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Gardens and Illusions from Late Ming to Early Qing


Noting that gardens are closely tied with various art forms and genres and yet have very real social and sometimes economic functions, Wai-Yee Li ruminates on the boundaries between representations and reality, and between subjective projections and objective constraints. After exploring the social and political meanings of various accounts celebrating non-existent gardens from late Ming to early Qing, Li discusses the aesthetics of illusion in actual gardens in that same period, dealing with such issues as miniaturization and the play with perspectives. With the political turmoil of the Ming-Qing transition, the discourse on gardens and illusions changed, and the tension between aesthetic and ethical values deepened: even as charges of frivolity and self-indulgence arose, many reaffirmed the necessity of illusion as the locus of memory and nostalgia in the midst of ruins and devastation.

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