Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society

Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society

Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society

Landscape, Culture, and Power in Chinese Society

Synopsis

Includes bibliographical references.

Excerpt

Wen-Hsin Yeh

The essays collected in this volume explore spatial ordering in Chinese culture and society from the Song to the present. the contributors approach the question from a variety of perspectives that include art, history, cartography, geography, and anthropology. the essays explore a wide spectrum of issues ranging from the rise of landscape painting as a new artistic genre to the lasting traits in Chinese mapmaking of the past millennium, from the building of neo-Confucian academies and villages in southeastern coastal mountains to the engendering of domestic space in the cave dwellings of the peasantry in the upper Yellow River plateau in post-Mao years. Two questions, nonetheless, lie at the center of the volume. What does an attention to space, formal or informal, lived or represented, teach us about power relationships and the cultural dynamics that shaped Chinese society? On the other hand, how did space function as a medium for the negotiation of power and politics in the particularities of Chinese society?

Martin Powers’s essay, which deals with the rise of landscape painting as a new artistic genre in the tenth century, draws attention to the discourse of landscape painting as well as to its social significance. Powers sees the rise of landscape painting in the Song as a displacement of figure painting that was well established by the Tang. This development was the expression, according to Powers, of a profound social change characterized by the political rise of the civil service examination elite at the expense of hereditary aristocracy. the new genre of painting, in other words, was the tangible product of a new way of seeing the world through the eyes of a new elite, which turned art into a medium of social contestation.

The realignment of the social and the artistic during the TangSong transition did not take the form, Powers suggests, of different . . .

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