China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The construction and understanding of Chinese history have relied on visual materials that are works of memory, inherited pictorial conventions, fragmented knowledge, and imagination. This panel explores various creative relationships between visuality and knowledge creation from China’s Song dynasty (960-1279) to the Republican period (1911-1949). More specifically, it examines how the temporal, spatial, astronomical, and ethnographic mappings of China’s great urban centers were inflected by collective composite memories, political and personal agendas, and how they produced knowledge and generated histories through innovative pictorial manipulations.
The four case studies in this panel explore the entanglement between documentation and imagination, between site specificity and displaced memories associated with Chang’an, Nanjing, and Beijing—though the themes elaborated and methods used are also widely applicable to cases outside China. Xin Wen’s paper shows that Song dynasty maps of Chang’an created a spatial palimpsest in which sites from different past imperial dynasties collapsed onto the same space. Focusing on visual representations of Nanjing’s Qixia Temple, Amy Shumei Huang demonstrates how memories and personal knowledge of specific sites were evoked by various visual strategies in the seventeenth century. Bing Huang’s paper discusses the representation of urban prosperity by way of the occurrence of a rare astronomical phenomenon in 1761. Ren Wei explores how Beijing residents’ struggles during the Qing-Republican transition prompted the modern transformation of East Asian ink painting.