Spring 2019
Questions on the Concept of Landscape in Chinese Art

Organized by Cheng-hua Wang and Dora C. Y. Ching

202 Jones Hall
Sponsored by the Tang Center for East Asian Art

The concept of landscape emerged in early China together with terms that referred to natural elements that include mountains and rivers. As in the West, where the concept of landscape emerged in a certain historical context and underwent transformations, the Chinese concept of landscape also developed with sociocultural implications, cognate terms, and literary and pictorial representations. The concept of landscape in the West has recently become a contested ground for the study of multifarious disciplines including art history and human geography, with questions addressing its signified fields, historical inflections, enunciative positions, and social formations; the reevaluation of the subject from a Chinese viewpoint will similarly provide a fresh perspective. Furthermore, in the global context of scholarly inquiry, problematizing the concept of landscape in Chinese art will draw out historical resonances and dissonances with the West and other cultures.    

Part of a larger project that tackles issues related to Chinese landscape art, this workshop focuses on the theory and practice related to what we call today “landscape” in different aspects of Chinese culture prior to and leading up to the mid-ninth century. In the mid-ninth century, when Zhang Yanyuan wrote Lidai minghua ji (Record of Famous Paintings of Successive Periods), the term shanshui, literally translated “mountains waters,” was used to refer to paintings that took landscape elementsmountains, waters, trees, and rocksas their object of depiction. Recent archaeological findings also inform us of the emergence of “pure” landscape painting in the mid-eighth century, regardless of any meaning attached to landscape elements. Though the etymological origins of terms referring to “landscape” or the rise of landscape painting as an art form and painting genre will figure in discussions, the primary line of inquiry will be how the concept of landscape was manifested, and how it evolved and interacted with artistic developments before both the term shanshui and its corresponding art forms became commonly recognized as “landscape” in the ninth century.


Workshop Participants

Rachael Z. DeLue, Princeton University

Ronald Egan, Stanford University

Cary Y. Liu, Princeton University Art Museum

Jie Shi, Bryn Mawr College

Jerome Silbergeld (emeritus), Princeton University

Xiaofei Tian, Harvard University

Andrew M. Watsky, Princeton University

Wu Hung, University of Chicago

Organized by Cheng-hua Wang and Dora C.Y. Ching