Dec. 1, Yifan Zou

Friday, December 1,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

Traditions Reinterpreted: Text and Image in Wu Zhen’s Eight Views of Jiahe (1344)

Yifan Zou

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Wu Zhen 吳鎮 (1280-1354), Eight Views of Jiahe 嘉禾八景 , 1344,  ink on paper handscroll, 37.5 x 566 cm.

This paper explores the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) painter Wu Zhen’s 吳鎮 (1280-1354) depiction of his hometown in Eight Views of Jiahe 嘉禾八景 (1344), a 37.5 x 566 cm paper handscroll with ink renderings of eight scenes and accompanying text. Despite several previous excursions into this scroll, I propose still another trip back to the Jiahe. Not only does the “hypnotic effect” of the “eight views” topic encourage a periodic retelling, but due to their different focuses, most previous studies have not examined the work’s text and images as a coherent whole. This paper will explore how different traditions—the tradition of the Eight Views, and the traditional relationship between map and text in Chinese gazetteers, especially Song dynasty tujing 圖經 (cartographic classics)—were reinterpreted in Wu Zhen’s Eight Views of Jiahe. The questions that can be raised from an exploration of this work are broader than might be expected. Could it help us discover how Wu Zhen—a painter who lived most of his life in obscurity—made his way around the territory? In what way did he translate knowledge from tujing to the Jiahe handscroll to make it an appealing fundraising tool for local site? Where can we pin this work on the spectrum from maps to landscape paintings? Finally, how might this work lead us to approach the question of professionalism in the realm of cartography before European cartographic techniques were introduced to China? While it is impossible to resolve these questions, this paper will attempt to contribute to them.


Friday, December 1,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

WEDS. Nov. 16, Zhenru Zhou

Wednesday, November 15,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 156

A Visual Study of the Front Panel of a Tang Dynasty Buddhist Shrine

Zhenru Zhou

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Front panel of a Tang dynasty Buddhist shrine. Photo courtesy of ​Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

This paper is a contextual and visual study of the front panel of a Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) Buddhist shrine housed in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (fig.1). I will first discuss the possible provenance and dating of this panel by comparing it with a group of “little dragon-and-tiger pagodas” (xiao longhu ta 小龙虎塔). Demonstrating that the architecture to which this panel was originally attached would have belonged to a type of small-sized sculpted pagodas in Henan and Shandong provinces dated back to the first half of the 8th century, I will further argue against the common idea that this type is an abbreviated and inferior version of the “dragon-and-tiger pagoda” type or the brick multi-eave pagoda type. Based on their unique formal characteristics, e.g. the twin-pagoda format, the multi-eave and slender profile, the single niche, the Pure Land imagery, the inscribed sutras and votive texts, I will argue that these pagodas were meant to be the miniaturized representation of the grandiose architecture of “seven-leveled stūpa” (qiji futu 七级浮屠), and that their media specificity may reflect a shifting conception of Buddhist monument during the High-Tang period in central China.


Wednesday, November 15,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

Oct 27, LI Jian’an

Friday, October 27,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156


From the Mountain Forests to the Sea: Fujian Ancient Ceramics and the Maritime Silk Road

栗建安 LI Jian’an 

福建博物院文物考古研究所, 所长  Director, Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology, Fujian Museum

*Note: This talk will be delivered in Chinese


Friday, October 27,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

Oct 13, GU Zheng

Friday, October 13,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156

Between Journalism and Propaganda: The Assassination of Song Jiaoren in Minglibao

GU Zheng  顾铮

Professor and Vice-Director of the Research Center for Visual Culture, School of Journalism, Fudan University
Visiting Scholar, Harvard-Yenching Institute

*Note: This talk will be delivered in Chinese


This event is sponsored by the Committee on Chinese Studies at the Center for East Asian Studies with generous support from a United States Department of Education National Resource Center Title VI Grant.

Friday, October 13,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

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 (

May 27, Irene Backus

Irene Backus

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

Friday, May 27, 4- 6 pm
CWAC 156

Asia Materialized: Perceptions of China in Renaissance Florence


Asia Materialized:  Perceptions of China in Renaissance Florence,” examines how three of the most highly valued Chinese imports—porcelain, refined silk textiles, and spices—shaped Italian Renaissance artistic and technological creation under the early Medici Dukes (c. 1537–87).  Because direct, personal connections between China and Italy were extremely limited during this period, these imports acted as ‘ambassadors,’ the tangible evidence Florentines had of a place they otherwise only knew from travel narratives such as Marco Polo’s.

