Tuesday, Dec.6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

An Interpretation of Yatsuhashi (‘the Eight-plank Bridge’): Space and Memory in Edo Political History

Timon Screech, 

Professor of the History of Art at SOAS, University of London


The Japanese landscape is filled with ‘famous places’, also known as ‘poetic pillows’, meaning sites that figures from the past wrote compellingly about in words that were remembered ever after. Naturally, most sites were near Kyoto, but areas to the East are not entirely devoid of them. Some sites were specific locations, some generic, and others had a specificity that was lost over time.

This talk will be centered on Yatsuhashi, which is in Mikawa, though no one knew quite where. It opens the ‘Decent to the East’ section of the Tales of Ise, which continues with a journey past Shizuoka, over Hakone and to Musashi, Since Musashi was where the Tokugawa family created their shogunate 600 years later, Yatsuhashi acquired special meaning in Edo times.

We will consider the wider meanings of this site, and also of others that the new shogunate sought to associate itself with.

Tuesday, Dec.6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhiyan Yang (

Dec.2, Josh Yiu

Friday, Dec.2, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Lui Shou-kwan (1919-1975) and Modern Chinese Art

Josh Yiu, Director of the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


This will be a case study of a marginalized mid-century Chinese artist who pioneered the ink movement that came to be known as ‘contemporary ink’ today.  Born and raised in mainland China, Lui Shou-kwan 呂壽琨(1919-1975) spent most of his adult life in Hong Kong, and his life hardly revolved around the momentous events that shaped the developments of art academies and artists in mainland China.  As modern Chinese art history is largely subsumed within the fabric of political history of modern China, it is understandable that artists outside of mainland China, especially those who were active in Hong Kong and Taiwan, may not sit well in this narrative.  While they are not neglected, they are often portrayed as regional artists in outlying chapters.  Therefore, some of them, including Lui Shou-kwan, have been art historiographically marginalized, even though their work and thinking may be no less progressive than their contemporaries working in the mainland.  My talk will explore Lui’s theoretical thinking that led him to negotiate the classical tradition and Abstract Expressionism, as well as to investigate his unique perspective on contemporary art that was global yet Sino-centric.  The presentation will conclude with the suggestion that the modernism in Chinese art is not–and should not be–simply be defined by visual elements and ‘innovative’ styles.


Friday, Dec. 2, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao( or Zhiyan Yang (

Nov.18, Zhenru Zhou

Friday, November.18, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Recarving the Dunhuang Grottoes: A study on the roles of architecture in the process of copying Buddhist Pure Land landscapes

Zhenru Zhou, Ph.D. Student, Art History, University of Chicago


This project focuses on the roles of Chinese Buddhist architecture in the process of image-making, which may exist beyond the boundaries of media, regions and eras. Based on a close formal reading of the Contemplation Sutra painting on the north wall of Mogao Cave 172 (705-770 AD) – one of the best-known Western Paradise depictions among the Dunhuang murals – the study reveals key parallels between the imaginary Chinese Buddhist architecture and the imitative Pure Land landscapes. A theoretical reconstruction of the Pure Land architecture in the painting’s main scene interprets the viewing experience of the painting, wherein the representational techniques enhance the engagement of the viewers. An integrated installation then explores how architecture evokes viewers’ imagination of a Buddhist utopia by using multiple light sources and scaled spaces, in view of the narrative and instructional functions of the side paintings.

Friday, November.18, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao( or Zhiyan Yang (

Nov.11, Dongshan Zhang

Friday, November.11, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Word and Body, Dharani and the Buried: Tang Amulets and Liao Coffins

