Yoon-Jee Choi, April 17

Yoon-Jee Choi, PhD student, Department of Art History

          “Time Shall Not Mend: Establishing the Lineage of Tsugi 継ぎ[Japanese Ceramic Repair]”

Respondent: Sizhao Yi, PhD student, Department of Art History

Friday, April 17, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Abstract: While plenty of instructions and discussions have been created on tsugi 継ぎ [Japanese repairing pottery with lacquer often mixed with metal substance​], a pivotal trend appears among them: most of them are grounded in the arcane Orientalism of Zen Buddhism, Japanese tea ceremony culture, and wabi-sabi. The previous discourses strongly restrict the spectrum of research on the technique in two ways and, concerning this problem, this presentation aims to open a new path for an extensive research on tsugi by directly engaging these issues. First, the act of tsugi has long been overshadowed by the excessive emphasis on kin 金 [gold] of kintsugi. There are various types of breakage or flaws on ceramic wares not surprising considering their fragile nature. However, not all blemishes or all ceramic wares became the object of tsugi and, even when the technique was applied, various mediums were adopted for mixing with the lacquer adhesive, including silver powder, red lacquer, and black lacquer. Thus, I will concentrate on the act of tsugi rather than kin to discuss why particular ceramic pieces and flaws were chosen to be restored with diverse mediums, and to study how this trend has transformed throughout the history. The other issue relates to tsugi’s secular aspect; past researchers have disregarded the tastes of tea masters, closely intertwined with shogunal governments, under the shadow of Zen Buddhism. The predilection of the major Japanese premodern tea masters, Sen no Rikyū千利休 (1522-1591) and his disciple, Furuta Oribe 古田織部 (1543-1615), for “aleatory aesthetics” and furthered the technique to a distinct style. This talk will research on the rise and development of tsugi within the Japanese shogunal culture from the 16th century to the Edo Period 江戸時代 (1603-1868). Overall, I concentrate on building the “tsugi lineage” anchored in tea masters and their meticulous selection of vessels, cracks, and the specific techniques from the 16th to 19th century.










Teabowl, named shumi (Mountain Sumeru), and Jūmonji (Cross), Joseon Dyansty (1392-1910), Mitsui Bunko Foundation, Tokyo.


Zoom Registration Link: https://uchicago.zoom.us/meeting/register/uZMrceyrrTwrBO3K-iVfU7jYGgswu3rmyg

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou (zhenru@zhenruzhou.com) and Yin Wu (yinwu@uchicago.edu).


Yoon-Jee Choi is a Ph.D. student whose research revolves around material culture, craftsmanship, and inter-regional dynamics of premodern East Asian art history, particularly concentrating on Korea and Japan. 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. In 2019 summer, her recent interest in maritime artifiacts led to a summer internship at National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage of Korea.

Sizhao Yi is a PhD student in East Asian art and material culture with a particular interest in objects from late imperial China. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong in 2016, and her MA from the University of Chicago in 2017. Her master’s thesis examined two embroidered jackets excavated from an imperial tomb of the Ming Dynasty, which she encountered during her internship at the textile conservation department in the Archeology Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Mew Lingjun Jiang, November 15

Mew Lingjun Jiang, MAPH-TLO’20 Art History

“The Fluidity of Image and Symbol in Karuta Japanese Playing Cards, 1573-Today”

Respondent: Robert Burgos, PhD student, Department of History

Friday, November 15, 2019

4:30-6:30 pm, CWAC 156

A Pre-circulated paper is available at this link with a password: karuta.

Abstract: The visual and material developments of ephemera, such as karuta (かるた・カルタ・歌留多・骨牌) the Europe-originated Japanese playing cards, have involved more than what can be observed. Although karuta are meant to be expendable objects, their material varieties include gold-leafed, hand-painted, woodblock-printed, and color-stenciled cards, made by detailed outlining and careful coloring, sometimes with abstractive designs and a calligraphic touch in bold contrast, leaving traces of illustrative depictions in artworks and artifacts. However, most of the research on karuta, especially of the regional patterns, is rule-oriented through a lens of gaming and gambling studies, and the variations in the abstractive and expressive design of these playing cards have long been a mystery.

