Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University



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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 10:
Making Impressions: The Social Use of Chinese Prints in Ming-Qing China and Edo Japan
Organizer / Chair: Lisa Claypool, Lewis & Clark College


This panel will explore the circulation and reception of printed pictures among artists, arbiters of taste, and fiction aficionados--within southern China and Japan--during the seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries. It will ask about the multiple meanings of "making an impression" for these audiences. The most literal definition of "impression" refers to prints as material images, to traces of the printing process. Yet the prints were never complete, in a sense, for they continued to impress or be "imprinted"--covered with jottings and sketches, copied and turned into painted images, or otherwise transformed. Hence, "making an impression" also held a peculiar social meaning, for prints had the power to impress their readers and beholders, and to inspire them to leave their own impressions behind for others. Printed pictures provided a significant means of communication about identity for a diverse group of people.
Suzanne Wright focuses on the Ten Bamboo Studio letter paper designs. Not only ornamental, the designs seeped into the broader visual culture of seventeenth-century China, providing a source of imagery for fiction illustration. Meng-ching Ma analyzes the ways that The Story of the Western Wing was illustrated through time, with an eye to decreasing narrative content , increasing decorative elements, and burgeoning cultural interest in visual play. Eri Yoshida provides a case study of one of Ikeno Taiga's paintings, showing how Taiga borrowed heavily from Chinese prints. Lisa Claypool questions the inclusion of physiognomic diagrams in the first figure painting manual published in China.

1) Suzanne Wright, University of Tennessee. "The Circulation of Letter Paper Imagery in Seventeenth-Century China"

Decorated papers and silks for writing or painting are perhaps unique among ornamented artifacts of material culture in China in that their use is recorded visually upon the object itself. Such designs are usually placed centrally on the page, although sometimes they may be shifted to the right or left. Thus, when put into use, the text of the letter is written over the design, partially obscuring it. In other papers, the design may be located in a corner of the page or may form a decorative frame around the sides of the paper; in any case, they are frequently over-written.

Letter paper designs operate as a second system of signification on the page, in synchrony or counterpoint with the letter text. Also peculiar to letter papers is the indexical quality of their cryptic images, which point to more complex bodies of textual and pictorial imagery. These facets of letter paper imagery must have intrigued late Ming viewers, for the visual language of stationery design was employed in other woodblock prints of the period. In several illustrations to Xixiang ji (The Story of the Western Wing) published by Min Qiji (1580-after 1661) it is the primary means of reference to the action of the play, and in a significant number of woodblock printed narrative texts of the seventeenth century, such as Sui Yangdi yanshi, Xiyou bu, etc., letter paper-type decoration is used to supply an additional level of commentary on the actions described in the text or in linked images.

2) Meng-ching Ma, National Palace Museum, Taiwan. "Framing the Text: Visuality in Late-Ming Illustrations to The Story of the Western Wing"

This paper will explore visuality in late Ming publications through case studies of diverse illustrated editions of The Story of the Western Wing. focusing on the feature of "pictures within a frame". I first discuss the changes in the relationship between text and illustration, as well as the elements of narration and decoration in different editions. Secondly, focusing on the Min Qiji edition of Western Wing printed in 1640, I analyze the interaction between prints, texts, and other modes of decorative arts in order to explore the dialogue between print culture and visual culture.

An overview of existing illustrated Ming editions of the Western Wing shows that they gradually became reading materials rather than plays intended to be acted out. Most later-edition pictures were gathered together and placed in the first part of the book instead of amongst the pages. Therefore the image became less related to the text. In addition, pictures of landscapes and flower-and-bird pictures irrelevant to the text were more and more often
included in the illustrations. In sum, the narrative elements in these illustrations were reduced. By contrast, the decorative elements in illustrations became more apparent. The device of framing might have derived from kaiguang in object decoration or the experience of looking scenes through a decorated door or window in a designed garden. Examples as early as mid-Ming period show this new direction, yet the trend reached a highpoint in Min Qiji editions. The designer made diverse frames for each narrative scene in the play and played with the real and fictional spaces, revealing a consciousness of viewing and reflecting a prevailing interest in visuality in many different areas during this period.

3) Eri Yoshida, Mizuta Museum of Art, Josai International University. "Ike Taiga and Chinese Prints"

Ike Taiga (1723-76) was a Nanga painter who flourished in the mid-Edo period in Kyoto. It is well known that he used huapu painting manuals published in China in his art production. In this paper I will examine how Chinese prints were used and adapted in 18th-century Japan, focusing on the relation between Taiga's "Scenery of the Red Walls at Lake Dongting" scroll (New Otani Museum of Art)--which is conventionally regarded as a "true view" painting or a blue and green landscape painting. I will compare it with illustrations in Hainei qiguan (Unusual Spectacles of China,1609), a topographical book published in China. The Hainei qiguan was a guidebook of sorts, a compendium of pictures and text about places known for their scenic beauty in China. I will show that Taiga absorbed ideas from the Hainei qiguan. I will also refer to publishers like Li Yu (1611-76?), who is associated with the first three editions of the Jiezi yuan huazhuan (Musatrd Seed Garden Painting Manual, 1679, 1703), and to Yang Erzeng, who published the Hainei qiguan as well as the Tuhui zongyi (1575). In short, I will show that in the handscroll Taiga borrowed from various Chinese visual and textual sources, mixing images with text. Chinese prints, painting manuals and other kinds of illustrations provided an extremely important data bank of both image and text for Taiga.

4) Lisa Claypool, Lewis & Clark College. "About Face: Physiognomic Diagrams, Painting Manuals, and Portraiture in Nineteenth-Century China"

Studies of Chinese portraiture often make connections between paintings and physiognomic diagrams, yet fail to question when and why the desire to "regulate" portrait images arose. This paper will offer a short history of the uneasy relationship painters have had with physiognomic manuals before the nineteenth century, and then explore the new prominence of physiognomic diagrams in painting practice in the early to mid-nineteenth century. It will ask, for example, why the first figure painting manual published in China, the 1818 Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual, Fourth Edition (Jieziyuan huazhuan siji), featured physiognomic diagrams. This manual was published most probably in the city of Yangzhou under the direction of Ding Yicheng, the fourth generation in his family to work as a professional portrait painter. The manual engages with current painting theory, but also moves beyond it into a discourse on "regulation" (guiju). How are we to understand this new focus? And why publish a figure painting manual in the first place? I will argue that the desire to be able to see, read and paint a face can only be understood within the context of anxieties brought about by increasing urbanization and social complexity in the southern Jiangnan region.


list of panels