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date: 23 February 2019

Visual Culture in Imperial China

Summary and Keywords

The study of visual culture in imperial China is a young and heterogeneous field that encompasses a large and shifting array of visual materials and viewing practices. Because of the many political and social changes over the course of roughly two millennia, scholars have generally focused on specific forms and shorter periods, often defined by dynasty, instead of proposing comprehensive theories or all-inclusive overviews. The most recent dynasties, Ming and Qing, have received the majority of the scholarly attention to visual culture as such, but much research on earlier periods also sheds light on the roles of the visual and visual experience. In contrast to scholarship on modern and contemporary Chinese visual culture, which typically draws upon European and American theoretical models, studies concerned with the imperial era more often use methodologies and interpretive frameworks from art history and anthropology. Major foci of interest, whose relative importance varies by period, are the imperial court and its projects to perpetuate and project imperial authority, concerns with and techniques for creating auspicious environments in earthly life and in tomb contexts, structures and practices associated with Buddhism and Daoism within religious institutions and in lay communities, uses of writing and representational images to embody the values of the Confucian-educated elite, woodblock illustration and consumerism in urban culture, rural forms of visual culture, vernacular images and erotica, and the assimilation of elements of foreign visual culture.

Keywords: visual culture, visuality, visual display, tomb decoration, auspicious environment, icons, printing, landscape, documentary painting, portraiture, imperial imagery, Buddhist and Daoist art


The interdisciplinary field of visual culture emerged in Western academe during the late 1980s–1990s.1 Its initial emphasis on visual media of communication and experience in the modern/postmodern West broadened in the 2000s to include other parts of the world as well as premodern eras. Studies of global contemporary visual culture rely heavily on theoretical formulations from postcolonial, ethnic, and gender studies, making them “inherently political”2 and often highly polemical. Scholars of modern and contemporary China generally reject the notion of visual culture as a universal phenomenon and insist on its historical and cultural specificity, but some borrow from Western theories in order to define “a complex visual order and experience that is recognizably Chinese and contemporary.”3 By contrast, scholarship on visual culture during the imperial period has tended to be more empirically based and always firmly grounded in Chinese social and political history, using analytical tools from art history and anthropology. Only since the 1990s have scholars working on imperial China explicitly positioned their writings as investigations of “visual culture,” for which the Chinese term is the literal translation shijue wenhua 視覺文化‎.

Most writers who have attempted to define visual culture emphasize the importance of understanding forms and practices within the social realm of a specific time and place.4 More than just the study of artifacts, however wide ranging, visual culture encompasses “the visual construction of the social field.”5 It includes objects, structures, performances, and depictions, and the associated meanings that are created by viewers and users as well as by patrons and producers. Visual culture renders cultural values visible, while also manifesting changes over time.

It would be misleading to pretend that a unified narrative can be constructed for such a large and diffuse topic as “imperial China,” covering a period of over 2000 years from the Qin through Qing dynasties.6 Moreover, concepts and practices that evolved during the centuries preceding the Qin unification became part of imperial civilization. Institutions and rituals identified with an idealized earlier era of utopian order and preserved in the Confucian Classics served as models for later dynasties, whether for revival in literal form or as a pretext for new departures. Thus, the visual culture of the imperial era has much in common with that of earlier times, and new elements appeared gradually. Similarly, features of modern visual culture emerged before the end of the Qing dynasty, during the period of rapid change after the middle of the 19th century.

A further problem is that the geographical territory we call “China” is very large and diverse, and the empire’s external and internal boundaries changed constantly over the centuries. Even within a single time period, visual culture displayed regional differences. In periods of invasion or fragmentation, when multiple regimes controlled different areas, no government enjoyed uncontested possession of a mandate to rule. Later historians constructed a superficially unbroken succession of legitimate dynasties by selecting one to represent its time, but to trace the development of visual culture this way might well miss important forms.

Finally, even within a unified and strongly governed realm, visual culture encompasses diverse loci of production and reception. What is characteristic of the imperial court or the capital may not apply to lower-echelon administrative centers, not to mention small towns and rural areas. Differences in social status and affiliation also create variations, as the aristocracy’s visual forms and practices do not necessarily appear among the literati-official elite, which may differ yet again from what is characteristic among merchants, artisans, monks, or farmers; not to mention women at all points within the social spectrum.

Nonetheless, many features and practices became widespread and endured over long periods, creating distinctive characteristics that differentiate imperial China’s configuration of visual culture from that of other civilizations and periods. Perhaps the natural barriers of mountains, deserts, and seas that separated China from other polities fostered a sense of insularity that promoted internal cohesion and continuity, reinforced by a common system of writing and durable written records. In view of all these considerations, selected topics are surveyed here in successive phases of the imperial era, considering forms, conventions, and techniques within specific historical and cultural contexts.

Some Enduring Cultural Values

A couple of preliminary generalizations, oversimplified as they may be, will help to anchor the discussion and interpretation of specific forms of visual culture. Imperial China was a hierarchical society in which the ideal order placed everyone in clearly defined relationships to others, often with reciprocal obligations. These normative relationships identified superiors and inferiors: emperor and minister, father and son, man and woman, Chinese and outsider, and so forth. In the impersonal yet morally functioning cosmos that integrated the human realm with the natural world, the emperor was the Son of Heaven, presiding from the center over a bureaucracy that administered affairs concerning the populace. Through the correct and timely performance of sacrificial rites and other ceremonies, he discharged his awesome duty of creating harmony throughout the system. If he succeeded, the natural world would respond by producing auspicious phenomena, such as double-headed grain, while bad governance would elicit earthquakes and other disasters. A well-ruled Central Kingdom would attract “barbarians of the Four Quarters” to offer tribute or even submit to the emperor’s superior authority. The paradigmatic representation of the emperor shows him wearing robes covered with auspicious emblems, seated on a dragon throne backed by a large screen and facing south to give audience to officials and tributaries [Portrait of the Jiajing emperor (r. 1522–1566) National Palace Museum, Taiwan].

The ideal of the patriarchal family included members who were recently deceased or as yet unborn, in addition to the living. The head of the family might have multiple wives or concubines to produce the desired sons to perpetuate it over many generations. To one’s parents, an individual owed obedience and respect, often termed filial piety (xiao), and in return they provided nurture and benevolence. The lingering spirits of dead ancestors could affect the family’s well-being, and tomb furnishings and periodic sacrifices were meant to serve their perceived needs. Buddhism offered additional ways in which the living could provide the deceased with benefits, such as by making donations to hasten their liberation from suffering. Daoist practices evoked cosmic energies (qi), often visualized as gods, to perform healing and protective functions. Minor deities also populated the spirit world and could influence human affairs, inspiring local cults to gain their protection or blessings.

The establishment of Mahayana Buddhism in the early centuries of the Common Era brought new ideas and resources from India and Central Asia. Along with a different concept of the afterlife as a series of hells or purgatories came new expedients for escaping postmortem torments. Through prayers and offerings to Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and arhats, one might generate exculpatory merit for oneself and family members, and even for a larger community. Other merit-accruing activities, for laymen and clergy alike, included transcribing or sponsoring sutra texts, making donations to monks and monasteries, and commissioning icons and murals to furnish the buildings. Besides introducing modes of devotional worship, Buddhist practices also included hieratic representations of figures from the pantheon, reinforced through meditation and visualization, which helped to establish conventions of symmetry and balance for secular portrayals as well (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. The Buddha of Medicine and his assembly, Yuan dynasty, c. 1319, temple mural. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 65.29.2. Gift of Arthur M. Sackler, in honor of his parents, Isaac and Sophie Sackler, 1965.

Visual Culture in the Early Imperial Period: Evidence From Qin and Han Archaeology

The imperial era began in 221 bc, when the ruler of the state of Qin proclaimed himself Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor, after conquering the last of the rival states. Historical texts and excavated materials provide the evidence for important features of visual culture during the early centuries.7 Archaeological discoveries around the Qin capital at Xianyang and Shi Huangdi’s burial precinct at Lintong (both in modern Shaanxi) suggest the appearance of architectural structures that had a prominent presence in the landscape and prefigure later imperial buildings. Shi Huangdi fortified and extended existing sections of the Great Wall for protection against nomadic enemies to the north and northwest. Rammed-earth walls also surrounded the capital, whose orientation was aligned with the Northern Dipper to position him as a cosmic sovereign. Large palace buildings and other important structures were erected on rammed-earth platforms, with the main entrance on the south side. Wooden columns formed regularly spaced bays and supported the beams under heavy tiled roofs, and some interior walls were painted. The emperor had metal weapons collected from his subjects and melted down to cast twelve monumental statues, which were set up in the palace [reconstruction of Qin Epang Palace]. Nearby was a large forested park for the emperor to hunt game animals. Shi Huangdi also built replicas of palaces of the defeated states and required over 100,000 members of their populations to move into his capital.

With the completion of the Qin conquest and unification of the feudal states, Shi Huangdi abandoned the earlier system of governance through fiefdoms and replaced it with a centralized administrative hierarchy of prefectures, counties, and towns. Suppressing varied practices in the defeated states, he introduced several standardized systems that impinged upon visual experience. Round metal coins with a square center hole superseded the variety of forms that had been used as money in the defeated states, becoming the model for coinage under later dynasties [Qin casting mold for coins]. A prescribed length for carriage axles facilitated travel on a newly constructed and extensive network of roads. Standard units of weights and measures were disseminated in pottery, cast-iron, or bronze exemplars, which bore the text of the 221 bc edict inscribed in official “small seal” script [Qin measure-Shandong Provincial Museum]. Based on a style of writing that had evolved in the state of Qin from the earlier Zhou “large seal” script, “small seal” replaced the scripts used in other states and established fixed forms for characters. The individual strokes were of even width, and the size of a character did not depend on the number of strokes it contained. A passage of text thus could easily be presented within a uniform grid, visually connoting order and control. Stone tablets inscribed with panegyrics to Shi Huangdi’s virtue were erected to commemorate his inspection tours to sacred mountains and other parts of the realm, thus consolidating both his earthly and cosmic authority [rubbing of Stele on Mount Yi, 219 BC].8 The notorious burning of books, which spared only a few useful genres such as medical texts, helped to suppress alternative forms of writing, as well as ideas that might support a challenge to Shi Huangdi’s authority.

Shi Huangdi also made lavish preparations to provide everything he needed to continue ruling in the afterlife, constructing a mausoleum on an immense scale east of the capital, emphatically separate from the cemetery of earlier Qin kings.9 The most important above-ground structure inside its two walled enclosures was a ritual hall to house the deceased emperor’s clothing and other personal articles, while nearby pits contained all kinds of provisions, including human personnel and animals. Surmounted by an artificial mountain, the tomb itself functioned as a microcosm of heaven and earth, containing rivers and seas of mercury, as well as palaces and precious artifacts, protected by crossbows set up to shoot intruders. A massive army of lifesize terracotta soldiers and horses guarded the eastern approach to the tomb. Arranged in a battle formation based on Qin military practice, the majority of soldiers were infantrymen, with a much smaller cavalry and an elite corps who rode in horse-drawn chariots [Qin terracotta army]. The terracotta effigies of men and horses were originally painted and furnished with real weapons and harness fittings. Extremely lifelike, the warriors varied in height, age, facial features, hairstyle, posture, and functional role. Two half-lifesize figures and four-horse chariots, made of painted bronze, were found in 1980 in a pit just west of the still-unexcavated tomb itself, perhaps to enable the emperor to continue touring as he had in life.10 [Qin bronze chariots].

The far longer Han dynasty (202 bcad 220), established a few years after Shi Huangdi’s death, largely maintained Qin administrative, architectural, and funerary practice. Many more sites, artifacts, and literary accounts survive to shed light on visual elements of Han experience.11 Its first capital, Chang’an (Xi’an), contained several palace complexes and pleasure parks. Bronze figures stood outside the most important buildings, including the twelve brought from the former Qin palace. Outside the rammed-earth city wall, under large manmade mounds, Han emperors were buried with lavish provisions for the afterlife [Maoling, tomb of Han Wudi].12 The precincts included ritual halls and service buildings inside enclosing walls, while a new feature, followed in later dynasties, was the placement of stone animals and figures on a “spirit way” leading to the tomb.13 Imperial burials were surrounded by the satellite tombs of favored courtiers, generals, and officials, whose smaller mounds still dot the landscape.