My VMPEA presentation will offer a brief overview of the larger project, and a more focused discussion of my most recent work on the silk chapter.  It has become axiomatic that silk was among the most important Chinese imports in Europe, across the ages; however, this assumption is rarely interrogated or elaborated beyond the most general statement, or allusion to the “silk road.” Today’s discussion will press the question by analyzing silk from the perspective of its production, representation, and finally its actual use in sixteenth century Florence.

May 20, Fu Yanghua

Fu Yanghua

Associate Professor, School of Arts
Renmin University

Friday, May 20, 4:00- 6:00 pm
Location: CWAC 156

Trapped Hope: Yang Bu’s Ten-Leaf Album of Yearning Ancient Sages and His Ambivalence


Yang Bu(杨补) (1598-1657) was a renowned poet and painter in the 17th century. He lived through a difficult period for many Confucian scholar painters from late Ming’s corruption to the Ming-Qing dynastic transition. Despite of his well-known talents in literature, poems and paintings in Beijing and Suzhou, he did not want to become an official in the late Ming Dynasty. His friend circle involved famous official and painter Dong Qichang, Chen Jiru and many government important officials in the late Ming. In 1648, after a few years of Beijing’s falling to rebels and the Chongzhen emperor hanged himself on Coal Hill, he took his son Yang Zhao(杨照) to live a seclusive life in the FanJing Caotang thatched house and started his nine-year remnant’s life.

The ten-leaf album of Yearning for Ancient Sages ( Huai Gu Tu Yong ce, 怀古图咏册) at the Shanghai Museum was painted in 1648 when YangBu began his eremitic life. The ten leaves of paintings in the album traced ten historical stories that chosen from the formal historic books, which are linked to the eremitic life of the ancient sages. Those titles are1、(Boyi and Shuqi) picking osmund  采薇2、(Ju and Ni) plough farmland耦耕 3、(Shaoping) planting melon 种瓜 4、( Four old men in Shang Mountain)pick ganoderma lucidum采芝 5、(Shenshupan) living in the room around by trees 因树为屋 6、(Yuanhong) living in mud hut ( tu shi 土室) 7 (Guanning) offering well water 化汲 8 (Jiaoxian) Sleeping in the snow 卧雪9、(Tao Yuanming) Picking chrysanthemum 采菊10 (Zheng sixiao) Benxue world本穴世界.This article focuses on the iconography of the ten paintings as well as the painter’s self-image, and analyzes Yang Bu’s ambivalence between desire and despair at the initial stage as a remnant.

May 5, Shih-Shan Susan Huang

Shih-Shan Susan Huang

Assistant Professor, Art History Department
Rice University

Thursday, May 5, 4:30- 6:30 pm
Location: CWAC 152

True Form Charts and the Daoist Visuality

Daoist visuality is unique in its notion of zhenxing 真形or “true form,” a term coined by medieval Daoists and documented throughout numerous texts of that time. Broadly speaking, “true form” can apply to a deity, an icon, a purified self, a talisman, or a picture. It denotes the original shape something has as part of Dao, the inherent potency as expressed in physical form, perfect form, etc. In many cases, the “true form” is associated with the inner, invisible, and formless quality of an entity, contrary to the outer, the visible, and the concrete. With a framework thus established, seeing the “true form” requires religious discipline and practice. Daoists advocate rigorous meditation and visualization as the most efficient way to see the “true form.” More specifically, Daoists frequently use a visual symbol known as the true form chart (zhenxing tu真形圖) newly fashioned in medieval Daoism. Classified as Numinous Charts in the Daozang, these charts refer to aniconic diagrams of mountain-inspired paradises, sacred sites, and hells. Two are of particular importance, and will be the focus of this presentation: Renniao shan zhenxing tu 人鳥山真形圖 (True Form Chart of the Man-Bird Mountain) and Wuyue zhenxing tu 五嶽真形圖 (True Form Chart of the Five Sacred Peaks).

