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Reviews 197© 1998 by University ofHawai'i Press its arguments should be seriously considered by all scholars ofliterary and cultural studies. Gregory Lee University ofHong Kong Gregory Lee is an associateprofessor in comparative literature and cultural studies. John Lust. Chinese Popular Prints. Handbuch der Orientalistik, vierte abteilung, China, band 11 (Handbook oforiental studies, part 4, China, vol. 11). Leiden, New York, Köln: E. J. Brill, 1996. xiv, 352 pp. Hardcover, U.S. $149.50, isbn 90-04-10472-0. This is an expensive book on a fascinating topic, published by the venerable house ofBrill in its prestigious Handbook ofOriental Studies series. Unfortunately it is a grievous disappointment on every level, from editing to analysis. The book does not appear to have undergone even rudimentary editing. There are incomplete sentences, singular verbs with plural subjects, orphan parentheses (page 82, line 2), mismatches between note reference numbers and footnote texts (notes 34 to 37 of chapter 3), specific references to books that are not identified (page 81, third paragraph, and note 14), abbreviated references in notes to works that are not in the Bibliography (page 249 note 11 cites "Hou Ching-Ian [sic], 1975," which cannot be found in the Bibliography; the reference is probably to Hou Jinglan, Monnaies d'offrande et la notion de trésorerie dans la religion chinoise, which is not in the Bibliography either), and so on and on. Beyond these technical matters, the writing is often extremely unclear. One example among many is this, on page 82: "Mianzhu or Chengdu do not on the surface have taken on the specific art and intellectual drive ofHebei and the provinces ofthe Yangtze Delta region, but it participated in the general traditions of popular art." Careless writing combined with poor organization, even within paragraphs, make the book very difficult to read. The book's six chapters—"Introduction ," "History," "Printmakers and Printshops," "Society, Symbolism and Visual Pun," "Categories of Popular Prints and Their Display," and "Technical Terms"—do not present a coherent, ordered survey of the subject, either historical or topical. There is no discernible argument or conceptual structure. Instead, there is a mass ofill-digested information and unsubstantiated opinion that only the most determined researcher will be able to sort through successfully. 198 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Three other very serious technical problems must be mentioned. First, the footnoting is scandalously weak, especially for a work presented to an unsuspecting public as a "handbook." There are mistakes (for example, "no. 76" in note 16 on page 30 should be "p. 7"), incomplete references (for example, note 124 on page 89 does not give page numbers), and above all, lack of any documentation whatsoever in passage after passage. Second, the visual documentation—twentysix reproductions in one section at the beginning of the book—is entirely inadequate . To assess the author's statements about specific prints, or even understand them, die reader must have at his elbow seven or eight illustrated volumes ofwoodblock prints that only the largest sinological libraries are likely to have. This is a crippling shortcoming, and inexcusable in a book this expensive. Third, there are no Chinese characters anywhere in the book, an unbelievable lapse for a sinological handbook and one that is especially damaging in this case, since Lust devotes a great deal of space to terminology. Problems of conceptualization and interpretation are also severe. To begin with, there is no careful definition of what is meant by "popular print." We are eventually told in passing on page 242 that "in this book popular prints covers all prints of an illustrative sort," which suggests that a Chinese woodblock print is "popular" by definition. But were elegant and expensive productions of Yangliuqing and Suzhou, to which the author so frequently turns, "popular"? If so, what definition of "popular" is being used? Lust recognizes that there were different audiences for different kinds of prints—an important point—but makes no serious effort to show what effect this had on their style and content. All he has to offer on this matter is the brief section on "The Publics" (pages 129-133), which reviews late imperial social stratification but leaves the connection between social...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 197-199
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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