Dongshan Zhang,

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

There are a few different Chinese transliterations/translations of the word Dharani, including tuoluoni陀羅尼, ming明, zhou咒, miyu密語, and zhenyan真言. As incantations or spells, the dharani-s written in Chinese script are not sentences that conform to grammar. Nor is their religious efficacy achieved through the Buddhists’ grasping of their literal meaning. As the Liao-dynasty monk Daochen explains in xianmi yuantong chengfo xinyao ji (The Compendium of Essential Matters for the Heart of Unifying the Revealing and the Secret regarding Becoming Buddha):
“…that is why people say that zhou are the secret laws of buddhas. They transmit between buddhas and do not communicate to others. (Therefore, as ordinary people, we) should only recite and uphold them, and need not to scrape through the meaning. ”
In this light, as words, the form of dharani is more important than the textual content. There are two ways to understand the form of dharani. Firstly, as spoken words, people would generate sound when they recite dharani-s. The Chinese translations of dharani, zhenyan, or miyu, clearly show how essential the auditory form is to dharani. However, due to the elaborate work done on this by many scholars, I will not spend much time in this regard. My focus is the form in the other sense: as written words, the visual forms that dharani presents.
In the first half of the presentation, we will examine several so-called dharani amulets excavated from tombs dated to as early as 8th century, and as late as 10th century. The paper amulets, whose dharani inscriptions display visual forms of high complexity, are essentially attempts to reconstruct the three-dimensional mandala-altars on two-dimensional surfaces.
The second half of the presentation will compare dharani amulets to the coffins bearing dharani inscriptions over the surfaces from the Liao-dynasty tombs in Xuanhua.
I will argue that the Xuanhua dharani coffins are attempts of a “backward transformation”: their makers took elements from the mandala-altars on two-dimensional amulets and transformed the coffins into three-dimensional mandalas.


Friday, Nov. 11, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao( or Zhiyan Yang (

OCT. 28, TAO Jin

Friday, October 28, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

The City God’s New Clothes: A Brief Study on the Articulated Living Image


Tao Jin 陶金, 

Architect, Tsinghua University Architecture Design Institute, Beijing


 *the lecture will be delivered in Chinese


“The articulated living image”, a type of anthropomorphic icon with movable joints, can be widely found in all types of vernacular shrines throughout China. However, scholars have often neglected this important body of materials that could be traced back as far as the early medieval period (5-6th century). The articulated living images now housed in the famous City God Temple of Shanghai are the most-frequently-visited ones in China today. This study began with the robe-changing ritual for the icons in 2016, and then reports on an extended interview with the craftsmen who were responsible for creating the robes and icons since the 1990s. Through an investigation of the seven features of the articulated living image:human-scale, movable joints, actual attire, human hair, simulated organs, nine orifices, and buried animals, I argue that a deeper understanding of the cultural and ritual significance of such humanoid statues will allow us to gain a new perspective on the concept of human body and the relationships between soul and body, human and deity in ancient China. By employing anthropological research methods, I hope to reconstruct and retrace four major scenarios of the articulated living image: processing, feasting, holding official audiences, and dwelling, which define the spatial prototypes of Chinese anthropomorphic sacred architecture. I will also discuss the cultural relationship amongst a wide variety of cult practices related to the articulated statues, such as shamanism, magic substitute of sacrifice, tomb figurines, and Chinese medicine.


Friday, October 28, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao( or Zhiyan Yang (

Oct. 7, Chelsea Foxwell

Friday, October 7, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Birds from Abroad and Men at Home: Copying and Classification in Late 18th-Century Japan

Chelsea Foxwell, 

Assistant Professor of Art History and the College, University of Chicago


This paper examines attitudes toward images, observation, and the social order in late-eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Japan by focusing on the paintings and woodblock-printed books of Kuwagata Keisai 鍬形蕙斎 and his better-known contemporary, Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎.


Keisai, who slightly predated Hokusai, had a notable tendency to depict things in the aggregate, in a way that showed greater concern with the ordering and manipulation of existing forms than with the production of what we would call original designs. Keisai’s lavish color-printed book Birds from Abroad (Kaihaku raikin zui, 1790-1) shows exotic specimens copied from a set of paintings of foreign birds in Nagasaki. His monumental handscroll set Artisans of Edo (Edo shokunin zukushi ekotoba, c. 1803) transcribes the customs and professions of the contemporary Japanese city. In both works, copying, a form of image acquisition, and classification, a means of making sense of the world, shape and comment on social identities.


This worldview was related to the rapidly growing market for visual information in the form of illustrated woodblock-printed books throughout East Asia. Keisai and Hokusai’s works, I argue, did not only reflect the new wave of visual information; they commented on it in a way that was subtle enough to avoid causing offense. Finally, the question remains: in the lively early modern world of woodblock-print reproduction, did “artistic originality” matter, and how?

Friday, October 7, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Yunfei Shao( or Zhiyan Yang (


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

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

May 16 Chen Chao-Jung

Special Talk:

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

This presentation will be held in Chinese.

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

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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.


Monday, May 16, 4:30-6:30pm, CWAC157
Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact

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