Excavated royal tombs provide abundant evidence that members of the Han imperial clan enjoyed an opulent lifestyle, and some of their luxury goods attest to the dynasty’s far-flung interactions with alien peoples to the north and west.14 A small figure on horseback from the tomb of Emperor Zhaodi exemplifies Han access to the fine horses and pure nephrite (jade) from Central Asia [jade immortal on horse, Xianyang Museum]. The well-stocked chambers of the tombs of Prince Liu Sheng (d. 113 bc) and his wife Princess Dou Wan in Mancheng, Hebei, include gilded utensils and objects with inlays of gold and colored stone, associated with a northern nomad aesthetic [Mancheng phoenix with goblets].15 Much farther south, objects made of gold figure prominently among the some 10,000 items buried with Liu He, the Marquis of Haihun (92–59 bc) in Nanchang, Jiangxi [Haihun hou tomb].16

The contents of other tombs give visual form to features of Han life at different levels of society. In addition to providing the deceased with items useful in real life, such as vessels and implements, tomb furnishings were often supplemented with pottery imitations and pictorial representations that would function in the spirit realm.17 Small pottery or wooden effigies of officials, entertainers, and male and female servants display clothing and body language associated with different social classes, as well as regional differences (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Dancer and two musicians, Han dynasty, 1st c. bc–1st c. ad, earthenware with pigment. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.605.85a–c. Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1994.

Ceramic models of houses and farmyards indicate that people lived close to their domestic animals, and multistory watchtowers manned by guards hint at dangers beyond the walls [Han pottery watchtower].18 Pictorial scenes impressed on ceramic tiles, carved on stone slabs, or painted on tomb walls offer particularly rich visual information about a range of activities, such as agricultural tasks, food preparation, feasting and entertainment, processions, and ceremonies (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Tomb panel with relief of figures in a building, E. Han, early 2d c. ad, limestone. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20.99. Rogers Fund, 1920.

Tombs of high officials may portray the locales and personnel associated with their earthly posts, suggesting the kinds of activities that took place in these spaces.19

Auspicious images intended to attract blessings or assert favorable conditions also were ubiquitous in Han visual culture, both above and below ground. The elaborate funerary banners from the Mawangdui cemetery near Changsha, Hunan, dating from the mid-2nd century bc, vividly suggest a conception of the human world integrated with a cosmic realm populated by numinous beings, protective forces, and fantastic creatures [Mawangdui Tomb 1 banner].20 The decoration of a black lacquer coffin from the site depicts a host of fanciful beings amid the swirling lines and cloudlike emanations that connote the ceaseless movement of qi, the energy-force of the cosmos [Mawangdui Tomb 1 lacquer coffin]. Tomb chambers were made into environments for the deceased to thrive with paintings of the sun, moon, and constellations; animals of the four directions; powerful deities and guardian figures; and elements symbolizing the forces of yin and yang [auspicious paintings in Han tombs (Bu Qianqiu-Luoyang)].21 A veritable catalogue of motifs associated with good fortune appears on the ceiling of the Wu Liang shrine, echoing phenomena that Han officials reported to assure the emperor that his reign met with heaven’s approval.22 The repertoire of auspicious emblems and themes increased over the centuries, as did contexts for their deployment, and they were ubiquitous at all levels of society by the end of the imperial era.23

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Figure 4. Stories of virtuous men, from Wu Family Shrine no. 2, E. Han, 2d c. ad rubbing of stone slab. After E. Chavannes, Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale (Paris: E. Leroux, 1909).

Images found in funerary contexts reflect the visual experience of the living in other ways as well. Literary sources describe paintings of mythical and historical figures from the past on screens and walls of palaces, offices, and schools, which are called examples or cautionary models for viewers.24 Portraits and narrative pictures incised on stone slabs in three offering shrines at the Wu Family cemetery in Jiaxiang, Shandong, suggest the appearance of such depictions (Figure 4),25 as do paintings in some Han tombs.26 Illustrations of virtuous men, women, and children subsequently became a staple of visual culture that persisted throughout the imperial era.27 The dissemination of inspirational role models in a variety of media embodied a belief in the efficacy of images for promoting moral conduct.

Assimilation of Foreign Religion: The Period of Disunion Through the Tang Dynasty

Although Buddhist monks from India and Central Asia had an outpost in the Eastern Han capital of Luoyang, the religion spread widely and became well entrenched only in the centuries after the breakup of the Han dynasty in 220.28 Regimes that controlled areas of North China were established by groups from Central Asia who were already familiar with Buddhism, which became tantamount to an official religion and protector of the state in the 4th century. In the South, Emperor Wudi of the Liang dynasty adopted Buddhism as the state religion in the early 6th century. Buddhist monasteries quickly became ubiquitous across North China and more gradually in parts of the South, and the religion facilitated the Sui reunification in 589. Although Tang emperors generally favored Daoism, the female emperor Wu Zetian vigorously patronized the Buddhist establishment during the later decades of the 7th century, and the great Vairocana Buddha at Longmen is thought to display her facial features (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Vairocana Buddha and assembly, Fengxian si cave, Longmen, Tang dynasty, c. 672. Author’s photograph.

A major and far-reaching consequence for visual culture was the introduction of anthropomorphic icons and new practices of image-worship, not only within Buddhist contexts but also as a model adopted by the Daoist competition.29 A hierarchical array of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats, and guardians provided a focus for offerings and prayers, whether by clergy or by laymen seeking blessings. Chinese depictions of the pantheon were based on descriptions in sutra texts and on small icons that were carried to China by monks and other travelers, which were imitated locally [338-dated gilt-bronze seated Buddha, Asian Art Museum].

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Figure 6. Sakyamuni Buddha, Yungang Cave 20, N. Wei dynasty, c. 460. Author’s photograph.

In North China, various rulers commissioned monumental figures of the Buddha and his attendants that were carved out of rock cliffs (Figure 6), often with wooden structures added to create cave-temples. Freestanding images were also set up in temples that were built according to the same architectural principles as palaces.30 Indeed, temple buildings seem to have been viewed as palatial dwellings for gods who were made present through their images. The buildings frequently included one or more pagodas (Figure 7), a form based on Indian stupa reliquaries but modified to resemble Han multistory watchtowers, with any relics buried underneath or otherwise out of sight.

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Figure 7. Small Goose Pagoda, Xi’an, Tang dynasty, early 8th c. Author’s photograph.

Along with the new iconography came foreign genres, techniques, and styles that were gradually modified and absorbed. Early votive sculptures carved in stone or cast in bronze often look distinctly foreign, particularly those whose blocky faces have round eyes and a high-bridged nose, or whose Indian-style clothing reveals the body beneath (Figure 8).

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Figure 8. Maitreya, N. Wei dynasty, dated 486, gilt bronze. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26.123. John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1926.

By the early 6th century, the faces became less alien and the garments more modest and voluminous, with folds and flamelike haloes rendered with linear rhythms reminiscent of Han ornament. Paintings of Buddhist figures also show varying degrees of exotic novelty and assimilation. Indian techniques for suggesting mass and volume by means of modulated colors and shading provided an alternative to representation based on linear outline and uniform coloring [8th c. banner of Buddha Preaching, British Museum]. Stories from the Buddha’s previous lives and his final incarnation as Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, were depicted in horizontal formats that enabled separate events to be illustrated in sequence [scenes from the life of Buddha, Dunhuang cave 290].31 This approach contributed to the development of the handscroll for painting subject matter that lent itself to serial exposition, which later included landscape as well as non-Buddhist figural narratives.32

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Figure 9. Altar set with Maitreya and assembly, N. Wei, dated 524, gilt-bronze. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 38.158.1. Rogers Fund, 1938.

The Mogao Caves near the Dunhuang oasis in northwest China provide a wealth of material for tracing the evolution of Buddhist art.33 Carved out of a cliff face at the edge of the Gobi Desert, its 492 decorated chapels range in date over roughly 1000 years. The sculptures and murals in caves from the Period of Disunion were sponsored by various ethnic groups at this way station on the so-called Silk Route and display heterogeneous styles [Dunhuang cave 285, mid 6th c.]. Caves of the Sui through middle Tang periods reflect styles from the dynastic heartland, epitomized by grand murals of the Pure Land and other Buddhist paradises that depict the palatial architecture of the capital [Amitabha’s Paradise, 7th c., Dunhuang cave 329]. In some of the earlier caves, iconic images occupy a central pillar that worshipers circumambulated, following Indian practice [pillar with icons, 6th c., Dunhuang cave 428], while other cave interiors are open spaces and display images only along the walls and in recessed niches [wall niche with icons, 7th c., Dunhuang cave 321]. Banners and hanging scrolls also depicted Buddhist imagery, sometimes for worshipers of modest means [British Museum, 9th c., banner with bodhisattva]. Many examples painted on silk, paper, or ramie survived in a sealed archive, the so-called library cave, whose contents were dispersed in the early 20th century.34

Within an assemblage of Buddhist figures, relative size indicates rank in the hierarchical pantheon, and garments and posture further distinguish different types of beings (Figure 10).

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Figure 10. Lintel possibly showing the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amitabha, marble, Tang dynasty, 8th c. Freer Gallery of Art, F1913.137. Gift of Charles Lang Freer.

Buddhas and bodhisattvas display symbolic hand gestures that variously signify teachings or convey welcome, flying apsarases and monklike arhats demonstrate modes of adoration and reverence, and guardian figures and animals exhibit protective ferocity. Comparable distinctions appear in Daoist iconography, with different conventions for depicting deities, perfected beings, attendants, and so forth [587, dated Laojun triad, MFA Boston].35

Inscriptions on or accompanying Buddhist and Daoist images often identify the donor(s), in order to record the merit that the pious act earned, whether for individuals, multiple generations of a family, or even all sentient beings. An inscription listing many names established a visible and enduring identity for a worship community, which might include men, women, monks, and nuns, joining together to pool their resources to gain karmic credit toward Buddhist salvation or, alternatively, to become perfected beings merged with the Dao. Donors are sometimes depicted as part of a larger iconic composition, often as small figures placed at the bottom. In contrast to the formal poses and specialized garb with which divinities are typically portrayed, ordinary humans generally appear in contemporary clothing and natural postures (Figure 11).

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Figure 11. Emperor Xiaowen and his court as donors, from central Binyang Cave at Longmen, N. Wei, c. 522, limestone. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 35.146. Fletcher Fund, 1935.

The concept of earning merit by sponsoring or distributing holy images and scriptural transcriptions implied that the quantity of merit acquired depended on the amount of effort or money contributed by donors, or on number of works they sponsored. One visible consequence of such thinking was the frequent appearance of the “Thousand Buddhas” motif in temple murals and other paintings, in sculptural tableaux, and in early prints. Consisting of row upon row of small and cursorily rendered seated Buddha figures, the repetitions might be created as part of a ritual [BNF scroll with multiple printings of Buddha image]. Sometimes the repeated forms vary slightly, such as in coloring or hand postures [1000 Buddhas, south wall of Dunhuang cave 431]. Artists might use pounces to outline these repetitive images in powder and then finish them freehand for portions of a composition that were difficult to reach, particularly ceilings.36

The invention of woodblock printing facilitated the production of multiple forms, whether pictorial or verbal, and made wide distribution feasible. Although the origins of the technology are obscure, it came to prominence during the Tang dynasty for replicating Buddhist images and texts.37 These included not just single-sheet prints [single-sheet Guanyin print, BM] but also scriptures whose length required many printed sheets to be joined together in scrolls or folio books. The best known example, often called the world’s earliest-dated printed book, is the 868-dated Diamond Sutra, whose text is preceded by a pictorial frontispiece showing the Buddha preaching under a jeweled canopy and attended by his assembly [868-dated Diamond Sutra (British Library)]. The subsequent development of this Buddhist innovation had far-reaching effects on secular visual culture in the late imperial period.

