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Chinese art: traditional

Last Updated: 20-Jul-2015

This guide is designed to provide an introduction to the literature of traditional Chinese art.  It also presents a selection of key primary source holdings in traditional Chinese art in the Stanford University Libraries.


What is conceived of and studied as “Chinese art” has changed dramatically since the inception of Western scholarship on the art and artists of China during the mid-nineteenth century. This guide to Chinese art studies spans a period from the Neolithic Age to roughly the mid-nineteenth century (for works from the nineteenth century onward, see the Chinese art: Modern and contemporary guide), while the boundaries of “China” shift throughout the centuries. Although the research guide is broadly organized by medium for ease of use, this is by no means intended to pigeonhole the included texts, which often make thematic interconnections that cross media, period, and spaces.  The books were chosen with an eye toward a balance between introductory texts that provide quick summaries and further resources for a particular subfield with more advanced and recent specialist studies that are considered classics in the field, have been widely influential, or present provocative readings.  Focused studies have also been selected to indicate major art historical concerns in the study of Chinese art, such as mediality, culturally-mediated visuality, or the interplay between popular and elite culture.

Synopses of the books along with chapter headings are often provided in the Searchworks record; here, the accompanying summaries attempt to situate the greater background and academic interventions of the author, as well as recommending critical sections or chapters.  “Source Texts” are original texts on art in English translation, while “Primary Sources” are works in library collections that provide firsthand experience with researching objects.

This guide was created by Christine Ho, a Ph.D. candidate in Art History in the Department of Art & Art History, and Hui-Chi Lo, a recent Ph.D. graduate in Art History in the Department of Art & Art History.

Introductory texts

2nd ed. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N7340 .C59 2009
Structured around five themes, this concise book successfully offers a quick overview of Chinese art. The lucid survey encompasses introductions of major aspects of Chinese art and recent scholarship. The titles of chapters are used as convenient overarching themes, not as exclusive implications of meanings or intention for the works of art discussed. For example, in the chapter of “Art in the Market Place” many pieces of art illustrated were produced for political rather than commercial purposes.
5th ed., rev. and expanded. Berkeley : University of California Press, c2008.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N7340 .S92 2008
Sullivan's book offers a narrative of Chinese art in a traditional chronological order. The examples used in this book are “canonical” pieces that are familiar and well studied. This introductory survey serves as a contrast and complement to Thorp and Vinograd’s Chinese Art & Culture and Clunas’s Art in China.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c1995-c2007.
Art & Architecture Library » See circulation desk for access » N7343 .W38 1995 F V.2
This text distinguishes itself from other Chinese art survey books significantly in that it is object- , not painting-centric. Written by Chuimei Ho, a well-known curator of Asian art and archeology, and William Watson, a specialist in Chinese antiquity, this volume offers an ambitious endeavor in presenting a comprehensive study of Qing dynasty material culture (1644-1911), focusing on objects such as textile, jade, ivory, and ceramics, rather than pictorial art. This is the third in the three-volume Yale University Press Pelican History of Chinese Art (1995-2007).
New York : Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » NX583 .A1 T49 2001
Thorp (Professor Emeritus, Washington University) and Vinograd (Professor, Stanford University) offer a fresh view of Chinese art and culture at the beginning of the millennium, sum up the latest scholarship, and reflect recent shifts of scholarly interests. Discussions on literati paintings are reduced while popular culture is given more attention. Methodological issues are thus blended with the discussion of works of art. A glossary of terms and an annotated bibliography add additional value for students new to Chinese art studies.

