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Art History Workshop: Wang Xizhi's calligraphy (Hui-Wen Lu) and 18th century Suzhou imagery (Ya-Chen Ma)

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University presents a workshop on calligraphy and imagery in the 18th century

March 14, 2014 1:30pm to 4:30pm

1:30 pm
Reproducing and Remaking the Paradigm: Wang Xizhi’s (303-361) Calligraphic Masterpiece Essay on Yue Yi (Yue Yi lun) in the Age of Printing
Hui-Wen Lu, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of Art History, National Taiwan University
Discussant: Qianshen Bai, Boston University
Moderator: Eugene Wang, Harvard University

3:05 pm
Suzhou Redefined: Visual Manifestation of Prosperity in Eighteenth-Century Commercial Culture
Ya-Chen Ma, Associate Professor of History, National Tsing Hua University; Visiting Scholar, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University
Discussant: Eugene Wang, Harvard University
Moderator: Mark Elliott, Harvard University

Reproducing and Remaking the Paradigm: Wang Xizhi’s (303-361) Calligraphic Masterpiece Essay on Yue Yi (Yue Yi lun) in the Age of Printing

Hui-Wen Lu
will examine how the paradigm of Wang Xizhi (303-361), arguably the most influential figure in the history of Chinese calligraphy, has been made, un-made, and re-made through reproductions in the age of printing. She will particularly focus on the period from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, when the compilation and production of calligraphy model-books (tie, small-sized ink rubbings taken from engraved stone or wood) was in full swing. Very few of Wang Xizhi’s original works still existed after the eighth century. As connoisseurs and scholars of the Song dynasty (960-1279) embarked on the task to restore Wang’s elusive “true” style in the model-books, by selecting suitable pieces and making “reproductions” of his works, they applied their own ideas of perfection, sometimes quite different from how Wang was perceived during the Tang (618-907).

One of the most significant changes occurred in Wang’s small-sized regular script (xiaokai). Lu will chart out this course of change by looking into both textual and visual evidences surrounding Essay on Yue Yi (Yue Yi lun), one of the preeminent works in small-sized regular script attributed to Wang Xizhi. Lu begins with a careful reading of calligraphic treatises on Wang Xizhi from the Tang and Song periods, followed by close examinations and comparisons of the calligraphic style in extant copies of Essay on Yue Yi. These include an eighth-century complete copy by the Japanese Empress K?my? (701-760), manuscript fragments from Astana, Xinjiang and Dunhuang, Gansu by anonymous writers datable to the eighth and ninth centuries, and multiple versions of the same text found in various model-books from the twelfth century onwards. In addition to addressing the historical issue of the Tang-Song transition, Lu will also bring into discussion the intricate relations between originals and copies, ideals and realities, and prototypes and appropriations.

Professor Lu's field of specialty is the history of calligraphy and painting in pre-modern China. Some of the topics she has worked on include Northern Wei stone-engraved calligraphy, the secularization of the wild-cursive script from Tang to Song, non-Han artists in the Mongol-Yuan period, and the impact of antiquarianism on calligraphy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She received her PhD in Chinese art and archaeology from Princeton University. Her current book project looks into the first publication frenzy of calligraphy model-books in China, from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, and its results in a reformed calligraphic canon.

Suzhou Redefined: Visual Manifestation of Prosperity in Eighteenth-Century Commercial Culture

Ya-chen Ma
will discuss why a dramatic shift of imagery occurred in the eighteenth century and how it corresponded to economic, social, and cultural change in local society. While Suzhou had been a prosperous southeastern metropolis for centuries, in late imperial China, its economic power was not made explicit in visual art until the eighteenth century. Not until then did new cityscapes depicting commercial activities in urban settings replace the dominant image that since the sixteenth century had portrayed Suzhou as a scenic suburb visited by literati.

The eighteenth century marks the Qing dynasty’s prosperous age. Much of the concurrent sociocultural phenomena, such as urbanization and commercialization, were inherited from the continuity of economic boom since the Ming dynasty. The unbroken commercial growth alone, however, could not sustain the same sociocultural structure in the eighteenth century. Many historical studies have illuminated the changing political, social, and cultural dimensions under High Qing. Few, however, have focused on how economic growth was felt and interpreted differently in an era of constant commercial boom under the Qing regime. Ma's presentation is part of a book project that focuses on the cultural dynamics between commerce and politics and visual manifestations of prosperity were invented, appropriated, contested, and reincorporated in eighteenth-century China.

Professor Ma's research interests include urban, commercial, and visual culture in late imperial China, as well as Qing court art. She has published articles on Giuseppe Castiglione’s One Hundred Horses, Ming images of warfare, eighteenth-century Suzhou prints, Xu Yang’s Burgeoning Life in a Resplendent Age, and The Jade Terrace History of Calligraphy and Painting. She is currently working on two book projects “Marginal Mainstream: Visual and Cultural Representations of War in Late Imperial China” and “Suzhou and Beijing Redefined: Prized Commerce and Visual Politics in Eighteenth-Century China.”

Phone Number: 
(617) 495-4046