This talk will explore the symbolic dimension of these true form charts associated with earthly paradises. They highlight the unique Daoist notion of the “true form,” a superior body attained through meditation or spiritual revelation. Their aniconic visual quality is essential to Daoist realization, aiming at perfecting the individual through uniting with an agent perceived as absolute–the Dao. While uniquely Daoist, their puzzling configurations relate to those found in cartography, Feng Shui, calligraphy, talismans, and herbal medicine. The visuality of the True Form Diagrams of Mountains exhibits a grotto heaven with Daoist signs. Because the true form charts are part of Daoist esoteric teachings, their makers intentionally made them difficult to comprehend for ordinary people, yet decipherable for trained adepts. This exclusive context then led to the birth of the unique visuality of Daoist mysticism: esoteric, hybrid, and aniconic.

* This talk is sponsored by the Council for Advanced Studies and Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago

April 22, Xu Jin

Xu Jin

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

Friday, April 22, 4- 6 pm
CWAC 156

Displaying Filial Piety: Spatial Design of a Sodgian Immigrant Tomb in Sixth-century China


With a unique bilingual inscription and an intricate pictorial program, Lord Shi’s house-shaped sarcophagus has received increasing attention from historians, linguists, art historians, and scholars of religious studies since its excavation. Until now, academic attention has largely focused on the historical information and the iconographical interpretation of the inscription and the images carved on the sarcophagus. Scholars have focused on Lord Shi’s Sogdian background as well as his exceptional career as a sabao, or chieftain of commercial caravans. They are fascinated by the exotic religious or artistic elements of the sarcophagus, debating the source and meaning of the images in relation to similar structures owned by Sogdian immigrants. There are also a few scholars who have tried to interpret the sarcophagus from the perspective of sinification, primarily based on its Chinese-style appearance and the conventional mortuary construction. By treating the sarcophagus as an independent structure detached from its burial context, however, these scholars fail to fully address the significance of Lord Shi’s sarcophagus against the larger backdrop of funerary practices in early medieval China.

This paper addresses the spatial design of Lord Shi’s tomb, treating the tomb construction as a complex project which includes not only the entombment of the sarcophagus within the underground tomb chamber, but also the selection and arrangement of different funerary devices in the tomb and the graveyard as an organic whole. Taking the Chinese inscription as its starting point, the paper demonstrates that Lord Shi’s house-shaped sarcophagus was intended as a hybrid structure which functioned both as a coffin and an offering shrine. In light of the fact that the sarcophagus was surrounded by an empty space within the tomb chamber and was paired with a bei stele on the graveyard path, the paper then argues that the sacrificial space of Lord Shi’s tomb imitated the typical graveyard plan of the Eastern Han dynasty(25-220 A.D.  Such imitation was realized in a very unique way, because it collapsed the division between the sphere of the dead and the domain of the living, which served as a crucial principle of conventional tomb constructions during the Sixth century. This paper proposes that this innovation of the tomb space reflects the desire of Lord Shi’s sons to display filial piety.

April 15, Xu Xiwen

Xu Xiwen

Associate Professor, Southeast University, China
Visiting scholar, University of Chicago

Friday, April 15, 4- 6 pm
CWAC 156

Beyond Borders: On the hanging scroll Lady Wen-Chi Returning to China attributed to Chen Juzhong at the National Palace Museum of Taipei


Lady Wen-chi story has been a popular subject in painting and poetry, reflecting the relationship between China and its neighboring tribes. The text of Lady Wen-Chi’s story has two versions: one was allegedly written by Lady Wen-Chi herself, also known as Eighteen Songs of Nomad Flute, and the other wss written by the poet Liu Shang. The hanging scroll Lady of Wen-chi Returning to China at the National Palace Museum in Taipei is based on Liu Shang’s poem. Many scholars have had different opinions regarding its dating and interpretation. Some argue that like the album of Eighteen Songs of Nomad Flute at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this hanging scroll expressed the same political propaganda of the early Sothern Song dynasty, while the others claim that its dating should be around the end of Northern Song, reflecting the imagination of foreign tribes in the society. This paper reexamines the painting based on archeological findings and stylistic analysis and argues that this hanging scroll should be dated at the end of Southern Song dynasty (1208-1216), when the society was affected by thoughts of Confucianism, and fascinated with the exotic customs of northern countries; meanwhile the imperial authority tried to re-build a peaceful and equal diplomatic relationship with the northern countries.

* This talk will be given in Chinese.