Early art

1st ed. Seattle, WA : University of Washington Press, c2007.
Green Library » Stacks » HD2346 .C6 B37 2007
Written by a historian, this book focuses on the often hidden role of artisans and craftsmen who built palaces, temples, and tombs between the second century BCE to the third century CE. Based on a large body of evidence from recent excavations, the book gives compelling and highly readable narratives about the social status of artisans, workshop operations, marketing and promotion, palace workshops, and forced labor. Although the book is heavily textual and draws on a wide array of approaches, from anthropology and sociology to history and archaeology, it is a richly detailed look into the socioeconomic mechanisms that are typically overlooked or understudied by a field that privileges the art and agency of the elite.
Washington, D.C. : National Gallery of Art, c1999.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » DS715 .G65 1999 F
This key exhibition at the National Gallery of Art surveyed the major advancements in archaeology in China since the late 1970s.  Since most archaeological reports are published in Chinese, this unusually synthesized and systematic overview is an invaluable resource.  Organized by period and by site, the catalog showcases the most significant finds from each site with photographs, accompanied by short introductions to the site itself.  Catalog entries provide ample description of the object and some contextual information, but the essays tend to be dry.  The general introduction by Yang Xiaoneng, which provides a periodization of the discipline, is important for understanding the development of archaeology in China.  For more in-depth exploration, the accompanying two-volume New Perspectives on China's Past: Chinese Archaeology in the Twentieth Century has more detailed photographs and publishes the papers from a conference held in conjunction with the exhibition, written by leading scholars in the field.
Ithaca, N.Y. : East Asia Program, Cornell University, c2008.
Green Library » Stacks » NK7983 .A1 B33 2008 F
In the early twentieth century, the German art historian Max Loehr successfully developed a timeline for early Chinese bronzes by employing stylistic analysis, a system that has been borne out by later chemical dating. Bagley describes the logical principles behind this process, making this short book not only useful for understanding the description, categorization, and historical development of bronzes, but also for understanding key principles of divergent art historical methodologies.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2000.
Green Library » Bender Room (non-circulating) » N7340 .L38 2000
In this highly engaging and enthusiastically argued thematic study, Ledderose looks at the techniques used to create the mausoleum of the first emperor of China--calligraphy, scholar-amateur (literati) painting, and bronze production, to name a few examples--in order to argue that efficiency through modularity, at successive levels of complexity, has been a central organizing principle to art production in China. As such, the book, originally delivered as a series of Mellon Lectures, also acts as an excellent general introduction to the monuments of Chinese art. While the book is enthusiastic and clearly structured, at times the reader may wish to reflect on whether the concept of “module” is truly coeval across media as it is applied in the book, or as uncomplicated and straightforward as Ledderose proposes. Most convincing is the chapter on Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China, and the creation of the terracotta army (Chapter 3). Another thematic interpretation of early Chinese art is Wu Hung’s Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture, in which Hung uses the interpretative framework of monumentality to view the function of ritual and political arts from the prehistoric period to the sixth century. This work is less tightly constructed than the other book by Wu recommended on this page (The Wu Liang Shrine), and makes broader claims.
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1989.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » NB1280 .W77 1989
Recently, Chinese art studies have experienced a surge of publications and research about tombs and mortuary culture, particularly as excavation techniques in China have developed, allowing for extensive exploration of fragile sites. In terms of scholarly approach, Wu Hung’s case study of a landmark second century family shrine has been enormously influential in the study of early Chinese art. Proposing a cohesive ideological program based upon the spatial relationship of tomb elements, the book (developed out of the author’s dissertation) enfolds careful textual exegesis with visual analysis within its larger Han dynasty social and philosophical contexts. Chapter 5, “The Walls: Human History,” is exemplary in how it lays out the relationship between wall carvings, spatial composition, and contemporary ideas about history and sovereignty. Although the amount of detail marshaled to present arguments is tremendous, the writing is clear and directed.


