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On the State of the Field Table of Contents

Scholarship in the History of Ancient Chinese Painting in the 1990s

Xue Yongnian
China Central Institute of Fine Arts

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The scholarship of the history of ancient Chinese painting in the 1990s develops out of and continues the scholarship from the 1980s. Due to changes in research climate, and the improvement of scholarly knowledge, 1990s scholarship presents new characteristics and directions.

First, there is a new trend in research and re-evaluation of the literati paintings of the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, grounded in a tradition of critique from the early twentieth-century -- previously renounced for over a hundred years ­ that uses socio-historical examination. Following the 1989 "International Symposium on Dong Qichang" in Songjiang (Jiangsu province), the Palace Museum held the "International Academic Conference on Wu School Paintings" in Nandaihe in 1990. Afterwards, the symposium volume Studies of Wu School Painting was published. In October 1992, Shanghai Painting and Calligraphy Press sponsored an exhibition held by the editorial department of the journal Duoyun entitled "The Gems of the Four Wangs," accompanied by the "International Symposium of the Paintings of the Four Wangs." This resulted in the publication Essays on Studies of the Four Wangs of the Early Qing Dynasty. After the "Four Wangs" symposium, cultural organizations in the city of Wuxi (Jiangsu province) sponsored the "Exhibition of Paintings by Ni Zan and His School" and the "International Symposium of Ni Zan Paintings." At the same time, Chronology of Works by Ni Zan, edited by Zhu Zhongyue, and Studies of Ni Yunlin, edited by Xiao Ping and others, were also published. In March 1995, the Shanghai Painting and Calligraphy Press again sponsored a symposium held by the editorial department of Duoyun entitled "International Symposium on Zhao Mengfu" in Shanghai, accompanied by the publication Essays on Studies of Zhao Mengfu.

Second, following the advent of Post-Modernism, traditional paintings outside the mainstream since the beginning of this century began to receive attention. Research and publications have expanded to reflect these new interests. In the area of paintings on scrolls, there are new developments in both non-literati painting and in court painting. In the latter category, first there was Yang Boda's Qing Court Painting, and then Nie Chongzheng's The Glory of Court Arts. Lin Mu discusses non-literati paintings comprehensively in his The New Wave of Literati Painting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In addition, regional approaches also emerge with representative works such as Zhang Guobiao's History of the New Anhui School of Painting, Xue Yongnian and Xue Feng's The Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou and Yangzhou Commerce, and Zhao Li's The Jingjiang School of Painting.

Outside the realm of paintings on scrolls, there are new publications on New Year's pictures and wall paintings. Notable works include Wang Shucun's Discussions on Popular New Year's Pictures in China, his History of New Year's Paintings, and Zhu Zhongshou's A Brief History of Chinese Murals. Never before published rock paintings have been brought into scholarly discussions through Chen Zhaofu's History of the Discovery of Chinese Rock Paintings and Gai Shanlin's Chinese Rock Painting. Moreover, there are new developments in the research on minority art in the borderlands and on the history of women's paintings.

Third, a recent increase in private and public collecting, along with the expansion of the art market, opened up a new trend of scholarly and popular books on the connoisseurship of calligraphy and paintings. Every ten years or so, there have been nationwide efforts in authentication under the auspices of the National Cultural Relics Bureau. After the latest one concluded in 1993, the Bureau sponsored the Art History Department in the China Central Institute of Fine Arts, under the direction of Xue Yongnian and Yin Ji'nan, to collaborate with specialists in the museum world to begin a graduate program to train new generations of connoisseurs. The graduate program offers courses in the principles and methodologies of authenticating calligraphy and paintings, the history of connoisseurship and collection of calligraphy and paintings, and authenticating masterpieces from successive dynasties. Since the program's inauguration, there have been two classes of graduates who have successfully written their theses and received Master's degrees. In the following year, the National Cultural Relics Bureau commissioned the Palace Museum to hold the "National Exhibition of Forgeries of Painting and Calligraphy" under the direction of Liu Jiu'an. One hundred fifty-six forged items were selected by sixteen different collections in the country, and placed side by side with forty-eight genuine pieces. The exhibition attracted a large public attendance. Since then, the Liaoning Provincial Museum also held a similar exhibition under the direction of Yang Renkai in 1996, resulting in the publication Connoisseurship of Genuine and Fake Chinese Calligraphy and Painting, reprinted a year later under the English title Genuine and Fake Illustrated Handbook of Chinese Every Dynasties [sic] Calligraphy and Paintings. After the exhibition traveled to Shanghai and overseas, the exhibition catalogue also underwent revision. Other publications have also tried to meet popular demand, such as: the Cultural Relics Publishing House series Compendium of Connoisseurship of Cultural Relics: Calligraphy and Painting; Wang Ying's Connoisseurship of Ancient Paintings; Shan Guoqiang's Collecting and Connoisseurship of Ancient Calligraphy and Painting; and Shi Shuqing's Authenticating Calligraphy and Paintings.

