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Drawing Boundaries

Architectural Images in Qing China

Anita Chung

Publication Year: 2004

Qing China (1644–1912) witnessed a resurgence in architectural painting, a traditional subject category known as jiehua, or boundary painting. Drawing Boundaries concerns itself with the symbolic implications of this impressive and little studied reflorescence. Beginning with a concise and well-illustrated history of the evolution of the tradition, this exciting new study reveals how these images were deployed in the Manchu (Qing) imperial court to define political, social, or cultural boundaries. Characterized by grand conception and regal splendor, the paintings served to enhance the imperial authority of rulers and, to a segment of the elite, to advertise social status. Drawing Boundaries thus speaks to both issues of painting and architectural style and the discourse of powerful cultural forms. In addition to the analysis of how the style of image construction suggests these political and social motivations, the book identifies another aspect of traditional architectural representation unique to the Qing: the use of architectural representation to render form and space. Anita Chung makes the fascinating observation that these renderings create an overwhelming sense of “being there,” a characteristic, she argues, that underscores the Qing concern for the substance of things—a sensibility toward the physical world characteristic of the period and emblematic of a new worldview.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. vii

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p. ix

This book owes a great deal to others. Over the long process of research and writing, I have received valuable advice, constructive critiques, and useful suggestions from teachers, colleagues, and friends, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. I am especially grateful to Professors Ju-hsi Chou, Mayching Kao, and Robert Hillenbrand for their careful reading and comments on parts or all of the manuscript and for offering me unfailing support over years.

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pp. 1-7

Chinese architectural paintings, or jiehua (a term explained in chapter 1) in general, are important visual documents for exploring the sensibilities and ideas of various individuals or groups of people toward material things in the external world. Unlike the natural subjects favored by Chinese painters to express cosmic principles or personal feelings, architecture is a constructed artifact appreciated for the beauty of its construction.

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1 The Jiehua Tradition

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pp. 9-43

Architectural painting is often categorized as jiehua, but this classificatory term has never been clearly defined. Is jiehua a subject category of Chinese painting? Or is it a representational technique for rendering fixed objects such as buildings, furniture, chariots, and weapons? Confusion arises because of the changing meanings of this term in art history.

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2 Patrons and Painters

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pp. 45-74

Late-Ming China was enjoying the splendor of a rich economic and cultural life. Artistic accomplishments in painting, woodblock printing, porcelain, lacquer, and carving— many of which contained jiehua designs—were proofs of material prosperity that resulted from urbanization and commercialization in the Yangzi region. This splendor of material prosperity reflected the many transformations that took place in society and, at the same ...

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3 The Qing Imperial Domains: Court Representations I

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pp. 75-100

A fair proportion of Qing court paintings, whose original functions were to commemorate the glories of the emperors and to project images of rulership into the cultural patterns of their subjects, portray royal palaces and record state events. Qing imperial estate portraiture overlaps with the traditional category of jiehua because they both feature architecture as the principal subject. But many other Qing court paintings of contemporary ...

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4 The Idealized Scheme: Court Representations II [includes image plates]

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pp. 101-119

Although the Qing emperors adopted Chinese cultural symbols as part of their strategy to rule China, they were never alienated from their Manchu cultural roots. They made efforts to trace their origins, to understand their own history, to define their culture in terms of rites and cultural practices—such as shamanic worship, horse riding, shooting, and hunting—to differentiate themselves from the other cultural groups, and their efforts reinforced a sense of identity as the state grew.1

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5 Moving Gardens: Yangzhou Representations I

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pp. 121-132

Beyond the capital, there was also a resurgence of architectural painting in urban centers. As explained earlier, I decided to focus on Yangzhou as a parallel study because Yangzhou’s private patronage of the arts, especially by rich merchants, had reached such an impressive scale that it could almost rival imperial patronage in Beijing. The existence of the Yuan school—which involved two generations of jiehua specialists—further indicated that ...

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6 Transmitting History and Myth: Yangzhou Representations II

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pp. 133-153

Professional jiehua painters working outside the court, like their counterparts at court, were also inspired by history and myth in architectural representation. The Yuan school, for instance, had experimented with a wide spectrum of historical and mythical themes in order to meet the diverse market demands. Relying on private patronage, Yuan Jiang and Yuan Yao were exposed to commercial environments that governed their artistic productions.

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pp. 155-161

As we have seen, the impressive upsurge of architectural painting during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries occurred in response to the political, social, and economic changes that took place after the Qing conquest of China. One of the major reasons for its resurgence was that architectural images functioned as symbolic forms for articulating Qing contemporary views and transmitting messages that were meaningful to diverse audiences.


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pp. 163-181


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pp. 183-187


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pp. 189-199


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pp. 201-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862268
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824826635

Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 777466043
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Drawing Boundaries

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Subject Headings

  • Architectural drawing -- China.
  • Architecture in art.
  • Buildings in art.
  • Painting, Chinese -- Ming-Qing dynasties, 1368-1912.
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