visuality. However, the consistent but diverse methods of Sinification of all these elements and the reliance on domestic products rather than imports offers new insights into how Qing art engaged the West without being limited to either the court or the capital. Through an art-historical case study of several different optical devices and their related works of art that are all linked through one particular type of magnifying lens, this talk examines how the production and consumption of these new objects and images varied with place, format, audience, and social status. 

Friday, April 15, 4:00 to 6:00pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

April 1 Dongshan Zhang

Friday, April 1, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Making Images of Dharma

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

Fig. 1铁山刻经 Sutra Engraving On Mount Tie, Shandong, by Seng'an Daoyi.

To deal with the coming of the Final Dharma, or mofa, people initiated different types of projects around the Northern dynasty (439 – 589). The Buddhist images and stone engravings in the Xiangtangshan caves, Yunju temple, and in the mountains in central Shandong area are representatives. A few of the stone engravings found on the boulders and slopes of the mountains in Shandong are made with characters of unusually large size. This essay reconsiders the nature of the Northern dynasty Buddhist stone engravings in Shandong, and suggests that the preservation of images of dharma in the Final Dharma period was the true aim of the Shandong large-character engravings.

Friday, April 1, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

March 11 Anne Feng

Friday, March 11, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Water, Ice, Lapis Lazuli: The Making of a Buddhist Paradise through the Sixteen Meditations in Tang China 

Anne Feng
Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Chicago

This paper provides new insights into the relationship between Buddhist meditation and images in medieval China by looking at 7th to 8th century illustrations of the Sixteen Meditations in Dunhuang caves. I demonstrate how these paintings provided new possibilities for depicting moments of metamorphosis pictorially. Drawing upon recent scholarship on Buddhist ‘visualization’ in East Asia, I will trace how imagery of the Sixteen Meditations was introduced and appropriated at Dunhuang and address the perplexing iconography of these paintings. Working against previous studies that treat the Sixteen Meditations as a linear step-by-step sequence, in which the meditator focuses on a static visual object in each meditation, I argue that the visual phenomena described in meditation manuals were constantly in flux. This emphasis on moments of metamorphosis is frequently captured by illustrations of the meditation on water, which is an important threshold moment for the meditator to envision the Western Pure Land. Reading contemporary mediation guides and tales of rebirth, I will show how the iconography of the Sixteen Meditations could be creatively stretched and condensed, and how these intricate manipulations allow us to understand how Pure Land transformation tableaux were understood as dream flight destinations in the Tang dynasty.

Friday, March 11, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

February 19 Tom Kelly

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

Luminescent Surfaces: Inscribing a Ming Rhinoceros Horn Cup

Tom Kelly
Ph.D. Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, University of Chicago

This paper considers how the creation and reception of an object-inscription might lead to the construction of a political monument in late imperial China. I focus specifically on the case of an inscription for a rhinoceros horn vessel from the late Ming and the story of its re-mediation over the course of three centuries. The first section of the paper reconstructs approaches to rhinoceros horns among collectors from the sixteenth century, examining how the poetic animation of these luxury imports re-calibrated conceptions of the exotic and the antique. Against this backdrop, I ask what might have been at stake for Ming scholars in trying to transform a rhinoceros horn into a vessel with a classical genealogy through acts of naming and marking. The second section of the paper charts the circulation of the vessel and the re-mediation of its markings during the Qing, exploring the ways in which the transmission of the inscription in different formats provided later scholars with a means of working through anxieties of displacement and loss. In doing so, the paper weighs some of the latent desires embedded in object-inscriptions from the Ming against the reception of these texts by Qing antiquarians. At the same time, I use this case to reflect on the divergent values attributed to the act of inscription as a situated political performance and to the “thingness” of an inscription as a physical trace of the past.

Friday, February 19, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

February 12 Christian de Pee

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

The City Organic: Writing the Commercial Streetscape in Eleventh-Century China

Christian de Pee
Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan

During the eleventh century, Chinese literati changed the geographic orientation of inherited literary genres and devised new literary genres in order to create a space in writing for the commercial cityscape. Within this newly created literary space, literati represented the commercial cityscape, not as an achievement of human artifice, but as an extension of nature, where traffic flows like water, money and goods circulate like the vital essences of the body, and trade flourishes like a well-tended garden. The efforts of eleventh-century literati to discern natural principles in urban traffic and in the urban economy aligns their writing of the city with other intellectual developments of the period, such as a widespread interest in natural observation, medical diagnostics, financial management, civil engineering, and criminal forensics. The writing and painting of the commercial city in eleventh-century China thus has significant parallels (and even direct connections) to the writing and painting of the industrial city in nineteenth-century Europe: the playful manipulation of boundaries between nature and artifice, the application of medical diagnostics to urban planning, an apprehensive fascination with the interchangeability of commoditized goods and labor, the anonymity of urban crowds and the related development of detective stories, and the foregrounding of the painter’s eye and the painter’s hand in the visual arts. Although the similarity between Song-dynasty cities and the metropolises of the nineteenth century should not be overstated, the commonalities do allow the disarticulation of certain “modernist” ways of seeing and thinking from linear narratives of Western modernity.

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

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

December 4 Martin Powers

Friday, December 4, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 152

How Did Artists Question the Authorities in Early Modern China and England?

Martin Powers
Professor, History of Art, University of Michigan

Looking at cultural practice in Europe’s late, early modern period, Pierre Bourdieu saw a development in which “intellectual and artistic life…progressively freed itself from aristocratic and ecclesiastical tutelage”. It was only after the decline of aristocracy that artists acquired the agency to use their skills to question social practice, and so in 18th century England one begins to find politically-charged prints from the 1720’s onward. A comparable development occurred in China after the decline of “aristocratic and ecclesiastical tutelage” in Song times. It was then that artists, inspired by the guwen 古文movement, began to address social themes in their work. Afterwards one can find examples of subversive art in China from Song times at least through the end of the Ming. This lecture examines the pattern of development in both cases and finds that both Chinese and English artists adopted similar tropic strategies, and in a similar order, as artists acquired more and more independence from the rich and noble.

Friday, December 4, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 152
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

 

November 20 Nancy P. Lin

Friday, November 20, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 152

The Big Tail Elephant Working Group: Urban Insertion as Artistic Strategy

Nancy P. Lin
Ph.D. Student, Art History, University of Chicago

Lin Yilin, Safely Maneuvering across Lin He Road, 1995
Lin Yilin, Safely Maneuvering across Lin He Road, 1995

The Big Tail Elephant Working Group [大尾象工作组] (BTE), comprised of the artists Lin Yilin (b. 1964), Chen Shaoxiong (b. 1962), Liang Juhui (1959–2006), and later Xu Tan (b. 1957), emerged in Guangzhou in the early 1990s. As many artists began to move towards the burgeoning art scene in Beijing, BTE continued to stay in Guangzhou, choosing the city’s urban spaces as the subject, site, and raw material for their artwork. This paper examines the group’s strategies and positions in relation to the changing social, economic, and physical terrain of Guangzhou between 1991 and 1998. While most scholarship on urban site-oriented practice attributes the critical force of the work to its ability to disrupt the environment, I argue that BTE operated more subtly through methods of “urban insertion” into the existing spaces and flows of the city. Exploring these insertions, I demonstrate the ways in which BTE’s innovative practice shed light on the city’s urbanization process at the same time as it opened up new possibilities for contemporary art and its sites of exhibition in China in the 1990s.

Friday, November 20, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 152
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu