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250 × 190 mm
296 pages
190 illustrations, 131 in colour
01 May 2012

A Story of Ruins Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture Wu Hung

This richly illustrated book examines the changing significance of ruins as vehicles for cultural memory in Chinese art and visual culture from ancient times to the present. The story of ruins in China is different from but connected to ‘ruin culture’ in the West. This book explores indigenous Chinese concepts of ruins and their visual manifestations, as well as the complex historical interactions between China and the West since the eighteenth century.

Wu Hung leads us through an array of traditional and contemporary visual materials, including painting, architecture, photography, prints and cinema. A Story of Ruins shows how ruins are integral to traditional Chinese culture in both architecture and pictorial forms. It traces the changes in their representation over time, from indigenous methods of recording damage and decay in ancient China, to realistic images of architectural ruins in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the strong interest in urban ruins in contemporary China, as shown in the many artworks that depict demolished houses and decaying industrial sites. The result is an original interpretation of the development of Chinese art, as well as a unique contribution to global art history.

To download some sample pages from A Story of Ruins please click here.

A Story of Ruins is a provocative and breathless race through very different aspects of Chinese art and culture over more than 2,000 years’ – TLS

A Story of Ruins brims with provocative ideas and surprising insights’ – Journal of Chinese Studies

‘With admirable clarity and precision this ambitious book examines a rich topic - the multiple varieties of significance that have been invested in ruins as vehicles of cultural memory in China, from classical times until the present. A Story of Ruins is an original and welcome contribution not only to the study of art in China but art generally.’ – Martin Powers, University of Michigan

‘Emphasizing the interconnection of East and West, this is a landmark book in the study of global art. Unprecedentedly ambitious, it covers all at once chinoiserie in the West and the arts of imperial, republican, and communist China. The arguments, supported with rich evidence, are original, sophisticated, and free of jargon but full of theoretical insights. With its unusual breadth and depth, A Story of Ruins should appeal to a very wide audience.’ – Lillian Lan-ying Tseng, New York University

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Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many books, including The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (Reaktion Books, 1996), Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space (Reaktion, 2005) and The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs (Reaktion, 2010).