Advances in Pictorial Art in the Middle Period: The Five Dynasties Through Yuan

The breakup of the Tang empire in 907 led to several decades of political fragmentation, with a succession of short-lived kingdoms in the north, south, and west. These decentralized conditions seem to have favored rapid developments in the representation of landscape painting, a genre that matured over the course of the 10th century.38 In addition to transmitted works attributed to noted artists, some of which are undoubtedly later copies (Figure 12), archaeological evidence supports later writers’ enthusiastic claims concerning painters’ achievements during this time.39

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Figure 12. Attributed to Qu Ding, 11th c. (formerly attributed to Yan Wengui, fl. c. 980), Summer Mountains, handscroll, ink on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973.120.1. Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973.

Techniques for distinguishing specific features of the local terrain emerged along with attention to the depiction of climate and season. These advances were consolidated when the regions were reunited under the Song dynasty and artists flocked to the capital at Bianliang (modern Kaifeng, Henan).

The dry, mountainous terrain of North China is evoked in two well-known paintings found in tombs, the earlier of which is a partly damaged mural in the tomb of Wang Chuzhi, dateable to 923, in Chuyang, Hebei (Figure 13).40

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Figure 13. Mountain Landscape, mural in the tomb of Wang Chuzhi at Baoding, Hebei, dated 923. After Wudai Wang Chuzhi mu (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 1998).

Painted entirely in monochrome, its craggy hills and ravines display a varied and supple brushwork that creates an overall coherence out of the individually outlined and contoured forms. A painted border around the panoramic scene suggests that it is mounted on a screen standing behind and framing the deceased, who is represented in the tomb by his epitaph. A few decades later, a hanging scroll on silk from a tomb at Yemaotai, Liaoning, adapts the vertical format to emphasize a towering massif and tall pines, while softly rubbed texture strokes contour the eroded cliffs and crevices (Figure 14).41

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Figure 14. Mountain Landscape, hanging scroll excavated from Tomb 7 at Yemaotai, Liaoning, mid 10th c. After Yang Renkai, Yemaotai di qi hao Liao mu chutu guhua kao (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chuban she, 1984).

Distant peaks painted in mineral blue and green pigments evoke Daoist alchemy, suggesting that the chess players outside the cinnabar-columned palace on the foreground bluff are perfected beings or immortals. Coming to join them is a red-robed traveler who approaches the lower gate with servants carrying his zither and wine-pot. In the Song dynasty, hanging scrolls and screens became the preferred formats for depicting monumental landscapes. The mountains’ grandeur and hierarchies of scale suggested analogies with the emperor and his ministers, making the subject particularly suitable for official settings [Guo Xi, Early Spring, National Palace Museum, Taiwan].42

The watery lowlands and vegetated hills characteristic of southern landscape, by contrast, were well suited for horizontal exposition in the handscroll, a format that gives the viewer direct control over the pace and emphasis of the viewing experience. A prime example is Zhao Gan’s Along the River at First Snow, painted by an artist of the Southern Tang court in Nanjing around the mid-10th century [Zhao Gan, Along the River, National Palace Museum, Taiwan]. Simultaneously a genre illustration of humble fishermen plying their livelihood in the early winter chill and a panorama of landscape along a meandering river, the composition offers the viewer vivid details to savor while unrolling the scroll.43 Presented from a slightly elevated vantage point, carefully angled spits of land and twisting trees create a realistic space for the human activities taking place in and beside the water. Sometimes dwarfed by brown stands of dying reeds and rushes, the fishermen pole shallow-bottomed boats, haul up bulging nets, and huddle in thatched shelters on stilts. A party of travelers on donkeys moves rightward, encouraging the viewer’s gaze to return to the start of the scene. Unrolling and re-rolling a handscroll became a trope for vicarious travel in Song and later painting, an experience to inspire viewers’ empathetic self-projection into a landscape and roam through or dwell in it.44

Opening the Northern Song handscroll Going Upriver for Qingming (also called Peace Reigns on the River or Spring Festival on the River) by Zhang Zeduan prompts the viewer to journey toward an idealized city based on the capital, Bianliang [Qingming scroll, Palace Museum, Beijing].45 Starting at a rustic hamlet deep in the countryside, the viewer encounters parties traveling in both directions, and the number of houses steadily increases. As the river comes into view, parked boats and buildings catering to itinerants are presented in meticulous detail and from an oblique vantage point that creates space for a lively array of human activities. The density of people and structures increases up to a bend in the river that brings the other shore into view, connected by a wide rainbow bridge thronged with traders, travelers, and residents. Further along and into the immediate environs of the city, the river disappears and its profusion of boats gives way to wheeled vehicles and animals carrying people and goods. A towering gate marks the entry into the city proper, where members of every social class go about their business along streets lined with shops, offices, and dwellings, some identified with calligraphic signboards. The realistic handling of space through foreshortening and painstakingly detailed buildings, together with the naturalistic treatment of the varied human activities, conveys a panoptic vision of a prosperous and harmonious realm. Although the exact circumstances of the scroll’s creation are unknown, its meticulous technique of architectural drawing (jiehua) was a preferred genre for court paintings celebrating the benefits of good governance.46 Moreover Zhang Zeduan was a court painter who was supposed to provide the emperor with visual affirmation that people’s livelihood was flourishing under his sage rule. Under later dynasties, many copies of the Qingming scroll and variations on its composition were produced for similar purposes, such as the well-known version done for the Qianlong emperor, which added a depiction of the Qing palace after the bustling cityscape [Qing palace version of Qingming scroll, National Palace Museum, Taiwan].

The achievement of realistic representation by professional painters in the politicized environment of the Northern Song court helped to inspire a very different approach by members of the educated elite. The calligraphic sketching of ideas (xie yi), usually termed scholar-amateur or literati painting (wenren hua), arose in the social circle of Su Shi (1036–1101) as a kind of visual counterpart to verbal poetry, and eventually became the form of painting that later critics esteemed most highly.47 Literati painting was taken to express the internal character of a highly cultivated artist, who merely “borrowed” external forms rather than trying to create polished depictions.48 Brush-written calligraphy provided the basis of this art, rather than artisanal training in painting technique, and literati sometimes disavowed serious intent by calling their pictures “play” (xi) [Mi Youren, Misty Landscape, Osaka Museum]. Instead of judging literati painting on its fidelity to objective appearance, knowledgeable viewers sought to appreciate the artist’s personality and ideas by examining the visible traces of his brushwork. For literati who truly were amateurs at painting, nature subjects such as bamboo and trees were particularly congenial to treatment in calligraphic strokes, which harmonized well with the inscriptions and seals that often appear beside the picture [Yang Buzhi, Ink Plum, Palace Museum, Beijing]. Scholar-artists also painted landscapes, sometimes infusing them with personal meaning by coding the imagery with references to the cultural past and allusions familiar from poetic convention.49 Deliberate archaism and allusions to earlier models engaged the knowledgeable viewer intellectually as well as visually (Figure 15).

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Figure 15. Ke Jiusi, Ink Bamboo after Wen Tong, Yuan dynasty, dated 1343, hanging scroll, ink on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.571. Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Oscar L. Tang Family, 2006.

After the Jin invasion of 1126–1127 forced the Song court to relocate in the South, the first Southern Song emperor used visual strategies, among others, to regain dynastic stability.50 Besides building a new “temporary” capital at Lin’an (modern Hangzhou), Gaozong made frequent bequests of his own calligraphy to inspire his officials and generals. For wider distribution, he transcribed the Confucian classics to carve on stone tablets erected in the imperial university, from which rubbings were sent to schools around the truncated empire (Figure 16).

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Figure 16. Song Gaozong’s transcription of the poem “Deer Call” from the Mao Odes, Shaoxing Stone Classics, Song dynasty, c. 1144, incised stone tablet (detail) in the Temple of Confucius, Hangzhou. Author’s photograph.

Gaozong even had paintings made to illustrate some of these texts, such as the Classic of Filial Piety and the Mao arrangement of the Classic of Poetry [Odes beginning with “Deer Call” handscroll, Palace Museum, Beijing]. Gaozong also commissioned illustrations of historical events whose favorable outcomes portended well for the Southern Song, such as Duke Wen of Jin Recovers His State, which concluded with the displaced ruler returning to his capital in triumph (Figure 17).

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Figure 17. Attributed to Li Tang (c. 1070s–c. 1150s), Duke Wen of Jin Recovering His State, Song dynasty, mid-12th c., handscroll (detail), ink and color on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973.120.2. Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973.

After agreeing to an onerous peace treaty with the Jin, Gaozong had a painting made to depict his mother’s return from captivity along with his father’s coffin, highlighting a positive outcome of the negotiations and his own filial piety (Figure 18).

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Figure 18. Anon., Welcoming the Carriages, Song dynasty, mid-12th c., handscroll (detail), ink and color on silk. Shanghai Museum. After Zhongguo huihua quanji, vol. 5 (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 1999).

Although his Southern Song successors did not continue producing such ostensibly documentary paintings, Qing emperors enthusiastically embraced and greatly expanded the practice, as will be shown later.

The Mongol conquest led to new developments in both the secular and religious realms, as Yuan China was part of a much larger and thoroughly heterogeneous empire.51 Tibetan Buddhism, favored by the court, brought foreign monks and craftsmen who introduced new modes of ritual observance and religious imagery (Figure 19).

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Figure 19. Vajrabhairava Mandala, Yuan dynasty, c. 1330–1332, silk tapestry (kesi). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992.54. Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992.

The facilitation of long-distance trade stimulated the production of Chinese porcelain at Jingdezhen (Jiangxi), which supplied both domestic and foreign markets. Blue-and-white ware used imported cobalt for its decorative designs and became a major category of ceramic from the late Yuan onward (Figure 20).

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Figure 20. Plate with carp, Yuan dynasty, mid-14th c., porcelain with underglaze cobalt decoration. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.10 Purchase, Mrs. Richard E. Linburn Gift, 1987.

The reunification of North and South China and the extension of the Grand Canal to the capital at Beijing enabled increased travel and interaction between these regions. Because the educated elite had reduced opportunities to serve as government officials, some devoted their energies to religious, literary, and artistic pursuits. Literati painting flourished in these circumstances, producing artists who were later acclaimed as canonical models and became enormously influential for Ming and Qing painting (Figure 21).

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Figure 21. Ni Zan (1306-1374), Wind among the Trees on the Riverbank, Yuan dynasty, dated 1363, hanging scroll, ink on paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989.363.39. Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988.

Like many educated men of the era, some of these masters also were deeply involved with Daoism, and the Daoist concept of “true form” underlies landscapes depicting primordial yet ever-changing nature [Huang Gongwang, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, National Palace Museum, Taiwan]. Other kinds of Daoist imagery painted by professional workshops appeared in temple murals and freestanding works used for creating ritual space, notably a bureaucratic pantheon of gods who manifest the divine energies that link the human body with the cosmos [Homage to the Highest Power, Daoist mural, Royal Ontario Museum].52

The Late Imperial “Culture of Viewing”: Ming and Qing

The last two dynasties, the Ming (“bright”) and the Qing (“pure”), gave themselves designations that invoked the visual. For the Ming, a native dynasty that replaced the Mongol Yuan in 1368, the name seems emblematic of the regime’s innovations in using visual forms to claim and maintain political authority,53 many of which were later adopted by the Manchu Qing. For example, reign-marks began to be added to objects made for the court, simultaneously identifying the reigning emperor and the entirety of his reign-period, because the Ming abandoned the earlier practice of naming multiple eras within a single reign (Figure 22).

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Figure 22. Xuande mark on the bottom of a monochrome porcelain dish, Ming dynasty, Xuande period (1426–1435). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 24.80.198. Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923.

Later, specific reigns became associated with particularly desirable artifacts and qualities prized by collectors, such as the Xuande reign (1426–1435) for porcelains. The ornamentation of goods intended for the palace often featured auspicious motifs, especially dragons, which became more exclusively associated with the emperor during this period (Figure 23).

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Figure 23. Dish with dragon amid waves, Ming dynasty, Xuande mark and period (1426–1435), porcelain with underglaze cobalt decoration. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.99. Gift of Mrs. Richard E. Linburn, in memory of Richard E. Linburn, 1975.

