This book investigates the issue of conceptual originality in art criticism of the seventeenth century, a period in which China dynamically reinvented itself. In art criticism, the term which was called upon to indicate conceptual originality more than any other was "qi" 奇, literally, "different"; but secondarily, "odd," like a number and by extension, "the novel," and "extraordinary." This work finds that originality, expressed through visual difference, was a paradigmatic concern of both artists and critics. Burnett speculates on why many have dismissed originality as a possible "traditional Chinese" value, and the ramifications this has had on art historical understanding. She further demonstrates that a study of individual key terms can reveal social and cultural values and provides a linear history of the increase in critical use of "qi" as "originality" from the fifth through the seventeenth centuries, exploring what originality looks like in artworks by members of the gentry elite and commoner classes, and explains how the value lost its luster at the end of the seventeenth century.