Cambridge [England] ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1326 .V56 1992
Examining primarily artists’ portraits and self-portraits from roughly the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, this thematic study maintains a careful balance between visual analysis and a sophisticated interpretative apparatus for the theoretical treatment of portraiture.  The first chapter provides a conceptual understanding of the function and situations for Chinese portraiture, while the third chapter’s discussion of artistic lineages and presentation of identity is particularly compelling.  The writing tends to present a spectrum of possibilities rather than definitive answers, valuing complexity over unambiguous interpretations.  However, ancestral portraiture, rather than the material at the heart of Vinograd’s book, dominates portrait making; this subject is surveyed in the museum catalogue Worshiping the Ancestors : Chinese Commemorative Portraits.
New York : Rizzoli: ; Geneva : Skira, 1985.
Green Library » Stacks » ND1043 .C28 1985
First published in 1960, this time-honored work surveys the major schools and trends of Chinese painting, making it an excellent and basic history of Chinese painting. Cahill later published more detailed studies of Chinese painting, such as Hills Beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yüan Dynasty, 1279-1368Parting at the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368-1580The Distant Mountains: Chinese Painting of the Late Ming Dynasty, 1570-1644, and Compelling Images: Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Painting. Each of these later titles focuses on a specific era and includes a general introduction that period, followed by detailed description of important artists' biographies and selected representative masterpieces.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » ND1040 .W89 1996
Tracing both the material presence and the representation of screens in Chinese painting from roughly the tenth to eighteenth centuries, Wu Hung’s study examines the mutual constitution of medium and image.  Of particular interest is Chapter 1, which concisely analyzes the aesthetic function of various formats in Chinese painting, especially the handscroll format, and Chapter 4, where Wu present an argument for how paintings construct gendered and politicized space.  Wu’s voice is particularly concise and assured; the book is rife with suggestions and hints at potential research topics.
Cleveland, Ohio : Cleveland Museum of Art, in cooperation with Indiana University Press, c1980.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1042 .C6 F
Because of the history of early twentieth century China, some of the most canonical works of Chinese art are held in American and European museums.  In the United States, the most important collections are located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Although the images in the following resources have been superseded by digital reproductions, their breadth of scope and the information they offer are invaluable.  The Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting catalog reproduces key works in the collections of the Cleveland and Nelson-Atkins Museums, along with essential detailed background information necessary for basic research, such as transcriptions and translations of inscriptions, colophons, and artists’ and collectors’ seals.  For the Freer and Sackler’s collection, Studies in Connoisseurship provides especially acute and elegantly composed examples of stylistic and formal analysis of later Chinese painting by a prominent connoisseur, Fu Shen.  By contrast, the strengths of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, lie in earlier Chinese painting, which are reproduced in expansive scale in Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  The most recent and comprehensive catalog of Chinese paintings internationally may be found in 30-volume set produced in Beijing, the Zhongguo huihua quanji (Complete Set of Chinese Painting).  Although it is in Chinese, this set is a central resource for finding images.
New York : G. Braziller, 2003.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND2070 .G8 A636 2003
1st ed. Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2010.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » ND1049 .G82 A69 2010
These tightly focused case studies focus on canonical figural narrative paintings that have been extensively well-documented by contemporaneous and later commentators.  Both books present the historical context, evaluate biographical information of various sources, and provide scene-by-scene readings of the two paintings.  In particular, Lee’s book considers the role of the long history of inscriptions and colophons that is unique to the handscroll format.  Similar analysis of a single work, perhaps overly detailed for the casual reader but instructive in their careful treatment of textual and visual evidence, are Julia Murray’s book Mirror of Morality: Chinese Narrative Illustration and Confucian Ideology and, marking an important shift in landscape representation, Robert Harrist’s study of an eleventh century handscroll, Painting and Private Life in Eleventh-Century China : Mountain Villa by Li Gonglin.
New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, c2008.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1040 .H43 2008 F
Based on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s holdings, this catalog is dedicated to Hearn’s mentor, the well known Princeton professor and long time Met curator Wen Fong, who was a specialist in calligraphy and painting. More than a guide to the Met’s collections, which were significantly shaped by Fong, Hearn’s text also serves as an introduction to Fong’s thinking on Chinese painting, especially as it relates to the development of literati painting and how line was used to indicate emotion.  Typical of museum collection catalogs, Hearn’s work is well illustrated, with numerous short essays on individual works. For further reading, see Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University and Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1997.
Green Library » Stacks » N7343.5 .C62 1997
Rather than focusing on the medium of painting, this is a cultural history of image-making, casting a wide net over a range of images from prints, paintings, decorative arts, and other media to demonstrate how consumption within a society of unprecedented wealth was central to visual production.  Like Clunas’s earlier book, Superfluous Things : Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China, this book’s approach was highly influential.  Many of the chapters are ambitious and widely discursive, but chapter four’s discussion of different terminology for pictures, images, and paintings, as well as the cultural practice of viewing images, is essential to understanding the hierarchies of art and art consumption.  Following this book, many art historians have moved away from a narrow focus on the art of elite intellectuals, or literati, and turned to popular forms.  One such book is James Cahill’s Pictures for Use and Pleasure : Vernacular Painting in High Qing China, which examines images of women, often erotic, and their representation and production.
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Asia Center for the Harvard-Yenching Institute, 2000.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » ND1043.4 .M87 2000
A central issue in Chinese painting is the relationship between text and image, poetry and painting.  Murck focuses on the imagery of the Xiaoxiang region during a key period of the development of Chinese landscape painting, an iconography she argues was deployed by elite scholar-officials to express intertwined political and personal motives.  First tracing the region’s history, Murck then turns to several case studies to explore a wide variety of image-text relations, such as the use of poetic titles, coded allusions, and visual quotations.  Although her argument may at times seem slightly overdetermined, the book is an insistently argued and deep exploration of the multilayered levels of social relationships, the central significance of writing to image production in China, and encoded meaning brokered by poetry.  A more philosophical and romanticized discussion of the same subject may be found in essay for the exhibition catalog, The Chinese Painter as Poet.
Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1040 .S4563 H39 2001
Honolulu : University of Hawai'i Press, c2004.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N7349 .Z485 C57 2004
Kansas City, Mo. : Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 1992.
Art & Architecture Library » See circulation desk for access » N7349 .T86 A4 1992 F V.1
Several monographs offer different interpretative frameworks for understanding key Chinese painters.  Hay’s book combines both extensive social history as well as provocative, psychologically motivated readings of paintings to present a richly textured interpretation of the seventeenth century individualist painter Shitao, one of the most famous Chinese painters.  The writing can occasionally tend towards abstruseness, and the argument is at times problematic, but the first chapter, on the economic and cultural environment of Shitao is particularly engaging.  Patronage studies are at the heart of Craig Clunas’s text; he surveys the entire body of the sixteenth century painter Wen Zhengming’s work to demonstrate how, depending on social and cultural obligations, an oeuvre may manifest several different artistic identities.  Contributions by many different scholars comprise the two-volume Century of Dong Qichang, which explores the art criticism and theory of Dong Qichang, the most important art theorist and painter of early modern China who continues to dominate art historical perspectives and evaluation of earlier painting.
New Haven : Yale University Press ; Beijing : Foreign Languages Press, c1997.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1040 .T48 1997 F
The six essays in this book, each by a Western or Chinese scholar assigned to a single period, offer an overview of Chinese painting.  The first three chapters ("The Origins of Chinese Painting (Paleolithic Period to Tang Dynasty)," by Wu Hung; "The Five Dynasties and the Song Period (907-1279)," by Richard Barnhart; and "The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)," by James Cahill) are especially well-written and provide excellent introductions for western students.  A glossary of terms, an extensive listing of artists by period, and a bibliography that matches the chapter periods provide additional research support.

