- Pastimes: From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography by Shana J. Brown
Over the last decade, broad scholarly interest in antiquarianism has steadily increased. The opening salvos of this academic surge included several large projects related to antiquarianism in China. In 2004, Peter N. Miller and François Louis of Bard College organized a symposium, "The Age of Antiquaries in Europe and China," and edited selected papers into a scholarly volume entitled Antiquarianism and Intellectual Life in Europe and China, 1500-1800.1 A year later, the Princeton University Art Museum held the exhibition "Recarving China's Past: Art, Archaeology and Architecture of the 'Wu Family Shrines,'" accompanied by a six-hundred-plus-page exhibition catalog.2 In the following year, Wu Hung of the University of Chicago organized the symposium "Reinventing the Past: Archaism and Antiquarianism in Chinese Art and Visual Culture," whose selected proceedings were published in an edited volume with the same title in 2010.3 In the same year, a symposium that was organized by the Fondation maison des sciences de l'homme of France and the Getty Research Institute, [End Page 147] "Traces, Collections, Ruins: Towards a Comparative History of Antiquarianism," was held at the Getty Research Institute. A volume drawn from this symposium is due out soon.4
These and similar activities conducted in Europe, the United States, and Asia are testament to a "research wave" concerning antiquarianism. Unlike the catalog and collections of essays mentioned above, the book by Shana Brown that is under review is probably the first monograph devoted to the exploration of antiquarianism and its relationship to modern Chinese historiography in the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. For this reason alone, it is a timely contribution to current scholarship on this subject.
Although "antiquarianism" is a hot research topic, what it means remains debatable. Brown states: "Antiquarianism is a way to understand the past through the systematic investigation of material artifacts and one-of-a-kind inscriptions" (p. 2). For the concept of "antiquarianism," she refers to the Chinese term jinshi 金石, or jinshixue 金石 (literally, studies of bronze and stone objects), a field of scholarly practice that took form in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). She justifies her definition as follows: "I have chosen to translate jinshi as 'antiquarianism' rather than relying on more literal or narrow renderings such as 'bronze-and-stele studies' or 'epigraphy.' And of course, using antiquarianism is also a useful way to suggest common features and differences between jinshi and its European counterparts" (p. 4). Even with this English translation, Brown still uses the term jinshi frequently, probably in order to remind readers that jinshi is somewhat different from European antiquarianism, though she does not specify what those differences are.
The book comprises an introduction, seven chapters, and an epilogue. In the introduction, Brown briefly outlines issues that her chapters spell out in detail. Among these are the differences between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century jinshi: whereas the former emphasized epigraphical texts, the latter embraced artifacts without inscriptions, thus expanding the subject matter of jinshi. An important argument Brown makes is that jinshi has an art-historical dimension. [End Page 148] She takes issue with Benjamin Elman's argument that the revival of stele-based calligraphy was stimulated by intellectual research such as epigraphical studies. Instead, Brown contends that many historians and archaeologists have emphasized the intellectual contributions to visual culture while downplaying the contributions of other, visual aspects of antiquarianism (p. 8).
Following this line of argument in Chapter 1, "Antiquarianism and Its Genealogies," Brown states: "A full understanding of modern jinshi requires us to consider art, ritual, and historiography simultaneously in order to understand the complex, ever changing, and sometimes conflicting ways in which jinshi specialists comprehended the material remains of the ancient past" (p. 13). She then discusses various characteristics of jinshi studies in different historical periods. Brown explores Song-dynasty jinshi in its relationship to historiography and in its interaction with contemporary ritual and politics. She points...