Accumulating Culture: The Collections of Emperor Huizong

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Winner of the Shimada Prize for Outstanding Work of East Asian Art History

By the end of the sixth century CE, both the royal courts and the educated elite in China were collecting works of art, particularly scrolls of calligraphy and paintings done by known artists. By the time of Emperor Huizong (1082-1135) of the Song dynasty (960-1279), both scholars and the imperial court were cataloguing their collections and also collecting ancient bronzes and rubbings of ancient ...

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Overview

Winner of the Shimada Prize for Outstanding Work of East Asian Art History

By the end of the sixth century CE, both the royal courts and the educated elite in China were collecting works of art, particularly scrolls of calligraphy and paintings done by known artists. By the time of Emperor Huizong (1082-1135) of the Song dynasty (960-1279), both scholars and the imperial court were cataloguing their collections and also collecting ancient bronzes and rubbings of ancient inscriptions. The catalogues of Huizong's painting, calligraphy, and antiquities collections list over 9,000 items, and the tiny fraction of the listed items that survive today are all among the masterpieces of early Chinese art.

Patricia Ebrey's study of Huizong's collections places them in both political and art historical context. The acts of adding to and cataloguing the imperial collections were political ones, among the strategies that the Song court used to demonstrate its patronage of the culture of the brush, and they need to be seen in the context of contemporary political divisions and controversies. At the same time, court intervention in the art market was both influenced by, and had an impact on, the production, circulation, and imagination of art outside the court.

Accumulating Culture provides a rich context for interpreting the three book-length catalogues of Huizong's collection and specific objects that have survived. It contributes to a rethinking of the cultural side of Chinese imperial rule and of the court as a patron of scholars and the arts, neither glorifying Huizong as a man of the arts nor castigating him as a megalomaniac, but rather taking a hardheaded look at the political and cultural ramifications of collecting and the reasons for choices made by Huizong and his curators. The reader is offered glimpses of the magnificence of the collections he formed and the disparate fates of the objects after they were seized as booty by the Jurchen invaders in 1127.

The heart of the book examines in detail the primary fields of collecting -- antiquities, calligraphy, and painting. Chapters devoted to each of these use Huizong's catalogues to reconstruct what was in his collection and to probe choices made by the cataloguers. The acts of inclusion, exclusion, and sequencing that they performed allowed them to influence how people thought of the collection, and to attempt to promote or demote particular artists and styles.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of Chinese art history, social history, and culture, as well as art collectors.

Published with the assistance of The Getty Foundation.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

China Review International - Roslyn Lee Hammers

Ebrey's groundbreaking book... considers Huizong's contribution to visual culture of the Northern Song dynasty and beyond. This is a magisterial undertaking.... This is a much needed and timely work... [and] a major accomplishment in scholarship on the Northern Song dynasty.

Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies - Foong Ping

Ebrey's depiction of how the court appropriated literati collecting practices during Huizong's reign succeeds in presenting imperial collecting as a positive instrument for cultivating political power.

Journal of Asian Studies

The collections of the late Northern Song emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1125) were unprecedented in scale and comprehensiveness. Accumulating Culture is a highly readable, handsomely illustrated account of Huizong's quarter century of collecting, which culminated in the compilation of three catalogues that became standards for centuries thereafter.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295987781
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Series: A China Program Book Series
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Buckley Ebrey is professor of history at the University of Washington and author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of China and The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the Sung Period.

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsList of TablesPrefaceA Note on Dates, Measurements, and Other ConventionsChronologyIntroduction1. Early Song Precedents2. Strains in Emperor-Literati Relations during the Reform Era3. Collecting As a Scholarly Passion during the Northern Song Period4. Huizong As a Collector5. Managing the Collections at the Palace Library6. Collecting and Cataloguing Antiquities7. Collecting and Cataloguing Calligraphy8. Collecting and Cataloguing Paintings9. The Fate of Huizong's CollectionsReflectionsAppendix 1: Authorship and Editions of the CataloguesAppendix 2: Paintings and Calligraphies with Huizong's Collector SealsAppendix 3: Major Extant Pre-Song Calligraphies Listed in the Xuanhe Calligraphy CatalogueNotesBibliographyGlossary-Index

University of Washington Press

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