Court arts

Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2008.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » N5285 .C52 S664 2008
This exhaustively documented book examines the political, social, and moral contexts underlying the creation of one of the largest and earliest imperial collections of painting, calligraphy, antiquities, and texts. The first half of the book is a cultural history of collecting during the twelfth century, while the second half is devoted to reconstructing the court collection itself, as well as the process of selection and exclusion by imperial curators. This book does not engage heavily with images, but explains an important cultural phenomenon in which successive dynasties also participated.  Of particular interest is Chapter 3, which describes the mutual interaction between the court and the intellectual elite in creating culture.  The significance of collecting for the modern period, put to different ends, is also explored in Shana Brown’s Pastimes: From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography.
London : Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N7343.5 .C455 2005 F
Essays in exhibition catalogs often present the most recent scholarship on a particular topic.  Here, Rawski and Rawson investigate the prosperous era of the Qing court, examining many previously neglected works of art which are now recognized as bearing cultural, political, or ethical significance.  For a more focused study on court art commissioned by the Qianlong emperor (1735-1795), see Patricia Ann Berger’s Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China.
Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2010.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » N5205.7 .C6 L5 2010
Because of the lack of textual documentation, the role of female patronage and artists has remained a relatively obscure subject in Chinese art studies. Lee’s book is one of the first to address this problem exhaustively by focusing on three empresses from the tenth to twelfth centuries, who were cultural patrons that actively shaped their public legacy to present themselves as virtuous paragons. These negotiations with painters and their significance—which was not only political, but formal—is most tightly and convincingly demonstrated in Chapter 4, which discusses Empress Yang and the impact of her deployment of poetry on the romantic, abbreviated style of Southern Song painting. For another perspective on female artists, the exhibition catalog Views from Jade Terrace: Chinese Women Artists 1300-1912 has some very illuminating essays and catalog entries.
Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Museum of Art, c1993.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1043.5 .B37 1993 F
Painters of the Great Ming is the most thorough western language book on the Ming painting academy and the Zhe School.  For Northern Song court art, see Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Accumulating Culture: the Collections of Emperor Huizong.  For Southern Song, see Hui-shu Li’s Empresses, Art, and Agency in Song Dynasty China For Yuan, see Annie Jing’s article, “The Portrait of Khubilai Khan and Chabi by Anige (1245-1306), A Nepali Artist at the Yuan Court,” in Artibus Asiae 54, no. 1/2 (1994): 40-86.  For students interested in Chinese animal paintings, Hou-mei Sung focuses on animal paintings commissioned by the Ming court and their implications in Decoded Messages: The Symbolic Language of Chinese Animal Painting.


