Art by the Book

Painting Manuals and the Leisure Life in Late Ming China

J. P. Park

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  • Published: 2012
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Art History / Asian Art; Visual Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 336 pp., 117 illus., 16 in color, 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Sometime before 1579, Zhou Lujing, a professional writer living in a bustling commercial town in southeastern China, published a series of lavishly illustrated books, which constituted the first multigenre painting manuals in Chinese history. Their popularity was immediate and their contents and format were widely reprinted and disseminated in a number of contemporary publications. Focusing on Zhou's work, Art by the Book describes how such publications accommodated the cultural taste and demands of the general public, and shows how painting manuals functioned as a form in which everything from icons of popular culture to graphic or literary cliche was presented to both gratify and shape the sensibilities of a growing reading public. As a special commodity of early modern China, when cultural standing was measured by a person's command of literati taste and lore, painting manuals provided nonelite readers with a device for enhancing social capital.
J. P. Park builds on important recent research on social status, economic development, and print publishing in late imperial China to show how a world of social meaning is evident in the literary subgenre of painting manuals, and provides insight into the links between art history, print culture, and social history.

"Art by the Book is a significant contribution to our understanding of the way taste, status, and a growing urban sphere changed the content of elite self - understanding in 16th- and 17th-century China. By constantly cross-cutting between social history and the content and style of the painting manuals, Park demonstrates how even those outside the literati orbit could begin to take on the aura of the highest elites."
-Katherine Carlitz, University of Pittsburgh

"The printed manuals are situated within the wider horizons of late Ming thought, literature, tastes, fashions, values, and lifestyles. Thus, in addition to students of late imperial Chinese art history, this book should appeal to those interested in later Chinese literary, social, and cultural history, to readers interested in the history of the book, and to students of early modern cultural and social theory in comparative context."
-Richard Vinograd, Stanford University

Chronology of Chinese Dynasties
William Shakespeare, a Great Painter?
1. Genre and Biography
2. Words without Images
3. Portraits of the Characteristic
4. Icons of Love and Marginality
5. The Art of Being Artistic
Coda: The Late Ming at the Crossroads
Appendix 1 Locations and Editions of Late Ming Painting Manuals
Appendix 2 Lost Manuals and Albums of the Ming Dynasty
Plates follow page

"This is a scholarly investigation into a subject that has many fascinating aspects - artistic, social, and economic. Park's extensive research, evident in the careful treatment of the material, is a welcomed addition to the relatively new field of scholarship of Ming cultural history."
-Patricia Karetzsky, Frontiers of History in China, Vol. 8, No. 3

"This study of pioneering, late-Ming dynasty painting manuals by Zhou Luijing reveals how access to cultural knowledge played out in the dynamic social world of the late Ming dynasty. Recommended."

"To date, there are few detailed studies of huapa in English, which makes Park's book a welcomed addition to the literature. His book serves to introduce an important and still controversial aspect of late Ming artistic theory and production."
-Anne Burkus-Chasson, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

"[Art by the Book] is a meticulously researched social history of the content and function of painting manuals published during the forty-year period between 1580 and 1620. . . . The book is most absorbing when Park traces the intimate connections of the manuals not only to the social pleasures of performing with brush and ink, but also to the more private emotions generated by the process of learning to use the brush well and fluidly."
-Lisa Claypool, The Journal of Asian Studies

"Well-researched and eloquently written, and the joy to read is enriched by the extensive use of high-quality illustrations. . . . It is warmly recommended for readers interested in Ming cultural and social history, print and book culture, as well as visual culture."
-Hang Lin, Asiatische Studien/ Etudes Asiatiques