Decorative schemes also frequently included auspicious plants and animals, and even characters denoting longevity or other desired blessings (Figure 24).

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Figure 24. Red lacquer dish with auspicious symbols, Ming dynasty, Jiajing mark and period (1522–1566). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015.500.1.41. Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015.

Some examples from the middle and late Ming bear detailed compositions illustrating idealized scenes in order to influence real-life outcomes, such as depicting young boys at play to promote the birth of sons (Figure 25).

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Figure 25. Round box depicting boys playing in a garden, Ming dynasty, Wanli mark and period (1582–1620), porcelain with underglaze cobalt decoration. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 27.119.26a, b. Fletcher Fund, 1927.

The taste for auspicious motifs and subject matter was not limited to the court but spread widely throughout society and maintained enduring appeal, even into modern times.54

Ming officials and the educated elite were also deeply engaged with forms of visual display that proclaimed social status and identity. Officials began to wear textile badges featuring a bird or animal that corresponded to their rank in the civil or military bureaucracy, respectively, visibly labeling their position in the political hierarchy (Figure 26).

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Figure 26. Military rank badge with lion, Ming dynasty, 15th c., embroidery on silk gauze. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.154.1. Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, in honor of Myron S. Falk Jr., 1988.

Government offices, schools, and temples of all kinds set up shrines in honor of outstanding sojourning officials and local residents of significant merit, and some families commissioned commemorative arches [commemorative arches in Anhui]. In 1529, the Jiajing emperor also conferred the aristocratic privilege of erecting a family-ancestral temple on high-ranking officials, which enabled them to mark their prestige on the landscape. The increased production of painted portraits from this time onward reflects the use of images of ancestors in such temples, as well as commissions by nonofficial families who aspired to greater social prominence and imitated the practice. In contrast to other kinds of figure paintings, ancestor portraits deliberately present their subjects in hieratic frontality with little expression, suggesting eternal existence in the spirit realm (Figure 27).55

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Figure 27. Ruan Zude, Portrait of his great-granduncle Yizhai at 85 sui, Ming dynasty, dated either 1561 or 1621, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 59.49.1. Seymour Fund, 1959.

Many elements of such portrayals are conventional and symbolic, rather than specific to the individual, because a spirit-tablet inscribed with the ancestor’s name would be placed on the altar to provide his or her identity for ritual purposes.

Late Ming political dysfunction, population growth, commercial development, and urbanization created conditions of heightened social fluidity in which bids for prestige might involve visible forms of consumption, and stimulated the production of many kinds of goods for a growing and diversified consumer market.56 Commodification of the economy brought increased wealth to a wider range of people, not just landowners and officials. Well-to-do members of the traditionally disdained merchant class sought to raise their status by emulating scholar-elite practices, such as by forming collections and building garden retreats. A rapid growth in the market for paintings fueled an upsurge in forgeries attributed to esteemed masters (Figure 28), accompanied by spurious documentation (Figure 29).57

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Figure 28. Spurious attribution to Wen Tong (1019–1079), Rosy Sunset, Ming dynasty, 17th c., handscroll, ink and slight color on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 19.165. Rogers Fund, 1919. Detail: front section with title and “signature.”

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Figure 29. Spurious attribution to Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), colophon after Rosy Sunset. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 19.165. Rogers Fund, 1919. Detail: end section with “signature.”

The situation also created opportunity for educated but impoverished artists, who painted generic compositions for impersonal sale (Figure 30), as well as bespoke works (Figure 31).58

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Figure 30. Chen Hongshou (1598–1652), Plum Blossoms and Narcissus, Ming or Qing dynasty, mid 17th century, fan mounted as an album leaf, ink and slight color on gold-dusted paper. Yale University Art Gallery, 1989.9.4. Purchased with a gift from the B. D. G. Leviton Foundation and with the Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund.

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Figure 31. Chen Hongshou (1598–1652), Lady Xuanwen jun Giving Instruction on the Rites of Zhou, Ming dynasty, dated 1638, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk. Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1961.89.

In the decorative arts, an increased use of signatures and shop-marks reflected the market’s preference for “brand” names, as well as the producers’ growing assertion of agency (Figure 32).

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Figure 32. Incense holder with scholars in a landscape, signed Zhu Sansong (active c. 1573–1619), Ming dynasty, late 16th–early 17th century, bamboo. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995.271. Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1995.

The literati-elite distinguished their patterns of consumption from those of the merely wealthy by surrounding their possessions with historical and cultural discourse. However, a concurrent upsurge in woodblock-printed books, some of them illustrated, provided the broader populace with access to learning and cultural knowledge to use for similar purposes.59 Illustrated books also offered novelty and entertainment, and the last decades of the Ming are widely regarded as a “golden age” of publishing in a variety of genres.60 Erotic images ranging from the mildly suggestive to the pornographic, sometimes included to increase the appeal of certain titles, encouraged voyeuristic viewing practices (Figure 33).61

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Figure 33. Chen Hongshou (1598–1652), design for Zhang Shenzhi’s edition of Northern Story of the Western Wing (Zhang Shenzhi xiansheng zheng Bei Xixiang ji張深之先生正北西廂記‎), Ming dynasty, 1639, woodblock-printed book. National Library of China, Beijing. Author’s photograph.

Decreased supervision by the court during this period also prompted the Jingdezhen porcelain industry to seek new markets, including abroad, leading to new kinds of decoration (Figure 34).62

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Figure 34. Dish in Shape of Mount Fuji with Horses and Deer, Ming dynasty, Tianqi period, c. 1625, porcelain with underglaze cobalt decoration. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010.206 Purchase, Barbara and William Karatz Gift, Gift of C. T. Loo and Company, by exchange and Rogers Fund, by exchange, 2010.

Blaming the Ming’s demise on a free-wheeling culture of excess in its last decades, the Manchu Qing established much firmer control over cultural expression of all kinds, even instituting systems of design and production for luxury objects.63 Chinese men had to adopt the Manchu hairstyle as a visible sign of submission, with the forehead shaven and a single long queue down the back. In books and other kinds of text, taboos on writing the emperors’ personal name were strictly enforced, and other characters referring to the emperor or his actions had to start a new column of text to show deference (Figure 35).

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Figure 35. Xu Yang (active c. 1750–after 1776) and assistants, The Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Four: The Confluence of the Huai and Yellow Rivers, Qing dynasty, dated 1770, handscroll, ink and color on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.16. Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1984. Detail of front section with inscription by Yu Minzhong (1714–1779).

Literary inquisitions purged many books and bowdlerized others to remove anything possibly derogatory to the Manchus or their forebears, and rejected still others as too vulgar or trivial to preserve.64 The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors also used prodigious numbers of public inscriptions that made the Qing imperial presence and authority pervasive. Both bestowed numerous large-character titles for building signboards and wrote many stele texts, sometimes in both Manchu and Chinese, and also in Mongol and Tibetan (Figure 36).65

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Figure 36. Qianlong emperor, Stele inscription in Chinese and Manchu at the Yongyou Temple in Chengde, Hebei, Qing dynasty, dated 1751. Author’s photograph.

The Qianlong emperor was exceptionally prolific in other forms of written display, particularly in marking huge numbers of objects in the palace collection, asserting hegemony with his poems, colophons, and seals (Figure 37).66

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Figure 37. Qianlong’s seals and part of his inscription on the mount and front section of Tao Yuanming’s Ode on Returning Home, after Qian Xuan (13th c.), Ming dynasty, 14–15th c., handscroll, ink and color on paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 13.220.124 John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913.

The Kangxi and Qianlong emperors both undertook six tours of inspection of the South to display the Qing’s resplendent power in the heartland of traditional Chinese culture. Each had one of his tours commemorated in a set of twelve paintings that represented the experience in idealized conceptual form, with panoramic landscapes and prosperous cityscapes in the spirit of the Qingming scroll (see above), rather than transcribing direct observation [e.g., see Qianlong Southern Tour scroll 6, entering Suzhou, Metropolitan Museum].67 In his study of the Qianlong set, Michael Chang points out that the paintings do not show the tented encampments where the emperor and his huge entourage stayed, in contrast with commemorative depictions of the Qing’s military conquests in Central Asia and annual hunting exercises [e.g., see Qianlong resting after hunt, Palace Museum, Beijing]. Chang explains the difference as a visual means of maintaining “strict and stereotypical boundaries between northern and southern landscapes, civil and military spheres, and Chinese and Inner Asian cultural and political sensibilities.”68 These visual documentaries seemed all the more compelling because they incorporated foreign techniques of representation, such as foreshortening and chiaroscuro, introduced by Jesuit missionary-artists who participated in court painting projects.69 Their commissions also included paintings in hybrid style to record normative performances of various rituals and ceremonies, and portrayals of noteworthy individuals. At the same time, landscape painting at the court cohered around so-called orthodox styles distilled from a limited number of earlier masters, mostly representative of Jiangnan.70

More portraits were painted of emperors during the Qing dynasty than in any previous period.71 Many likenesses featured hieratic formal elements that would make them suitable for use in memorial rites in the traditional Chinese manner, no matter what age the sitter was at the time of painting [Qianlong’s accession portrait, Palace Museum, Beijing]. Other portrayals represented Qing emperors in an array of roles, some of them unprecedented and reflecting the multiethnic character of the Qing empire, such as the depiction of the Qianlong emperor as the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, visualized in a Tibetan manner [Qianlong as Manjusri, Freer Gallery of Art]. Many paintings expressed martial aspects of Manchu rulership, showing the emperor as a warrior on horseback [Qianlong on horseback, Palace Museum, Beijing], or conversely, as a Confucian scholar in an elegant study (Figure 38).

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Figure 38. Anon., The Yongzheng emperor as a Confucian scholar, Qing dynasty, 18th c., album leaf, ink and color on silk. Palace Museum, Beijing. Author’s photograph.

During the Qianlong reign, court painters also made portraits of outstanding civil and military officials for display in a palace hall, reviving a practice associated with Han and Tang emperors (Figure 39).72

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Figure 39. Portrait of Imperial Bodyguard Zhanyinbao, Qing dynasty, dated 1760, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.206. Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1986.

Emperors also appeared in paintings of seasonal observances and auspicious occasions, sometimes accompanied by their children [Qianlong celebrating New Year, Palace Museum, Beijing].73 The proliferation of such ostensibly documentary portrayals, together with displays of imperial writing, suggests that visual assertions of the emperor’s presence were important elements of Qing governance during its heyday.

Wars, social upheavals, and foreign penetration had a major impact on visual culture in 19th-century China. With a depleted treasury and under emperors less capable than Qianlong, the court greatly reduced its active role in creating documentary imagery, until the dynasty’s last decades, when Empress Dowager Cixi wielded power as the ruler in all but name.74 In 1886, the court commissioned grand and disingenuous paintings of the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion decades after the end of these devastating conflicts [painting of battle to regain Anqing from Taipings], as well as depictions of the more recent Nian and Muslim Rebellions.75 By this time, however, court-sponsored paintings had far less impact than commercial newspapers and journals published in the treaty ports, particularly Shanghai, the epicenter of rapid and dramatic change.76 New technologies of photography and lithography addressed a large readership and fostered the emergence of commercialized mass culture [Dianshizhai huabao]. In the countryside, peasants continued to favor traditional auspicious imagery to bring good fortune, in media ranging from woodblock-printed “New Year pictures” (nianhua) [popular print (BM), Heavenly Official Bestows Blessings, c.1873] to embroidered textiles [19th c. embroidered toy, MMA 67.179.18]. After the disastrous Boxer Rebellion, Cixi herself resorted to photographic representation in a last-ditch effort to improve the Qing’s international relations [photographs of Cixi].77 The transition to modern visual culture and the development of the public sphere were thus well underway by the end of the dynasty in 1911.