Princeton, N.J. : Art Museum, Princeton University in association with Harry N. Abrams, c1999.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1457 .C52 P75 1999 F
Both of these books are exhibition catalogs of important American collections of Chinese calligraphy; in addition, their respective essays have differing and instructive surveys for the practice, terminology, and socio-political contexts of calligraphy. Wen Fong’s essay in the Embodied Image catalog provides a succinct overview of primary texts of the aesthetics of calligraphy and introduces the lives and contributions of four landmark calligraphers. The introduction by Tseng Yu-ho Ecke briefly describes methods of handling the brush and materials, while the rest of the catalog is organized by the evolution of different types of script.  Chiang Yee’s Chinese Calligraphy; An Introduction to its Aesthetic and Technique is widely considered the classic text, but it tends to generalize calligraphic practices without providing enough critical perspective.
Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Asia Center, 2003.
Green Library » Stacks » NK3634 .F8 B35 2003
This book expands far beyond its immediate scope as a monographic study of a famous seventeenth-century calligrapher, presenting the background of the political and intellectual histories that motivated the calligrapher Fu Shan’s inversion of classical models during the seventeenth-century dynastic transition.  Most useful for the general reader are discussions of the development of operative aesthetic terms in Chinese calligraphy, such as the description of the evolving term qi in Chapter 2.  The author, himself a well-known calligrapher, writes with unusual lucidity and critical perspective about an often abstruse subject, often shying away from the self-mystification that plagues studies of calligraphy.  Formal analyses of Fu Shan’s works, such as his use of arcane complex characters, are clearly demonstrated.  Another key moment in the evolution of calligraphy occurred in eleventh-century China.  Chapter 4 of Peter Sturman’s Mi Fu : Style and the Art of Calligraphy in Northern Song China, in its description of the aesthetic term pingdan, gives a sense of these earlier developments.
Seattle, WA : University of Washington Press, c2008.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » GN799 .P4 H3345 2008
Writing with a brush is but one of the forms of Chinese calligraphy. This study of carved inscriptions on stone in natural settings explores the role of public calligraphy in forming landscape and the relationship of calligraphic content to its chosen site.  Beginning from the sixth century and ending in the eighth century, Harrist’s book is a cultural history of the importance of writing in China, ranging over religious, mortuary, and political contexts.  In contrast to traditional connoisseurial approaches that emphasize histories of style, Harrist’s careful use of visual and textual materials, including a large appendix of translated texts, foregrounds historically motivated readings.  For the later history of stone inscriptions, Yun-chiu Mei’s dissertation, The Pictorial Mapping and Imperialization of Epigraphic Landscapes in Eighteenth-Century China, is a highly accessible and lively account of imperial commissions of public calligraphy and its claims to political and cultural hegemony.

