Antiquarianism and Archaisms in Chinese Design

Antiquarianism, the pre-modern historical practice of collecting and interpreting relics from the distant past, is generally seen as first emerging in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Song China. It then remained a mainstay intellectual pastime until the twentieth century and resulted both in the systematizing of epigraphic research and the establishment of a canon of collectable antiquities. In this seminar we examine how Chinese antiquarian practice came about, how it changed over subsequent dynasties, and, in particular, how it may be related to conscious use of archaisms in design and the visual arts. Although archaistic design became a frequent choice from the Song era on, antiquarian activity alone cannot explain it. Numerous instances of archaistic design are known from much earlier periods. How are those to be interpreted? How were antiquities interpreted before the age of antiquaries? This course aims at a careful reevaluation of concepts such as archaism, classicisim, and antiquarianism in China. We will discuss archaistic calligraphy, but our focus will be ritual utensils from the Tang to the Qing era (7th–19th century), particularly sacrificial vessels and clothing. 3 credits.