Discussion of the Literature

The study of visual culture in Chinese history, as a field seen as somewhat different from art history, began with Craig Clunas’s 1997 book, Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China, which explored the social contexts and connotations of late Ming pictorial imagery across several media.78 Before the book appeared, many art historians focused on the relatively narrow kinds of painting that elite critics favored, and in general, artistic media tended to be studied separately as autonomous traditions. The 1998–1999 Princeton study group on Visual Dimensions of Chinese Culture embraced Clunas’s suggestion that a comprehensive study of visual culture should include phenomena beyond the pictorial, resulting in a volume that addressed the symbolism of Buddhist monks’ robes, Northern Song imperial processions and their pictorial representations, systems of auspicious symbolism in a Qing imperial textile, and deployments of the written word in diverse contexts.79 Clunas himself followed up with books surveying a wide range of Ming forms and practices, particularly as they related to claims of power or status.80 Numerous exhibition catalogues and books have further explored Ming visual and material culture.81 Scholars of literature, history, and art history have investigated the social and cultural impact of woodblock-printed pictures in book publishing, particularly for the late Ming period.82 The popularity of illustrated treatises and manuals, as well as entertainment genres such as fiction and drama, enabled previously anonymous artisans to gain “branding” recognition, while offering the wider public new forms of cultural knowledge for social climbing or simply enjoyment. Contributions to new forms of visual culture that emerged before the Ming under conquest empires, especially the Khitan Liao and Mongol Yuan, have also gained recognition.83

Many recent exhibitions and books treat Qing visual culture, often with an emphasis on its incorporation of foreign forms and techniques into existing genres and practices, particularly at the 18th-century court.84 While the first half of the 19th century has attracted less attention overall,85 various kinds of portraiture have been treated,86 and popular forms of Chinese opera and their impact on late Qing visual culture have been explored.87 The last decades of Qing rule are generally presented as part of the emergence of a modern visual culture that culminated under the Republic. Much scholarship focuses on Shanghai, whose rapid evolution as an open treaty port after the Opium War is taken to exemplify the transition.88 Some attention has also focused on humble forms of late Qing visual art, such as New Year prints, calendar posters, and various folk crafts, which often embodied popular religious beliefs and only gained recognition in the 20th century as elements in modern China’s heritage of visual culture.89 Research on domestic architecture suggests considerable variety in the layout and decoration of ordinary dwellings in different regions and ethnic groups.90

Studies concerned to varying extents with visual culture in earlier periods have treated topics such as the design of cities and palaces, tombs and furnishings, ritual practices and utensils, religious art and architecture, interactions among different regions and ethnic groups, displays of writing in public spaces, and the development of painting genres and conventions. Jessica Rawson has made major contributions to theories of tomb construction and decoration, systems of ornament and auspicious environment, and landscape painting.91 Wu Hung has published or edited an important body of scholarship on funerary, Buddhist, and secular art, as well as antiquarianism and ruins.92 Several art historians have analyzed the often complex symbolism of decorative motifs appearing in a variety of media.93 The 1994 exhibition and catalogue Latter Days of the Law opened inquiry into post–850 Buddhist art and image-based practices,94 and the 2000 exhibition and catalogue Taoism and the Arts of China had a similar impact on studies of Daoist art.95 Elements of Confucian visual culture have received attention, especially since the 2002 publication of On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Temple of Confucius.96 Many aspects of all these topics invite further exploration.

Primary Sources

Museum collections worldwide (especially those listed below under Digital Materials), special exhibitions, and archaeological finds in China itself [CASS Institute of Archaeology homepage] offer the most useful material for research on visual culture in imperial China. Illustrated books and literary accounts may also be illuminating, and they are most plentiful in research libraries, such as at Harvard University [search screen] and the Library of Congress [search screen]. Multivolume compendia published in China since the late 1980s conveniently collect large amounts of material on many kinds of art and architecture, often categorized by type and organized by dynasty.97 Primary sources may also be introduced at professional meetings, such as the annual conferences of the Association for Asian Studies [AAS Conference homepage] and the College Age Association [CAA Conference homepage], and in major journals such as Art Bulletin, Archives of Asian Art, Ars Orientalis, Artibus Asiae, and the Journal of Asian Studies.

Further Reading

Clunas, Craig. Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China. London: Reaktion Books, 1997.Find this resource:

Clunas, Craig. Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368–1644. London: Reaktion Books, 2007.Find this resource:

Clunas, Craig. Art in China. Oxford History of Art. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Cook, James A., Joshua Goldstein, Matthew D. Johnson, and Sigrid Schmalzer, eds. Visualizing Modern China: Image, History, and Memory, 1750–Present. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.Find this resource:

Hay, Jonathan. Sensuous Surfaces: The Decorative Object in Early Modern China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Kuo, Jason C., ed. Visual Culture in Shanghai, 1850s–1930s. Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing, 2007.Find this resource:

Ledderose, Lothar. Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

McCausland, Shane. The Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368 Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Powers, Martin J., and Katherine R. Tsiang, eds. A Companion to Chinese Art. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2016.Find this resource:

Rawski, Evelyn S., and Jessica Rawson, eds. China: The Three Emperors, 1662–1795. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.Find this resource:

Symposium on the Visual Dimensions of Chinese Culture. Asia Major, 3d ser., 12.1 (1999): 1–158.Find this resource:

Tang, Xiaobing. Visual Culture in Contemporary China: Paradigms and Shifts. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Wu, Hung. The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Wu, Hung, ed. Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture. Chicago: Art Media Resources, 2010.Find this resource:

Wu, Hung, ed. Tenth-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-centered Age. Chicago: Art Media Resources, 2013.Find this resource:

Wu, Hung, and Katherine Tsiang, eds. Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Wue, Roberta. Art Worlds: Artists, Images, and Audiences in Late Nineteenth-century Shanghai. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) A useful overview of the history and methodologies of visual culture is Margarita Dikovitskaya, Visual Culture: The Study of the Visual after the Cultural Turn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

(2.) Publisher’s description for the 1999 first edition of Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture; see

(3.) Xiaobing Tang, Visual Culture in Contemporary China: Paradigms and Shifts (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 2.

(4.) For example, Tang, Visual Culture in Contemporary China; Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture, 2d ed. (London: Routledge, 2009); W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); and James A. Cook et al., eds., Visualizing Modern China: Image, History, and Memory, 1750–Present (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014); also contributions to the Journal of Visual Culture (started 2002).

(5.) Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want, p. 345; quoted in Mirzoeff, Introduction to Visual Culture, 2d ed., p. 1.

(6.) Although the Shang and Zhou dynasties are “imperial” in some respects, the founding of the Qin empire is taken as the starting point because its self-proclaimed First Emperor, Shi Huangdi, introduced a system of governance perpetuated under later dynasties, albeit with modifications.

(7.) For useful discussions and references, see Lothar Ledderose, Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), chaps. 1 and 3; Jane Portal, ed. (with the assistance of Hiromi Kinoshita), The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Liu Yang, ed., China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Museum of Art, 2012); Liu Yang, ed., Beyond The First Emperor’s Mausoleum: New Perspectives on Qin Art (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2014); and Zhixin Jason Sun, Age of Empires: Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017). For a large selection of recently excavated objects, see website of 2017 MMA Qin & Han exhibition. Sima Qian’s early-first-century bc account provides vivid details of Qin Shi Huangdi’s life and achievements; see Shi ji, ben ji 6, translated by William Nienhauser Jr. et al. as The Grand Scribe’s Records, vol. 1 (Basic Annals of Pre-Han China) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995).

(8.) Martin Kern, The Stele Inscriptions of Ch’in Shih-huang: Text and Ritual in Early Chinese Imperial Representation, American Oriental Series 85 (New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 2000). On the origins and evolution of ideas concerning the significance of viewing from a height, see Elizabeth Kindall, “Experiential Readings and the Grand View: Mount Jizu by Huang Xiangjian (1609–1673),” Art Bulletin, 94.3 (September 2012): 412–436, esp. 423–426.

(9.) The function of each component and its overall significance in the mausoleum complex are analyzed by Jessica Rawson, “The First Emperor’s Tomb: The Afterlife Universe,” in The First Emperor, ed. Portal, 114–151.

(10.) For an alternative theory in which the bronze carriage symbolized the dead emperor’s alchemical transformation, see Eugene Y. Wang, “What Happened to the First Emperor’s Afterlife Spirit?” in China’s Terracotta Warriors, ed. Liu Yang, 212–227.

(11.) Useful scholarship includes Michèle Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, The Han Dynasty, trans. Janet Seligman (New York: Rizzoli, 1982); Jean M. James, A Guide to the Tomb and Shrine Art of the Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.–A.D. 220 (Lewiston, ME: Mellen Press, 1996); Li Jian, ed., Eternal China: Splendors from the First Dynasties (Dayton, OH: Dayton Art Institute, 1998); ôsaka Shiritsu Bijutsukan, ed., Tokubetsu tenrankai: Yomigaeru Kan ôchô, 2000-nen no ji o koete よみがえる漢王朝‎, ]2000年の時をこえて‎ [Special exhibition: the Han dynasty, 2000 years ago] (Osaka: Yomiuri Shinbun, 1999); Lillian Lan-ying Tseng, Picturing Heaven in Early China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011); James C. S. Lin, ed., The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012); and Sun, Age of Empires. For an online selection, see 2017 MMA Qin & Han exhibition.

(12.) For example, see Wang Zhijie 王志杰‎, ed., Han Maoling zhi 汉茂陵志‎ [Cultural relics of the Maoling mausoleum] (Xi’an: San Qin chuban she, 2014); for more general discussion, see Yan Chongdong 阎崇东‎, Liang Han di ling 两汉帝陵‎ [Han imperial tombs] (Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chuban she, 2007); and Liang Anhe 梁安和‎, Wulingyuan huanjing bianqian yu Xi Han lingqin wenhua yanjiu 五陵原环境变迁与西汉陵寝文化研究‎ [The environmental changes in the Wulingyuan and research on Western Han mausoleum culture] (Beijing: Kexue chuban she, 2016).

(13.) Qin Zhen 秦臻‎, Handai lingmu shishou yanjiu 汉代陵墓石兽研究‎ [Research on stone animals at Han mausolea] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2016).

(14.) For example, see Shaanxi sheng kaogu yanjiu suo 陕西省考古硏究所‎, ed., Han Yangling 漢陽陵‎ [The Yangling Mausoleum of Western Han emperor Jingdi] (Chongqing: Chongqing chuban she, 2001); also, Xianyang shi wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo 咸阳市文物考古研究所‎, ed., Xi Han diling zuantan diaocha baogao 西汉帝陵钻探调查报告‎ [Report on drilling investigations of Western Han imperial mausolea] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2010); and Liu Zunzhi 刘尊志‎, Handai zhuhou wangmu yanjiu 汉代诸侯王墓研究‎ (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chuban she, 2012).

(15.) Hebei bowuyuan 河北博物院‎ et al., eds., Da Han jue chang: Mancheng Han mu 大汉绝唱: 满城汉墓‎ [Treasures of Han dynasty: The Han tombs in Mancheng County] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2014).

(16.) Li He ruled as emperor for just 27 days in 74 bc, before being deposed. His tomb was excavated from 2011 to 2016, and selected objects were exhibited in Beijing’s Capital Museum in 2015; see Jiangxi Chenbao 江西晨报‎ and Jiangxi Sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo江西省文物考古研究所‎, eds., Faxian Haihun hou发现海昏侯‎ [The Discovery of the Marquis of Haihun] Nanchang: Jiangxi jiaoyu chuban she, 2015).

(17.) See Wu Hung, The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010).

(18.) See Qinghua Guo, The Mingqi Pottery Buildings of Han Dynasty China, 206 BC–AD 220: Architectural Representations and Represented Architecture (Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 2010).

(19.) For example, see Nei Menggu Zizhiqu wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo 內蒙古自治區文物考古研究所‎, ed., Helinge’er Han mu bihua和林格爾漢墓壁畫‎ [Han tomb murals at Holingol], 2d ed. (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2007).

(20.) He Jiejun何介钧‎, Mawangdui Han mu 马王堆汉墓‎ [Han tombs at Mawangdui] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2004).

(21.) Jessica Rawson, “Cosmological Systems as Sources of Art, Ornament and Design,” Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 72 (2000): 133–189; and Wu, The Art of the Yellow Springs.