Religious art

Honolulu : University of Hawai'i Press, c2003.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N8193 .C6 B47 2003
This book addresses Buddhist practices of the eighteenth-century court and is an important examination of a significant nexus of politics, identity, and religion with works that have been largely ignored. Focusing on the relationship between the Qianlong emperor and his Tibetan adviser Rolpay Dorje, the book takes seriously the court’s religious commitments, which had been typically seen as a heterogenous combination of Tibetan and Mongolian beliefs conveniently deployed in service of political maneuvering of ethnic and territorial claims. Especially engaging is Chapter 5, which describes how the culture of the copy combined both longstanding connoisseurial habits and ritual practices. The multitude of foreign (Chinese, Tibetan) names can be occasionally overwhelming, as well as the density of the writing, but there are excellent visual analyses and explanations of esoteric Tibetan iconography.
1st ed. Lawrence, KS : Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas ; Honolulu, Hawaii : University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N8193.C6 L38 1994
Although this exhibition catalog suffers from the general quality of the illustrations, it remains an excellent survey of the major works of Buddhist painting and print culture (NB: the catalogue does not cover sculpture) for the general reader.  Among the prefatory essays by specialists in Buddhist painting as well as religious studies scholars, the study of Buddhist narrative illustrations by Julia Murray provides a clear trajectory of narrative painting and is particularly digestible.  The works are categorized into three types of functional spaces—within the temple, surrounding the temple, and lay life—and the short essays interspersed between, introducing various aspects of iconography and ritual practice, are particularly informative.  The catalog entries themselves offer plenty of textual evidence and visual analysis, providing jumping points for further research.  Buddhist material culture—from sacred relics to the introduction of the chair to China and explosion of printing—is the subject of John Kiesnick’s The impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N8193 .C6 A24 2002
Aside from the central worship sculpture at Buddhist sites, such places are typically littered with a host of other smaller-scale images and inscriptions. These images, commissioned by non-elite or ordinary people, are the central focus of this book. In Chapter 4, Abe examines a single temple site and the multilayered sources of patronage to demonstrate that narratives of linear development and unidirectional influence of “sinicization” are inadequate for understanding for the many sources that contributed to the formation of the site. Marshalling much empirical evidence, the book is written clearly but tends to assume the reader is already part of the scholarly conversation.
Seattle : University of Washington Press, c2005.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND2848 .W354 2005
This book is one of the few strongly thematic and interpretative works on the functions of Buddhist imagery. It focuses on one of the most important classic sutras, the Lotus Sutra, and explores, among other things, the temporal-spatial orientation of the images and the porousness of religious imagery in adopting and translating existing social and visual practices. Primarily drawing from wall paintings, sculpture, and other media related to a group of caves at Dunhuang, one of the most important Buddhist sites along the Silk Road, as well as a limited group of other famous sites, the book and its methodological principles are thought-provoking and often overly ambitious, the writing vivid and at times convoluted. Chapter 1, which relates cosmological maps to tomb architecture, is a compelling read, but the reader should beware the mixed reviews that this book has received.
1st ed. Chicago : Art Institute of Chicago in association with University of California Press, c2000.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » N8199 .T3 L58 2000 F
The imagery of Daoism (also spelled Taoism) is notoriously slippery; it can refer to works made by Daoists, or works put into a Daoist monastery, or works that provide direct quotations of Daoist narratives, among others. This exhibition catalog was one of the most significant and broadly conceived explorations of an understudied subject, encompassing both Daoism’s material culture, or objects made for religious practice, and the impact of Daoism on Chinese visual culture. While the question of what is “Daoist” about “Daoist art” is never distinctly conceptualized in the catalog, the catalogue amply introduces the general beliefs, practices, and associated iconography.