Fourth, scholarly communication between Chinese and foreign institutions have increased in recent years. Colleagues from East and West have sought mutual understanding, and have begun to collaborate to further scholarly research. One type of collaboration comes in the form of international symposia such as the "Symposium of Chinese and American Scholarship on Ming and Qing Dynasty Painting." Conceived by the China Central Institute of Fine Arts in 1994, and co-sponsored by the Palace Museum, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, the symposium accompanied the "Special Exhibition of Ming and Qing Painting." Distinguished by its use of new methodologies and new directions, this collaboration was a rather large undertaking and had enormous influence in the field, furthering exchanges among younger scholars. Another collaborative effort took place in the symposium "Painting Milieu of Shanghai from 1840 to 1930." Participants included Jason Kuo of University of Maryland, Julia Andrews of Ohio State University, Jonathan Hay of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, Wen-hsin Yeh of the University of California, Berkeley, Xue Yongnian of the China Central Institute of Fine Art, Shan Guoqiang of the Palace Museum, Shan Guolin of the Shanghai Museum, and Ding Yiyuan of the Shanghai Gallery of Art. This symposium embraced a comprehensive approach to visual culture by combining the perspective of regional culture with traditional approaches to painting studies. Other examples of smaller collaborations include the "Workshop on the Study of Chinese Ancient Religious Art" (University of Kansas, Yale University, China Central Institute of Fine Arts) and "Workshop on the Study of Shanghai Paintings from the Late Qing and Early Republican Eras," (China Central Institute of Fine Arts, University of Michigan). These workshops were attended by professors, students, and specialists alike, taking advantage of dynamic academic inquiry in the best instructional environment. In the publication on the general history of Chinese paintings, 3,000 Years of Chinese Painting was a joint effort by James Cahill, Richard Barnhart, Wu Hung, Yang Xin, Nie Chongzheng, and Lang Shaojun in 1991. An example of collaborations on monographs is the Study of Shen Quan, by Zhou Jiyin and Kondô Hotsumi in 1997.

Finally, other notable projects in the 1990s include: case studies published in journals such as Duoyun, Meishu yanjiu, and Xin meishu; multi-volume sets and series published on specific painting collections and pre-modern painters and painting schools; and also the publication of collections of writings by senior historians of painting. The result of these undertakings have expanded and enriched scholarly research in the field of Chinese art history.

The Select Bibliography lists the works cited above.

In this issue, Xue Yongnian also summarizes the exhibition and symposium held at the Shanghai Museum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the PRC.



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Yin Jinan
China Central Institute of Fine Arts

Nixi Cura

On the State of the Field
Scholarship in the History of Ancient Painting in the 1990s

by Xue Yongnian

Puyi's Legacy
New Discoveries of Calligraphy and Painting from the Palace Museum's "List of Lost Works"
by Liu Jianlong

A Record-Breaking Purchase by the Palace Museum

Zhang Xian's Ten Odes
by Yang Lili

Zhang Xian's Ten Odes: Counterpoint

On the Inauthenticity of Ten Odes by Zhang Xian of the Northern Song Dynasty
by Wu Gan

Select Bibliography on Chinese Painting

Palace Museum Exhibition
"Treasures of Painting and Calligraphy Acquired by the Palace Museum over the Last 50 Years"
by Fu Dongguang

Palace Museum Exhibition
"Grand Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years"

Palace Museum Symposium
Academic Symposium Accompanying the
"Grand Exhibition of Cultural Relics Collected over the Last 50 Years" at the Palace Museum
by Wang Qi

Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum Holds A Symposium on Its Exhibition of Masterpieces
by Xue Yongnian

Liaoning Provincial Museum
An Assembly of Masterpieces, Presented in Radiant Splendor: Record of the "Exhibition of Treasures from the Ten Great Archaeological Discoveries in Liaoning"
by Ma Cheng


Important Results from the Liao Tomb Excavation at Jarud Qi
by Tala, Yang Jie, and Dong Linxin

Three Eastern Han Tombs with Wall Paintings at Otog
by Wang Dafang and Yang Zemeng

"Appreciation and Analysis of the Murals Unearthed from a Song Tomb at Wang Shang Village in Dengfeng, Henan Province
by Zhang Songlin and Zhang Deshui

"A Breakthrough in the Interpretation of the 'Stone Carvings' at Junshan"
by Chen Xiangyuan

"Notes on the Excavation of Han Tomb No. 1 at Huxi Mountain, Yuanling"
by Guo Weimin

"Animal Designs and Chinese Script on the 'Five Stars of the East Favor the Central Kingdom' Brocade"
by Li Ling

Extracts from China Archaeology and Art Digest 3:2/3 (January 2000): Painting and Pictorial Arts
Ding Xiyuan on Quehua qiuse tu
Hao Junhong on Ma Shouzhen
Shan Guoqiang on "Haipai"
Yu Hui on Yuan court artists

Macao Art Museum
"The Efflorescence of a Prosperous Age: Fine Works of Qing Dynasty Painting and Objects of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong Reigns in the Collection of the Palace Museum"

National Gallery, Washington, DC

"The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology: Celebrated Discoveries from the People's Republic of China"
by Andrew K. Y. Leung

The Qingming shanghe Scroll and Qingming shanghe Studies
by Wang Qi

On Qingming shanghe Studies
by Nie Chongzheng

Chai Zejun: Collected Works on Ancient Architecture

Fifty Years of Archaeology in New China

Back Issues

Volume 1, Issue 1
(October 1999)

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