(22.) Wu Hung, Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), chap. 3; and Cary Y. Liu et al., Recarving China’s Past: Art, Archaeology, and Architecture of the “Wu Family Shrines” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

(23.) Maggie Bickford, “Three Rams and Three Friends: The Working Lives of Chinese Auspicious Symbols,” Asia Major ser. 3., 12.1 (1999): 127–158; and Teresa Tse Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2006).

(24.) For examples and references, see Julia K. Murray, Mirror of Morality: Chinese Narrative Illustration and Confucian Ideology (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007), chap. 2.

(25.) See Wu, Wu Liang Shrine, chap. 5.

(26.) For example, see Huang Peixian 黄佩贤‎, Handai mushi bihua yanjiu汉代墓室壁画硏究‎ [Research on murals in Han tomb chambers] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2008); and Shandong sheng wenwu kaogu yanjiu suo, Dongping xian wenwu guanli suo山东省文物考古研究所‎, 东平县文物管理所‎, ed., Dongping Houtun Han dai bi hua mu东平后屯汉代壁画墓‎ [Painted tombs from Han times at Houtun, Dongping] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2010).

(27.) For example, see Richart M. Barnhart et al., Li Kung-lin’s Classic of Filial Piety (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993); Lisa Raphals, Sharing the Light:Representations of Women and Virtue in Early China (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1998); Keith Nathaniel Knapp, Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Early Medieval China (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005); Murray, Mirror of Morality; Murray, “Didactic Picturebooks for Late Ming Emperors and Princes,” in Culture, Courtiers, and Competition: The Ming Court, 1368–1644, ed. David Robinson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008), 231–268; and Huang Wanfeng黄宛峰‎, Handai xiaozi tu yu xiaodao guannian 汉代孝子图与孝道观念‎ [Han pictures of filial children and the concept of filial piety] (Beijing: Zhonghua shu ju, 2012).

(28.) Valerie Hansen, “The Path of Buddhism into China: The View from Turfan,” Asia Major, 3d ser., 11.2 (1998): 37–66; James C. Y. Watt et al., China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004); and Jonathan A. Silk, ed., Buddhism in China: Collected Papers of Erik Zürcher (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013).

(29.) Wu Hung, “Buddhist Elements in Early Chinese Art,” Artibus Asiae 47.3–4 (1986): 263–352; Janet Baker, ed., The Flowering of a Foreign Faith: New Studies in Chinese Buddhist Art (New Delhi: Marg Publication, 1998); Stanley K. Abe, “Art and Practice in a Fifth-Century Chinese Buddhist Cave Temple,” Ars Orientalis 20 (1990): 1–31; Abe, Ordinary Images (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Watt et al., China: Dawn of a Golden Age; Christine Mollier, Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face: Scripture, Ritual, and Iconographic Exchange in Medieval China (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008); Denise Patry Leidy and Donna Strahan, Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010); and Katherine R. Tsiang, “Visualizing the Divine in Medieval China,” in A Companion to Chinese Art, eds. Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang (Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2016), 158–176.

(30.) See Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, Chinese Architecture in an Age of Turmoil, 200–600 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014).

(31.) See examples in Tonkô bunbutsu kenkyûjo敦煌文物研究所‎, ed., Chûgoku sekkutsu: Tonkô bakukô kutsu 中國石窟‎: 敦煌莫高窟‎ [Stone cave-temples of China: The Mogao caves of Dunhuang], esp. vols. 1–2 (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1980–1982); and Patricia E. Karetzky, Early Buddhist Narrative Art: Illustrations of the Life of the Buddha from Central Asia to China, Korea and Japan (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000).

(32.) Julia K. Murray, “Buddhism and Early Narrative Illustration in China,” Archives of Asian Art 48 (1995): 17–31.

(33.) The International Dunhuang Project ( is a comprehensive archive for all kinds of material from Dunhuang, and photographs of many caves and objects are in the Huntington Archive digital database at Ohio State University. For recent scholarship, see Wang Huimin 王惠民‎, Dunhuang fojiao yu shiku yingjian 敦煌佛教与石窟营建‎ [Dunhuang Buddhism and the construction of the stone caves] (Lanzhou: Gansu jiaoyu chuban she, 2013); and Neville Agnew, Marcia Reed, and Tevvy Ball, eds., Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2016).

(34.) The majority of paintings are now in the British Museum, Musée Guimet, and Delhi Museum; see

(35.) For example, see Abe, Ordinary Images; Leidy and Strahan, Wisdom Embodied; and Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky, Chinese Religious Art (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books 2014).

(36.) Sarah E. Fraser, Performing the Visual: The Practice of Buddhist Wall Painting in China and Central Asia, 618–960 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 102–108.

(37.) Timothy H. Barrett, The Rise and Spread of Printing: A New Account of Religious Factors (Copper Harbor, MI: Minnow Press, 2008); Barrett, The Woman Who Discovered Printing (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008); and website of BNF exhibition on origins of printing.

(38.) For various accounts, see Wen C. Fong, Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992); Judith G. Smith and Wen C. Fong, eds., Issues of Authenticity in Chinese Painting (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999); Minna Törmä, Landscape Experience as Visual Narrative: Northern Song Dynasty Landscape Handscrolls in the Li Cheng-Yan Wengui Tradition (Helsinki, Finland: Tiedekirja, 2002); Jessica Rawson, “The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting: Evidence from Archaeology,” Proceedings of the British Academy 117 (2002): 1–48; Jonathan Hay, “Tenth-Century Painting before Taizong’s Reign: A Macrohistorical View,” in Tenth-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-centered Age, ed. Wu Hung (Chicago: Art Media Resources, 2013), 285–318; and Ping Foong, The Efficacious Landscape: On the Authorities of Painting at the Northern Song Court (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2015).

(39.) It became a truism that while figure painting had declined from the Tang period, landscape had become far superior; for example, see Guo Ruoxu郭若虛‎, Tuhua jianwen zhi 圖畫見聞志‎ [Treatise on paintings I have seen or heard about, 1070s], in Huashi congshu 畫史叢書‎, vol. 1, ed. Yu Anlan 于安瀾‎ (Shanghai: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1963), juan 1, 14. A major 10th-century treatise on landscape painting, Jing Hao’s荊浩‎Bifa ji筆法記‎ (Notes on brush method), treated philosophical as well as technical matters.

(40.) Hebei sheng wenwu yanjiu suo, Baoding shi wenwu guanli chu河北省文物硏究所‎, 保定市文物管理处‎, ed., Wudai Wang Chuzhi mu五代王处直墓‎ [The Five Dynasties’ tomb of Wang Chuzhi] (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 1998).

(41.) Yang Renkai 楊仁愷‎, Yemaotai di qi hao Liao mu chutu guhua kao葉茂臺第七號遼墓出土古畫考‎ [Investigation of paintings unearthed from Liao tomb no. 7 at Yemaotai] (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chuban she, 1984). Jonathan Hay argues that the painting was much earlier than the tomb itself (c. 980); “Tenth-Century Painting before Taizong’s Reign.”

(42.) See Martin J. Powers, “When Is a Landscape like a Body?” in Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society, ed. Wen-hsin Yeh (Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1998), 1–22; Rawson, “The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting;” and Foong, The Efficacious Landscape, Part I.

(43.) One widespread interpretation of the subject is that the cold fishermen symbolize exiled officials and scholars sent down to the countryside; see A. John Hay, “Along the River During Winter’s First Snow: A Tenth-Century Handscroll and Early Chinese Narrative,” The Burlington Magazine 114.830 (May 1972): 294–303.

(44.) See Valérie Malenfer Ortiz, Dreaming the Southern Song Landscape: The Power of Illusion in Chinese Painting (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999), esp. chap. 2; Elizabeth Kindall, Geo-Narratives of a Filial Son: The Paintings and Travel Diaries of Huang Xiangjian (1609–1673) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016), esp. Introduction and chap. 4; and Kindall, “Experiential Readings and the Grand View,” 412–414.

(45.) Scholarship on this much-studied painting includes Roderick Whitfield, “Chang Tse-tuan’s Ch’ing Ming Shang Ho T’u,” PhD dissertation (Princeton University, 1965); Heping Liu, “Painting and Commerce in the Northern Song Dynasty China,” PhD dissertation (Yale University, 1997), chap. 5; Ihara Hiroshi伊原弘‎, ed., Seimei jôka zu o yomu 「清明上河図」‎[Reading the Qingming scroll] (Tokyo: Benkei Press, 2003); Liaoning sheng bowuguan辽宁省博物馆‎, ed., Qingming shanghe tu yanjiu wenxian huibian《清明上河图》研究文献汇编‎ [Compilation of research literature on the Qingming scroll] (Shenyang: Wanjuan chuban gongsi, 2007; and Ihara, ed., Seimei jôka zu to Kisô no jidai: soshite kagayaki no zanshô「清明上河図」と徽宗の時代‎: そして輝きの残照‎ [The Qingming scroll and the Huizong era: And then the brilliant sunset] (Tokyo: Benkei Press, 2012). Scholars disagree on which emperor Zhang served, Shenzong or Huizong, and even whether he painted this scroll at the court.

(46.) Heping Liu, “The Water Mill and Northern Song Imperial Patronage of Art, Commerce, and Science,” The Art Bulletin 84.4 (December 2002): 566–595. Another preferred genre, specifically under Song Huizong, was a kind of “magic realism” in the depiction of plants and creatures; see Maggie Bickford, “Emperor Huizong and the Aesthetic of Agency,” Archives of Asian Art 53 (2002–2003): 71–104.

(47.) Contributions on this much-studied phenomenon include Susan Bush, The Chinese Literati on Painting: Su Shih (1037–1101) to Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (1555–1636), 2d ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978); Alfreda Murck and Wen Fong, eds., Words and Images: Chinese Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991); Fong, Beyond Representation; Ronald C. Egan, Word, Image, and Deed in the Life of Su Shi (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1994); Maggie Bickford, Ink Plum: The Making of a Chinese Scholar-painting Genre (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Robert E. Harrist, Jr., Painting and Private Life in Eleventh-century China: Mountain Villa by Li Gonglin (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); and Jerome Silbergeld, “On the Origins of Literati Painting in the Song Dynasty,” in A Companion to Chinese Art, eds. Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang (Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2016), 474–498.

(48.) For more skeptical treatments of such claims, see James F. Cahill, The Painter’s Practice: How Artists Lived and Worked in Traditional China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994); also Craig Clunas, Art in China, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), chap. 4.

(49.) Harrist, Painting and Private Life in Eleventh-Century China; Alfreda J. Murck, Poetry and Painting in Song China: The Subtle Art of Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000); and Jonathan Chaves, The Chinese Painter as Poet (New York: China Institute Gallery, 2000). For an ecological perspective on Song literati landscape paintings, see De-nin Lee, “Domesticated Landscapes of Li Gonglin: A View from the Anthropocene,” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 45 (2015): 139–174.

(50.) On Gaozong’s projects, see Julia K. Murray, “The Hangzhou Portraits of Confucius and 72 Disciples (Shengxian tu): Art in the Service of Politics,” Art Bulletin 74.1 (March 1992): 7–18; Murray, Ma Hezhi and the Illustration of the Book of Odes (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993); and Murray, Mirror of Morality, chap. 6.

(51.) See Priscilla Soucek, “Ceramic Production as an Exemplar of Yuan-Ilkhanid Relations” and Peter C. Sturman, “Confronting Dynastic Change: Painting after the Mongol Reunification of North and South China,” Res 35 (1999): 125–141 and 142–169, respectively; Shi Shouqian石守謙‎ and Ge Wanzhang 葛婉章‎, eds., Da han de shiji: Meng Yuan shidai de duoyuan wenhua yu yishu大汗的世紀‎: 蒙元時代的多元文化與藝術‎ [Age of the Great Khan: Pluralism in Chinese art and culture under the Mongols] (Taipei: Guoli gugong bowuyuan, 2001); James C. Y. Watt, ed., The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010); Anne Gerritsen, “Porcelain and the Material Culture of the Yuan Court (1279–1368),” Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 241–273; and Shane McCausland, The Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015).

(52.) For example, see Paul R. Katz, Images of the Immortal: The Cult of Lü Dongbin at the Palace of Eternal Joy (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999); Stephen Little, ed., Taoism and the Arts of China (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2000); Lennert Gesterkamp, The Heavenly Court: Daoist Temple Painting in China, 1200–1400 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011); and Shih-shan Susan Huang, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012).