Architecture and gardens

New Haven : Yale University Press ; Beijing : New World Press, c2002.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » NA1540 .C45 2002 F
Written by the students of pioneering early twentieth-century architectural historians, this book is the definitive introductory text in English on Chinese architecture, winnowed down from a much larger series in Chinese (Zhongguo gudai jianzhushi). Comprehensive in scope and painstakingly detailed, the book is organized chronologically by dynasty, then by type, from city design, imperial buildings, religious complexes, to domestic architecture. The book’s strengths lie in its delineation of structural techniques and construction methods; much useful information can be gleaned from skipping to the appropriate section, which is often accompanied by valuable diagrams. Given that each chapter is written by a different historian, the degree to which interpretative frameworks have been applied varies greatly. The introduction by Steinhardt, which provides both descriptions of technical terms and a historiography that reflects upon the appropriateness of Western methods for studying Chinese architecture, is concisely written; another excellent section describes the twelfth century classic showing innovative structural systems, the Yingzao fashi (Chapter 5). The study of vernacular architecture is given a more consistent interpretative treatment by the geographer Ronald Knapp in The Chinese House: Craft, Symbol, and the Folk Tradition, which expands upon his previous studies of domestic dwellings.
Rev. / by Alison Hardie. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2003.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » SB457.55 .K47 2003 F
Keswick’s book has remained the classic introduction to the Chinese garden, even if some of the information has been superseded by recent data from archaeological excavations and some chapters remain a bit skimpy, given recent scholarship. Chapter 6, on the architecture of gardens, has penetrating discussion about the use of space in Chinese gardens. Scholars’ rocks are a peephole into the tastes and beliefs of the elite; the essay by John Hay in the exhibition catalog Kernels of Energy, Bones of Earth: The Rock in Chinese Art is powerfully evocative and describes the mystical forces that such rocks are believed to embody. For a social history of the garden, see Craig Clunas’s Fruitful Sites: Garden Culture in Ming Dynasty China, which applies a skeptical perspective on elite aspirations that were expressed through elaborate and expensive garden commissions.
Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, c1997.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » NA6046 .L5 S74 1997
The Liao empire was founded by a tribe native to Mongolia, the Qitan; at its peak the empire had expanded to parts of present-day Korea and northern China, and its culture, including printing and architecture, was highly sophisticated and innovative.   Presenting analyses of Liao structural design and how they differ from dominant Song dynasty models, the book is divided into two types of architecture: religious structures (pagodas, monasteries) and funerary architecture. The amount of detail, the number of Chinese and Qidan names, and specificity of building techniques may be prohibitively dense for the general reader, but the introduction, in which Steinhardt argues for the originality of this architectural tradition, provides a quick overview of the culture and contributions of the Liao dynasty.

Source texts

Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1971.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1042.5 .B8
This book examines scholar-artists’ writings over six centuries on issues of Chinese painting, tracing the evolution of styles. Covering pre-Song to Ming, Bush presents translations of significant opinions on art voiced by cultural luminaries/scholar-painters. An appendix lists the titles of texts in Chinese, and a glossary relates English terms to Chinese characters.
Ascona : Artibus Asiae Publishers, 1974.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1505 .C4213
This volume provides a translation of a significant work of Chinese painting theory, written by Jing Hao (c. AD 855–80 to c. 915–40), an important painter and theorist of the Five Dynasties period (906–60).
New Haven : Yale University Press, 1988.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » SB457.55 .C4713 1988
This 1634 technical treatise is a classic of garden construction, providing details about variations on spatial organization, structures, and decoration for the garden.
Cambridge, Mass. : Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute by Harvard University Press, 1985.
Art & Architecture Library » Request at circulation desk » ND1500 .E25 1985
Translated Chinese texts on painting from the Warring States to the Yuan Dynasty are arranged in six chapters in chronological order. Each chapter is divided by sub-categories such as "On Creativity," "Traditions and Models," "Landscape Formation," "Atmosphere and Spatial Recession," etc. Theories and comments by artists and art critics are selected and organized under each sub-category.
Pasadena, Calif. : Pacific Asia Museum, c1989.
Art & Architecture Library » Stacks » ND1040 .S45625 A4 1989
This volume provides a translation of painting theories written by the early Qing artist, Shitao (1642-1707), this book is useful for understanding the artist’s view of nature and how it relates to his painting style.
The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting has been an important textbook for the acquisition of painting skills for generations of students from the Qing dynasty to today. Compiled by Wang Gai (1645-1707), an early Qing painter, each image is accompanied with an explanation or title. Such technical manuals were an important component in the training of artists in traditional Chinese culture.
This book is important to both architectural historians and historians of photography. The early-twentieth-century historians Liang Sicheng and his wife Lin Huiyin pioneered the field of Chinese architectural studies through extensive field surveys as well as the use of the camera in documenting and recording architectural types, structures, and techniques.