Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China

Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China

Craig Clunas

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 0824838521

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Screen of Kings is the first book in any language to examine the cultural role of the regional aristocracy – relatives of the emperors – in Ming dynasty China (1368–1644). Through an analysis of their patronage of architecture, calligraphy, painting and other art forms, and through a study of the contents of their splendid and recently excavated tombs, this innovative study puts the aristocracy back at the heart of accounts of China’s culture, from which they have been excluded until very recently.

Screen of Kings challenges much of the received wisdom about Ming China. Craig Clunas sheds new light on many familiar artworks, as well as works that have never before been reproduced. New archaeological discoveries have furnished the author with evidence of the lavish and spectacular lifestyles of these provincial princes and demonstrate how central the imperial family was to the high culture of the Ming era.

Written by the leading specialist in the art and culture of the Ming period, this book illuminates a key aspect of China’s past, and will significantly alter our understanding of the Ming. It will be enjoyed by anyone with a serious interest in the history and art of this great civilization.

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what extent becoming a tenant of the aristocracy might in fact involve a change in lifestyle. Building up a clientage by ‘summoning together the evil and the petty’, ‘mixing promiscuously with the crowd of petty men’ and ‘calling together desperadoes’ was 57 screen of kings one of the things kings are accused of doing.84 But those stigmatized by officialdom as petty men and desperadoes are unlikely to have seen themselves as such, and standing up staunchly for the rights of clients was what

the tombs of quite minor aristocrats will have been prominent within the landscape, and there were a lot of them. They were identified by stele (inscriptions which remained in the landscape) and by buried tomb inscriptions (which did not) bearing their name and titles, which survive in very large numbers in local museums in all the provinces of China where The Kingly Landscape 25 (above) Boundary wall of the tomb of King Zhuang of Liang (d. 1441), outside Zhongxiang, Hubei province. 26 (above

both ways, drawing attention to their connections to the ultimate origins of civility, at the imperial centre, at the very same time as it drew attention to their necessary distance from it. But the claim of unimpeded transmission, even if undercut by the material facts, remained throughout the Ming period a potent one. 99 43 Guo Xi (c. 1000–c. 1090), Early Spring, dated 1072, hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, 158.3 × 108.1 cm. four T HE PAINTING OF THE K ING OF Z HOU t might be

just how short the distance is between the Jiangnan literati elite (the central historical actor in most accounts of Ming culture) and the kingly court by considering a work now in the Art Institute of Indianapolis (illus. 83). Entitled Invitation to Reclusion at Chaisang, it combines the famous classical poem ‘Returning Home’ by Tao Yuanming (365–427), executed in the calligraphy of Zhang Bi (1425–1487), with a picture by Shen Zhou (1427–1509). Shen is today one of the most renowned figures of

while a nineteenth-century history of the Southern Ming says ‘Changfang was skilled at calligraphy and painting, a lover 86 ‘Dance of Four Men’, woodblock printed illustration of ritual dance from Zhu Zaiyu (1536–1611), Yue lü quan shu, printed book (dated 1573, Zheng appanage edition). of antiquities, knowledgeable in explication of the canons’.73 He was certainly the author and publisher, in 1634, of the last of the Ming kingly texts on music, Gu yin zheng zong, ‘Orthodox Lineage of Antique

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