(53.) See James C. Y. Watt and Denise Patry Leidy, Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-century China (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005); Craig Clunas, Empire of Great Brightness: Visual and Material Cultures of Ming China, 1368–1644 (London: Reaktion Books, 2007); and Clunas, Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China (London: Reaktion Books, 2013).

(54.) For details on auspicious symbolism and their complex systems, see Bickford, “Three Rams and Three Friends;” in Designs as Signs: Decoration and Chinese Ceramics, ed. Stacey Pierson (London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 2001); and Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art. For a more theoretical discussion of ornament, see Jonathan Hay, Sensuous Surfaces: The Decorative Object in Early Modern China (London: Reaktion Books, 2010).

(55.) See Mette Siggstedt, “Forms of Fate: An Investigation of the Relationship between Formal Portraiture, Especially Ancestral Portraits, and Physiognomy (xiangshu) in China,” in International Colloquium on Chinese Art History, 1991 Proceedings (Taipei: Guoli gugong bowuyuan, 1991), 713–748; Joan Hornby, “Chinese Ancestral Portraits: Some Late Ming and Ming Style Ancestral Paintings in Scandinavian Museums,” Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 70 (1998): 173–271; Jan Stuart and Evelyn S. Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2001); Dora C. Y. Ching, “The Language of Portraiture in China,” in A Companion to Chinese Art, eds. Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang (Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2016), 136–157; and Faces of China: Portrait Painting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368–1912), ed. Klaas Ruitenbeek (Berlin: Michael Imhof Verlag for the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2017).

(56.) See Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1991, 2004); Clunas, Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China (London: Reaktion Books, 1996); Hay, Sensuous Surfaces; Li-tsui Flora Fu, Framing Famous Mountains: Grand Tour and Mingshan Paintings in Sixteenth-Century China (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2009); and Anne de Coursey Clapp, Commemorative Landscape Painting in China (Princeton, NJ: Tang Center for East Asian Art, 2012).

(57.) See Joan Stanley-Baker, “Forgeries in Chinese Painting,” Oriental Art 32.1 (Spring 1986): 54–66; Stanley-Baker, Old Masters Repainted: Wu Zhen (1280–1354), Prime Objects and Accretions (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1995); Yang Renkai 杨仁恺‎, ed., Zhongguo gujin shuhua zhenwei tujian中国古今书画真伪图鉴‎ [Illustrated handbook of genuine and fake Chinese calligraphy and painting, ancient and recent] (Shenyang: Liaoning huabao she, 1996); and Ellen J. Laing, “Suzhou pian and Other Dubious Paintings in the Received Oeuvre of Qiu Ying,” Artibus Asiae 59.3–4 (2000): 265–229.

(58.) Anne Burkus-Chasson, “Elegant or Common? Chen Hongshou’s Birthday Presentation Pictures and his Professional Status,” Art Bulletin 26.2 (June 1994): 279–300; Cahill, The Painter’s Practice; and Kindall, Geo-Narratives of a Filial Son, chaps. 1–3.

(59.) Craig Clunas, Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (London: Reaktion Books, 1997), chap. 5; J. P. Park, “The Art of Being Artistic: Painting Manuals of Late Ming China (1550–1644) and the Negotiation of Taste,” Artibus Asiae 71.1 (2011): 5–54; and Park, Art by the Book: Painting Manuals and the Leisure Life in Late Ming China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012).

(60.) For example, see Robert E. Hegel, Reading Illustrated Fiction in Late Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998); Philip K. Hu, ed., Visible Traces: Rare Books and Special Collections from the National Library of China (New York: Queens Borough Public Library, 2000); Michela Bussotti, Gravures de Hui: Étude du livre illustré chinois de la fin du XVIe siècle à la première moitié du XVIIe siècle (Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 2001); Nathalie Monnet, Chine, l’empire du trait: calligraphies et dessins du Ve au XIXe siècle (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2004); Ming Wilson and Stacey Pierson, eds., The Art of the Book in China (London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 2006); and Yuming He, Home and the World: Editing the “Glorious Ming” in Woodblock-printed Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012).

(61.) Jianhua Chen, “Popular Literature and Visual Culture in Early Modern China,” in A Companion to Chinese Art, eds. Martin J. Powers and Katherine R. Tsiang (Chichester, U.K.: Wiley, 2016), 517–534.

(62.) See Julia B. Curtis, Chinese Porcelains of the Seventeenth Century: Landscapes, Scholars’ Motifs and Narratives (New York: China Institute Gallery, 1995); Curtis, ed., Trade Taste and Transformation: Jingdezhen Porcelain for Japan, 1620–1645 (New York: China Institute, 2005); Eva Ströber, Ming: Porcelain for a Globalised Trade (Stuttgart, Germany: Arnoldsche, 2013); and Matthias Weiß, Eva-Maria Troelenberg, and Joachim Brand (Eds.), Exchanging Gazes: Between China and Europe 1669–1907 (Berlin: Michael Imhof Verlag for Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2017).

(63.) See Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Pamela Kyle Crossley, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Mark C. Elliott, Emperor Qianlong: Son of Heaven, Man of the World (New York: Longman, 2009); and Hay, Sensuous Surfaces.

(64.) See R. Kent Guy, The Emperor’s Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Chʻien-lung Era (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1987); Pierre-Henri Durand, Lettrés et pouvoirs: Un procès littéraire dans la Chine impériale (Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales,1992); and Seunghyun Han, After the Prosperous Age: State and Elites in Early Nineteenth-Century Suzhou (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016), chap. 6. The alteration of older texts is a reason not to rely solely on Siku editions.

(65.) See Jonathan Hay, “The Kangxi Emperor’s Brush-Traces: Calligraphy, Writing, and the Art of Imperial Authority,” in Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture, eds. Wu Hung and Katherine Tsiang Mino (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 311–334.

(66.) For many more examples, see Feng Mingzhu馮明珠‎, ed., Qianlong huangdi de wenhua daye乾隆皇帝的文化大業‎ [Emperor Qianlong’s grand cultural enterprise] (Taipei: Guoli gugong bowuyuan, 2002); and Chuimei Ho and Bennet Bronson, Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong (London: Field Museum, 2004). For a multinational project to collect and translate Qianlong inscriptions, started in 2010, see website of BM Qianlong inscription workshop.

(67.) See Maxwell K. Hearn, “Document and Portrait: The Southern Tour Paintings of Kangxi and Qianlong,” in Chinese Painting under the Qianlong Emperor, Phoebus Occasional Papers in Art History 6.1 (Tempe: Arizona State University, 1988; Hearn, “The Kangxi Southern Inspection Tour: A Narrative Program by Wang Hui,” PhD dissertation (Princeton University, 1990). For interactive views of several of the component scrolls and additional information, see website of Kangxi & Qianlong Southern Tour scrolls.

(68.) Michael G. Chang, “Envisioning the Spectacle of Emperor Qianlong’s Tours of Southern China: An Exercise in Historical Imagination,” in Visualizing Modern China: Image, History, and Memory, 1750–Present, eds. James A. Cook et al. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014), 25–45, quote on p. 34. The Kangxi set also does not illustrate Manchu encampments.

(69.) See Michel Beurdeley, Peintres jésuites en Chine au XVIIIe siècle (Arcueil, France: Anthèse, 1997); Evelyn S. Rawski and Jessica Rawson, eds., China: The Three Emperors, 1662–1795 (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005); Michèle Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens, Giuseppe Castiglione, 1688–1766: peintre et architecte à la cour de Chine (Paris: Thalia, 2007); Marcia Reed and Paola Demattè, China on Paper: European and Chinese Works From the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2007); Marco Musillo, The Shining Inheritance: Italian Painters at the Qing Court, 1699–1812 (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2016); and Ruitenbeek, ed., Faces of China.

(70.) “Orthodox” painting was loosely based on the pronouncements of Dong Qichang董其昌‎ (1555–1636) as filtered through the practices of his followers, particularly the “Four Wangs”; see Ann Barrott Wicks, “Wang Shimin’s Orthodoxy: Theory and Practice in Early Qing Painting,” Oriental Art 29.3 (1983): 265–274; Wai-kam Ho, ed., The Century of Tung Ch’i-ch’ang, 1555–1636 (Kansas City, MO: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 1992); Wen C. Fong, “The Orthodox School” in Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei , eds. Wen C. Fong and James C. Y. Watt (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996), 473–491; and Li Yumin李玉珉‎, He Yanquan何炎泉‎, and Qiu Shihua邱士華‎, eds., Miao he shen li: Dong Qichang shuhua tezhan妙合神離‎: 董其昌書畫特展‎ [Synthesis and departure in tradition: painting, calligraphy, and Dong Qichang (1555–1636) (Taipei: Guoli gugong bowuyuan, 2016).

(71.) See Nie Hui 聂卉‎, ed., Yongzheng huangdi xiaoxiang hua 雍正皇帝肖像画‎ [Portrait paintings of the Yongzheng emperor] (Beijing: Zi jin cheng chu ban she, 2002); Rawski and Rawson, eds., The Three Emperors; and Yang Xin 杨新‎ed., Ming Qing xiaoxiang hua明清肖像画‎ [Ming and Qing portrait paintings] (Hong Kong: Shangwu yinshu guan, 2008).

(72.) The portraits hung in the Ziguang ge, where the emperor received tribute offerings and entertained foreign emissaries; see Ka Bo Tsang, “Portraits of Meritorious Officials: Eight Examples from the First Set Commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor,” Arts Asiatiques 47 (1992): 69–88; Herbert Butz, ed., Bilder für die “Halle des Purpurglanzes”: chinesische Offiziersporträts und Schlachtenkupfer der Ära Qianlong (1736–1795) (Berlin: Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, 2003); Annette Bügener, Die Heldengalerie des Qianlong-Kaisers: ein Beitrag zur chinesischen Porträtmalerei im 18. Jahrundert (Frankfurt am Main: PL Academic Research, 2015); and Bügener, “Heroes in Life and Death: Military Portraits,” in Faces of China, ed. Ruitenbeek, 47–57.

(73.) See Ann Barrott Wicks, ed., Children in Chinese Art (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002), chap. 7.

(74.) See William T. Rowe, China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009); Daniel McMahon, Rethinking the Decline of China’s Qing Dynasty: Imperial Activism and Borderland Management at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Routledge, 2015); and Keith McMahon, Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Part 3.

(75.) See Hongxing Zhang, “Studies in Late Qing Dynasty Battle Paintings,” Artibus Asiae 60.2 (2000): 265–296; and Cecily McCaffrey, “In the Eyes of the Beholder: Rebellion as Visual Experience,” in Visualizing Modern China, eds. Cook et al., 47–67.

(76.) See Jonathan Hay, “Painters and Publishing in Late Nineteenth Century Shanghai,” in Art at the Close of China’s Empire, ed. Ju-hsi Chou, Phoebus Occasional Papers in Art History 8 (1998): 134–188; Hay, “Painting and the Built Environment in Late Nineteenth-century Shanghai,” in Chinese Art: Modern Expressions, eds. Maxwell K. Hearn and Judith Smith (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001), 60–101; Christopher A. Reed, Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876–1937 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004); Jason C. Kuo, ed., Visual Culture in Shanghai, 1850s–1930s (Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing, 2007); and Cook et al., eds., Visualizing Modern China; and Roberta Wue, Art Worlds: Artists, Images, and Audiences in Late Nineteenth-century Shanghai (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014). The Shanghai pictorial Dianshizhai huabao reproduced some of the Qing court-commissioned battle illustrations; see Zhang, “Studies in Late Qing Dynasty Battle Paintings.”

(77.) An issue of Nan Nü, 14.1 (2012), is devoted to Cixi’s engagement with visual culture; see also Ying-chen Peng, “Lingering between Tradition and Innovation: Photographic Portraits of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908)” and Claire Roberts, “The Empress Dowager’s Birthday: The Photographs of Cixi’s Long Life Without End,” Ars Orientalis 43 (2013): 157–175 and 176–195, respectively. Photographs that were taken of Cixi appear on MIT’s 2011 “Visualizing Cultures” website at MIT-Empress Dowager gallery; for a 2012 exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s Sackler Gallery, see Sackler photo exhibition.