The visual and material study of the continuously changing message carried by karuta takes us back to the everyday life in the past and connects us to the future discussion of art, games, and the relationship between humans, images, and things. Based on current studies of the cultural history of karuta written in Japanese, and adding to the limited research written in English, this paper describes and explains the fluidity of images and symbols of karuta as cultural icons, as well as the visual history of their artistic depictions, curious designs, and regional patterns from the Tenshō era (1573-92) to the present day.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou (zhenru@zhenruzhou.com) and Yin Wu (yinwu@uchicago.edu).


“Mew” Lingjun Jiang is a second-year MAPH-TLO student studying Japanese art history. With a background in studio art, Mew wrote a master’s thesis last year to examine the visuality and materiality of contemporary nihonga painter Matsui Fuyuko’s works, which inspired Mew’s own art practice. The thesis discussed how Matsui’s subject of anatomy, the process of painting, and the artist’s stylistic choice and narrative alter the meaning of the body and challenge the way of seeing the female body in art. Mew is interested in exploring the concept of seeing and the process of recognizing and transmitting pictorial information in varied visual and material forms under the influence of factors such as regional and intercultural communications.

Robert Burgos is a PhD student at the Department of History studying modern urban history in Japan. His research interests include: Twentieth-century community formation in Japanese cities among marginalized and minority groups; relationship of these processes to the broader development of shōsū minzoku (minority) identity and “Japanese” identity in Japan. Robert received his B.A. degree from Political Science & Asian Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2012. He was a University of Chicago Urban Doctoral Fellow in 2018-2019 and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Intern at the Smart Museum of Art in 2016-2017.

Feb. 1, Zhiyan Yang

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152  (Please note the special day and time)

When Recent Past Became New History: Learning from a Historical Survey (1987-1991) of Modern Architecture in China

Zhiyan Yang

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

”International Bridge in Tientsin,” an index label from The Architectural Heritage of Modern China: Tianjin中国近代建築総覧総覧:天津篇 (1989)

From 1987 to 1991, a team comprised of both Chinese and Japanese architectural historians collaborated to survey the existing architecture built in between 1840s and 1940s among eighteen Chinese cities and compiled an extensive list of data. Known as the Comprehensive Study of Modern Architecture in China 中国近代建筑总览, the project has reinvigorated the field and remained foundational to this day. I argue that it is unique not only as a corpus of documentation, but also as a historic event in itself. The nature of the collaboration cultivated a changing attitude towards China’s architectural heritages, revealing negotiations between different cultural, linguistic, and historiographical traditions. By unfolding the processes of knowledge production, comparing publications from both the Chinese and Japanese sides, and questioning the historical connotations and intricacies behind them, I hope to shed new light on how the Chinese architectural world understood and adapted to the new challenges by reconsidering its recent architectural past as a critical site for modernization. Analyzing both text and image through a comparative perspective, I will also explain the project against background of a globalizing contemporary architectural culture in the 1980s and explore why this particular history has had a broader intellectual and social impact on the entire region of East Asia.

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (nancyplin@uchicago.edu)

THURS. October 5, Adrian Favell

Thursday, October 5,  5-7pm, CWAC 156

After the Tsunami: Japanese Contemporary Art since 2011

Adrian Favell

Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of Leeds


Art collective Shibuhouse led by Saito Keita


What effect have the Triple Earthquake disasters of March 2011 had on Japanese contemporary art? Japanese contemporary art since the 1990s has mainly been associated with the popular culture inspired work of artists such as Murakami Takashi, Nara Yoshitomo, Mori Mariko and Aida Makoto. The rupture of 2011 however made clear a major shift in Japanese art towards more community based, socially engaged, and politically critical work, including among this older generation. While explaining the longstanding roots of socially engaged “art projects” as a distinctive feature of the Japanese art world, the talk will focus on the changing output of a younger generation of artists: particularly the rise of the art unit Chim↑Pom, and the story of three even younger Tokyo art collectives, whose work has also shifted the line between art, politics and everyday survival—Chaos★Lounge, Shibuhouse and Parplume. The talk is based on a new chapter for a forthcoming revised and updated edition (in Japanese and English) of my book, Before and After Superflat: A Short History of Japanese Contemporary Art 1990-2011 (Blue Kingfisher/DAP 2012).


