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234 × 156 × 18 mm
224 pages
96 illustrations
01 Nov 1997
Picturing History
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Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China Craig Clunas

The sixteenth century in China was a period of rapid and unprecedented economic expansion. The period also saw a parallel growth in the sphere of cultural production,as a growing class of consumers benefited from the formation of one of the classic early modern consumer societies.

Pictures were a major source of consumable luxury at this time; pictures not only in the form of images classifiable as ‘art’, but also in the form of wall decoration, in books, maps, images on ceramics, and even on the dress of the prosperous. Artefacts that had previously been decorated with formal patterns now bore landscape scenes, representations of historical characters and incidents, and scenes from literature, often closely related to the world of the illustrated book.

This is the first attempt to survey this vast array of images in all its aspects, providing a stimulating and innovative point of entry to Chinese history. Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China will be of interest to students of China’s history and culture and to anyone exploring theories of visuality.

‘he argues his interpretations of Chinese art with a great sense of adventure, and it reads tremendously well. Clunas is a master of argument. He presents his texts around carefully considered selections of material culture, which are not simply mustered to illustrate one art-historical point after another, but skilfully used for their value in making several claims throughout a larger discourse.’ — Times Higher Educational Supplement

‘reveals the tantalizing array of images to be considered in pursuit of a full understanding of Chinese pictorial culture. It is hoped that this study will stimulate similar studies for other periods, creating a wider and fuller understanding of the ways in which images were deployed and understood in China. We still have a long way to go to escape the limitations of the traditional accounts that are the focus of Professor Clunass criticism.’ — Apollo

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Craig Clunas is Percival David Chair of Chinese Art at SOAS, London.And is Professor of History of Art at the University of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford.He has published extensively on the culture of the Ming period and is the author of Superfluous Things (1991), Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China (Reaktion Books, 1996), Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (Reaktion Books, 1997), Art in China (1997), Elegant Debts: The Social Art of Wen Zhengming (Reaktion, 2004), and Empire of Great Brightness : Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368-1644 (Reaktion, 2007).

1.  Introduction
2.  Positions of the Pictorial
3.  Representing the Triad
4.  Practices of Vision
5.  The Work of Art in the Age of Woodblock Reproduction
6.  Fears of the Image
7.  Conclusion
Picture Acknowledgements