On Telling Images of China

Essays in Narrative Painting and Visual Culture


Edited by Shane McCausland and Yin Hwang

ISBN : 978-988-8139-43-9

Film, Media, Fine Arts

November 2013

384 pages, 7″ x 10″, 95 color illus.

  • HK$350.00

The essays in this volume address a diverse range of issues in China’s narrative art and visual culture mainly from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) to the present. These studies attend to the complex ways in which images circulate in pictorial media and across boundaries between ‘high art’ and popular culture—images in paintings, prints, stone engravings and posters, as well as in film and video art. In addition, the authors examine the roles of ancient exemplary stories and textual narratives, as well as their reiteration in the visual arts in early modern and modern social and political contexts.

The volume is divided into three sections, Representing Paradigms, Interpreting Literary Themes and Narratives, and the Medium and Modernity. While the essays in each section deal with concerns in the field of China’s art history, an editors’ introduction serves to position the topic of narrative art and to introduce definitions and genre issues which run through the book. As a whole, the volume invites reflection on the intrinsic nature of narratives and their pictorial lives, and presents new research which challenges established views and paradigms.

Shane McCausland is Reader in the History of Art of China in the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London. At the Chester Beatty Library between 2004 and 2009, he was Curator of the East Asian Collections and latterly Head of Collections. He holds a doctorate in Art History and East Asian Studies from Princeton University, and is the author of books and articles on Chinese and Japanese painting. His monograph entitled Zhao Mengfu: Calligraphy and Painting for Khubilai’s China was published by Hong Kong University Press in 2011. Yin Hwang is a PhD candidate and a Teaching Fellow in the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London. Her doctoral research focuses on the depictions of war and natural disaster in the print and visual culture of the late Qing period. She has written articles on Chinese painting, printmaking, contemporary Asian art and the art market. She was managing editor of Orientations magazine from 2005 to 2009.

“As entertaining as it is scholarly, this collection of essays demonstrates that professional painters could amuse their clients with colorful imagery while employing the understated techniques of scholar amateurs. The authors explicate images of elegantly veiled sex and violence and explain bold examples of shining virtue and auspiciousness.” —Alfreda Murck, Palace Museum, Beijing

“Following major images throughout hundreds of years, these finely argued essays illustrate the profound significance of historical and religious iconography to the Chinese for whom the response to a known story is immediate but is here explained in detail for a Western audience—often following an icon from Ming paintings through to nineteenth-century prints and the works of early twentieth century artists.” —Frances Wood, British Library

“This is a much anticipated and well-coordinated volume on one of the most important categories of Chinese paintings and prints, namely narrative. It not only investigates works that have long been neglected but also presents new scholarship exploring the idea of how images tell stories. Its questions and approaches have cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary implications.” —Wang Cheng-hua, Academia Sinica