Arts and Culture
This study investigates a unique cultural phenomenon during the Ming dynasty, the pictorial representations of the local scenic sites, through the case of Suzhou prefecture. Although the topographical paintings of certain local scenic sites appeared in the earlier periods, it was not until the Ming dynasty that it had gradually become a popular genre. This study tries to reveal relationship between these topographical paintings and the Suzhou local elites’ thriving interest of building their collective regional identity throughout the Ming dynasty.
The extant studies mainly focus on how the image of the Jiangnan cities were reconstructed and reshaped by the Qing Emperors during the High Qing period. However, these studies raise questions such as: how did the Ming paintings and woodblock prints shape the local image before the Qing Emperors’ cultural enterprises? And what kind of influence did it make to the practices of the Qing rulers? In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of this cultural process, this research intends to re-contextualize the many scenic landscape paintings and woodblock prints produced during the Ming dynasty. Through the examination of the social functions of these visual materials and the cultural background of the local scenic sites, this study aims to answer two major research questions: how the function and cultural meaning of the topographical landscape paintings had developed, and what kind of role it had played in the construction of the local image and local identity throughout the Ming times.