This event is sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.

Thursday, October 5,  5-7pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (nancyplin@uchicago.edu)

May 6 Henry Smith

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

Making Meiji Red: Materiality vs Meaning in the Changing Colors of 19th-century Ukiyo-e

Henry Smith
Professor Emeritus of Japanese History, EALC, Columbia University

Two decades ago, I postulated a “Blue Revolution” in ukiyo-e woodblock prints that began in 1829 with a sudden increase in the use of imported Prussian blue, a versatile pigment that quickly dominated landscape prints in particular. I further argued that this bright new blue came to express a new awareness of the world across blue oceans under blue skies into which the Japanese were increasingly drawn. I hypothesized finally that a similar process would be repeated four decades later in the 1860s with the import of a new generation of imported colorants, but now the principal hues were purple and red. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, I proposed, “Red became the modal color of another era with other priorities: where late-Edo blue was the color of expanding space, Meiji red was to become the color of accelerated time.” This talk is a report on an ongoing research project in which I have been engaged for two years in cooperation with the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to identify these new colorants and trace their history. The results force a thorough reconception of the materiality of Meiji ukiyo-e colorants and their artistic possibilities, and in turn a new look at the diverse and changing meanings embodied in “Meiji Red.”

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

April 8 Sandy Lin

Friday, April 8, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

The Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion) Screens from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition: An Object Biography

Sandy Lin
Ph.D. Student, Art History, University of Chicago

In Summer 2015, a group of three screens were discovered in a storage facility of the Chicago Park District and later acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago. Photographs of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and contemporary sources suggest that the screens were painted by Hashimoto Gahō for the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion), a building commissioned by the Japanese government and erected in Jackson Park for the fair. Their discovery makes an exciting addition to the four ranma (transom) panels (now on display at the Art Institute of Chicago) as the only surviving architectural elements from the Hōōden, which burned down in 1946. Nevertheless, a close examination of the screens has revealed some material discrepancies and historical incongruities. In an effort to clarify the confusion, this presentation outlines the object biography of the screens, following their footsteps through their (1) material birth in 1892, (2) career in the 1893 World’s Fair, (3) neglect after the conclusion of the fair, (4) second career from 1936 to 1942 in a Japanese teahouse that was converted from the Hōōden, and (5) provisional death in 1943, when they were removed from the teahouse and sheltered in storage. Throughout the different stages in their life, the screens developed numerous relationships with various communities of people and objects, accumulating a biography that exemplifies their anachronic ability to embody multiple temporalities.

Friday, April 8, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

Jan 29 Miriam Wattles

Friday, January 29, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 153

Defining Manga Anew in 1928: Ippei, a Book, and History

Miriam Wattles
Associate Professor, History of Art and Architecture, UCSB

It wasn’t until the explosion of mass media in the 1920s that the word “manga” began to be used for comics and cartoons in Japan. Reformulations of the past were integral to the redefinition of the word. Okamoto Ippei (1886-1948), hugely popular with the public and head of a newly formed manga circle, wove a new historical sensibility into his prescriptions for the future of manga in his book Shin manga no kakikata (How To Make New Manga, 1928). The larger genus he employed was “minshûga,” or “pictures of the people.” In proposing this term at this particular historical moment, Ippei was responding to deep underlying tensions between elite and popular culture, individualism and collectivism, and nationalism and cosmopolitanism. This talk counters present amnesia around Ippei and his definition of manga and gives a surprising history of public ownership of one particular copy of Shin manga no kakikata.