(78.) Clunas, Pictures and Visuality.

(79.) Asia Major, 3d ser., 12.1 (1999), articles by John Kieschnick, Patricia Ebrey, Maggie Bickford, and Qianshen Bai, respectively. All have continued to publish research related to these areas.

(80.) Clunas, Superfluous Things; Clunas, Fruitful Sites; Clunas, Empire of Great Brightness; Clunas, Elegant Debts: The Social Art of Wen Zhengming, 1470–1559 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004); and Clunas, Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China (London: Reaktion Books, 2013).

(81.) For example, Richard M. Barnhart with Mary Ann Rogers and Richard Stanley-Baker, Painters of the Great Ming: The Imperial Court and the Zhe School (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1993); Watt and Leidy, Defining Yongle;Li He and Michael Knight, Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2008); Hay, Sensuous Surfaces; Wang Xiaohong王小紅‎ed., Zhepai jiying: Mingdai Zhepai huihua zhenpin tezhan ji 浙派集英‎: 明代浙派绘画珍品特展集‎ [The Zhe School Collection: Special Exhibition of the Treasures of Zhe School Painting in the Ming Period], (Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin meishu chuban she, 2012); Kevin McLoughlin, ed., Ming: The Golden Empire (Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland, 2014); Craig Clunas and Jessica Harrison-Hall, eds., Ming: 50 Years that Changed China (London: British Museum Press, 2014); and Fan Jeremy Zhang, ed., Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in Fifteenth-century China (London: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 2015).

(82.) For example, Hegel, Reading Illustrated Fiction; Michela Bussotti, Gravures de Hui; Cynthia J. Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow, eds., Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Wilson and Pierson, eds., The Art of the Book in China; Li-ling Xiao, The Eternal Present of the Past: Illustration, Theatre, and Reading in the Wanli Period, 1573–1619 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007); Anne Burkus-Chasson, Through a Forest of Chancellors: Fugitive Histories in Liu Yuan’s Lingyan ge, an Illustrated Book from Seventeenth-century Suzhou (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010); Lucille Chia and Hilde De Weerdt, eds., Knowledge and Text Production in an Age of Print: China, 900–1400 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011); and Park, Art by the Book; and He, Home and the World. A special issue of Chinese Literature and Culture 2.1 (April 2015), focuses on relationships between literature and visual culture in the Ming-Qing period.

(83.) For example, James C.Y. Watt and Anne E. Wardwell, When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1997); Shi and Ge, eds., Da han de shiji/Age of the Great Khan; Hsueh-man Shen, ed., Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907–1125) (Milan: Asia Society, 2006); Watt, ed., The World of Khubilai Khan; and McCausland, The Mongol Century.

(84.) For example, Feng, ed., Qianlong huangdi de wenhua daye; Butz, ed., Bilder für die “Halle des Purpurglanzes; Chuimei Ho and Bennet Bronson, Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong (London: Field Museum, 2004); Rawski and Rawson, eds., China: The Three Emperors; Marie-Catherine Rey, Les très riches heures de la cour de Chine: chefs-d’œuvre de la peinture impériale des Qing, 1662–1796 (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux-Guimet, 2006); Hay, Sensuous Surfaces; Claudia von Collani et al., Glanz der Kaiser von China: Kunst und Leben in der Verbotenen Stadt (Heidelberg, Germany: Kehrer, 2012); Petra ten-Doesschate Chu and Ning Ding, eds., Qing Encounters: Artistic Exchanges between China and the West (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015); Bügener, Die Heldengalerie des Qianlong-Kaisers; Kristina Kleutghen, Imperial Illusions: Crossing Pictorial Boundaries in the Qing Palaces (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015); and Ruitenbeek, ed., Faces of China.

(85.) Claudia Brown and Ju-hsi Chou, Transcending Turmoil: Painting at the Close of China’s Empire, 1796–1911 (Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix Art Museum, 1992); Ju-hsi Chou, ed., Art at the Close of China’s Empire, Phoebus Occasional Papers in Art History 8 (Tempe: Arizona State University, 1998); Wan Qingli萬青力‎, Bingfei shuailuo de bainian: shijiu shiji Zhongguo huihua shi並非衰落的百年‎: 十九世紀中國繪畫史‎ [The century was not declining in art: A history of nineteenth-century Chinese painting] (Taipei: Xiongshi tushu gufen youxian gongsi, 2005); and Ifan Williams, Created in Canton: Chinese Export Watercolours on Pith/Guangzhou zhizuo: Ou Mei cang shijiu shiji Zhongguo puzhi广州制作‎: 欧美藏十九世纪中国蓪纸‎, trans. and ed. Ching May Bo程美宝‎ (Guangzhou: Lingnan meishu chuban she, 2014).

(86.) Richard Vinograd, Boundaries of the Self: Chinese Portraits, 1600–1900 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Vinograd, “Satire and Situation: Images of the Artist in Late Nineteenth-Century China,” in Art at the Close of China’s Empire, ed. Chou, 110–133; Stuart and Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors; Museu de Arte de Macau 澳门艺术博物馆‎, ed., Xiangying shenquan: Ming Qing renwu xiaoxiang hua xueshu yantao hui lunwen ji 像应神全‎: 明清人物肖像画学术研讨会论文集‎ [Proceedings of the Symposium on Ming and Qing Portrait Painting] (Beijing: Gugong chuban she, 2015); and Ruitenbeek, ed., Faces of China.

(87.) Andrea S. Goldman, Opera and the City: The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770–1900 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012); and Judith Zeitlin and Yuhang Li, eds., Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2014).

(88.) For example, Hay, “Painters and Publishing in Late Nineteenth-century Shanghai”; Reed, Gutenberg in Shanghai; Catherine Vance Yeh, Shanghai Love: Courtesans, Intellectuals, and Entertainment Culture, 1850–1910 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006); Kuo, ed., Visual Culture in Shanghai; Cook et al., eds., Visualizing Modern China; and Roberta Wue, Art Worlds.

(89.) For example, see Nancy Zeng Berliner, Chinese Folk Art: The Small Skills of Carving Insects (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986); Po Sung-nien and David Johnson, Domesticated Deities and Auspicious Emblems: The Iconography of Everyday Life in Village China: Popular Prints and Papercuts from the Collection of Po Sung-nien (Berkeley: Chinese Popular Culture Project, 1992); John Lust, Chinese Popular Prints (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996); James A. Flath, The Cult of Happiness: Nianhua, Art, and History in Rural North China (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: UBC Press, 2004); Ellen Johnston Laing, Selling Happiness: Calendar Posters and Visual Culture in Early-Twentieth-Century Shanghai (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004); and Felicity Lufkin, Folk Art and Modern Culture in Republican China (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016).

(90.) See Ronald G. Knapp, China’s Vernacular Architecture: House Form and Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1989); Knapp, China’s Living Houses: Folk Beliefs, Symbols, and Household Ornamentation (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1998); Knapp and Kai-Yin Lo, eds., House Home Family: Living and Being Chinese (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005); Wang Xiaoli王晓莉‎, Zhongguo shaoshu minzu jianzhu中国少数民族建筑‎ [China’s ethnic architecture] (Beijing: Wuzhou chuanbo chubanshe, 2007); and Wu Weiguang吴卫光‎, Weilongwu jianzhu xingtai de tuxiangxue yanjiu 围龙屋建筑形态的图像学研究‎ [A study on the architectural morphology of Hakka walled villages] (Beijing: Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chuban she, 2010).

(91.) Jessica Rawson, Chinese Ornament: The Lotus and the Dragon (London: British Museum, 1984); Rawson, “Cosmological Systems as Sources of Art, Ornament and Design”; Rawson, “The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting”; Rawson, “The Power of Images: The Model Universe of the First Emperor and Its Legacy,” Historical Research 75.188 (May 2002): 123–154; Rawson, “The Auspicious Universe,” in China: The Three Emperors, eds. Rawski and Rawson, 356–361 and 474; Rawson, “The First Emperor’s Tomb” in The First Emperor; ed. Portal; and Rawson, “The Han Empire and Its Northern Neighbours: The Fascination of the Exotic,” in The Search for Immortality, ed. Lin, 23–36.

(92.) Wu, Wu Liang Shrine; Wu, Art of the Yellow Springs; Wu, A Story of Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Wu, ed., Between Han and Tang: vol. 1 Religious Art and Archaeology in a Transformative Period, vol. 2 Cultural and Artistic Interaction in a Transformative Period, vol. 3 Visual and Material Culture in a Transformative Period (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 2000–2003); Wu, ed., Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (Chicago: Art Media Resources, 2010); and Wu and Tsiang, eds., Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture.

(93.) Qianshen Bai, “Image as Word: A Study of Rebus Play in Song Painting (960–1279),” Metropolitan Museum Journal 34 (1999): 57–72; Bickford, “Three Rams and Three Friends”; Bickford, “The Seasonal Round in House and Palace: Counting the Nines in Traditional China,” in House Home Family: Living and Being Chinese, ed. Ronald Knapp (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 349–371; Pierson, Designs as Signs; Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art; Alfreda Murck, “Degrees of Clarity and Obscurity in Chinese Images,” Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident 30 (2008): 45–70; Hay, Sensuous Surfaces; and Estelle Niklès van Osselt, Five Blessings: Coded Messages in Chinese Art (Geneva, Switzerland: Fondation Baur, 2011).

(94.) Marsha Smith Weidner, ed., Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1994); Weidner, ed., Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001); Patricia Berger, Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003); Eugene Yuejin Wang, Shaping the Lotus Sutra: Buddhist Visual Culture in Medieval China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005); Sonya S. Lee, Surviving Nirvana: Death of the Buddha in Chinese Visual Culture (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010); and Tsai Suey-ling, The Life of the Buddha: Woodblock Illustrated Books in China and Korea (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012).

(95.) Little, ed., Taoism and the Arts of China; an important precursor was Kiyohiko Munakata, Sacred Mountains in Chinese Art (Champaign, IL: Krannert Art Museum, 1991). More recent work includes Katz, Images of the Immortal; Anning Jing, The Water God’s Temple of the Guangsheng Monastery: Cosmic Function of Art, Ritual and Theater (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002); Maggie C. K. Wan, “Building an Immortal Land: The Ming Jiajing Emperor’s West Park,” Asia Major, 3d ser., 22.2 (2009): 65–99; Gesterkamp, The Heavenly Court; and Huang, Picturing the True Form.

(96.) Thomas A. Wilson, ed., On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Temple of Confucius (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Tracy Miller, The Divine Nature of Power: Chinese Ritual Architecture at the Sacred Site of Jinci (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007); Murray, Mirror of Morality; Murray, “‘Idols’ in the Temple: Icons and the Cult of Confucius,” Journal of Asian Studies 68.2 (May 2009): 371–411; Murray, “Confucian Iconography,” in Modern Chinese Religion, eds. John Lagerwey, and Pierre Marsone (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014), 801–843; Murray, “A Heavenly Aura: Confucian Modes of Relic Veneration,” Journal of the British Academy 2 (2014): 59–99; James A. Flath, Traces of the Sage: Monument, Materiality, and the First Temple of Confucius (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016); and François Louis, Design by the Book: Chinese Ritual Objects and the Sanli tu (New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2017).

(97.) These include the 50-volume series Zhongguo meishu quanji 中國美術全集‎ [Complete collection of Chinese art], presenting masterpieces of Chinese calligraphy, painting, sculpture, architecture, and various decorative arts, published in the late 1980s; the 18-volume Zhongguo minjian meishu congshu 中囯民间美朮丛书‎ [Collectanea of Chinese Popular Arts], published in the 1990s–early 2000s, covering these media at the popular level as well as furniture, textile art, shadow puppets, masks, papercuts, colored lanterns, and the like; and the comprehensive Zhongguo meishu fenlei quanji 中國美術分類全集‎ [Complete collection of Chinese arts by category], some 400 volumes in an ongoing publishing project organized by the government, described at the website Zhongguo meishu quanji.