Friday, January 29, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC 153
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact xizh@uchicago.edu

January 15 Federico Marcon

Friday, January 15, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Money Talks: Monetary Disputes in Early Eighteenth-Century Japan

Federico Marcon 

Professor of Japanese History at Princeton University


AT THE TURN OF THE eighteenth century, as the lavish splendor of the Genroku era waned into a decade of economic stagnation and social unrest, two scholars debated on the nature of money and its proper administration. The dispute revealed not only the extent of the monetary integration of Japanese society only after a century of Tokugawa rule, but also the sophistication of samurai’s understanding of financial dynamics. The story of the clash of the two views of what money is, the bullionism of Arai Hakuseki and the contractualism of Ogiwara Shigehide and Ogyū Sorai, bespeaks a turning point in the economic politics of early modern Japan—a turning point of transnational relevance, as in contemporaneous England economic thinkers were debating analogous issues. 

Friday, January 15, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Ben at benjamin2@uchicago.edu or Xi at xizh@uchicago.edu

April 10 Tessa Handa

Tessa Handa, Ph.D. Student

The Department of Art History, University of Chicago

The Postcard: Negotiating Modernity, Mediality, and Aesthetics in Late Meiji Japan

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Fujishima Takeji. Geisha and Biwa, from series Bijin to Ongyoku. Color woodblock print and stencil; organic colorants and inorganic colorants, metallic pigment on Japanese paper adhered to card stock. 13.8 x 8.8 cm. 1905.

Fujishima Takeji’s (1867-1943) wood-block printed postcard, Geisha and Biwa, features a geisha, clad in a boldly patterned kimono, set against a backdrop of silver metallic waves and dancing triangular shapes. This 1905 postcard is addressed, stamped, and postmarked to Meridan, New Hampshire. Now residing in the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s collection, this postcard has traversed vast distances of time and space and bears witness to a story of emerging communication networks and changing visualities in turn of the century Japan. In this paper, I argue that the artist postcard was a medial point of contact between emerging technology, aesthetic negotiation, and the masses. Through this point of contact we can access dimensions of the artist postcard’s role in late Meiji period. Specifically the artist postcard was a site for producing and seeing ideas about new Japanese aesthetics. Further, the ensuing debate over whether or not the postcard was fine art reveals the deep-seated anxiety over the recent formulation of the field of aesthetics and the boundaries of fine art. Postcards such as Fujishima’s series offered a distant and fantastic idea of modern Japan to the foreign and domestic audience that could be inscribed, sent, and ultimately possessed.

Cochrane-Woods Art Center (CWAC) Room 156 4:30-6:30pm

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

Friday Feb 27th Sinéad Vilbar

Sinéad Vilbar, Curator of Japanese and Korean art

Cleveland Museum of Art

Site Specific: A Kumano Mandala Painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art

This event is sponsored by CEAS Committee on Japanese Studies


The Three Sacred Shrines at Kumano: Kumano Mandala. Japan, Kamakura period (1185-1333), ca. 1300. Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk and color on silk
The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1953.16

Shinto-Buddhist combinatory art elucidates visually the medieval Japanese Buddhist theory of honjisuijaku, literally “original ground, flowing traces”, in which Buddhist deities manifest themselves as Shinto deities (kami) in order to communicate the Dharma to residents of Japan. The corpus of paintings comprising sacred site mandalas includes shrine mandalas (miya mandara), honjisuijaku mandalas, and pilgrimage mandalas (sankei mandara). Each has a number of pictorial conventions for conveying the combinatory nature of kami and Buddhist deity veneration. In many cases, natural or manmade features specific to particular sacred sites drive the compositions of the mandalas. This workshop presentation focuses on understanding representations of Kumano and its associated deities within the larger corpus of sacred site mandalas. Special attention is given to the composition of the Kumano Shrine Mandala in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility should please contact tingtingxu@uchicago.edu