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Taoism and the Arts of China
     

Taoism and the Arts of China

by Stephen Little, Kristofer Shipper
 

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Taoism and the Arts of China brings together a remarkable collection of art from one of China's most ancient and influential traditions. Produced to accompany the first major exhibition ever organized on the Taoist philosophy and religion, this opulent book includes more than 150 works of art from as early as the late Zhou dynasty (fifth-third century b.c.) to the

Overview

Taoism and the Arts of China brings together a remarkable collection of art from one of China's most ancient and influential traditions. Produced to accompany the first major exhibition ever organized on the Taoist philosophy and religion, this opulent book includes more than 150 works of art from as early as the late Zhou dynasty (fifth-third century b.c.) to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Many of these works are paintings that show the breathtaking range of style and subject that makes the Taoist heritage so rich. Sculpture, calligraphy, rare books, textiles, and ritual objects are also represented.

Like the exhibition, the book is organized thematically. It begins with the sage Laozi (to whom the Daode Jing is attributed), and moves on to explore the birth of religious Taoism and the interaction between Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. A wealth of subjects are covered: the gods of the Taoist pantheon, ritual, the boundaries and intersections between Taoism and popular religion, Taoist Immortals and Realized Beings, the role of alchemy, sacred landscape and its significance, and Taoist temples and their architecture.

Taoism and the Arts of China includes an engaging series of introductory essays by scholars with a deep understanding of their subjects. Among the topics discussed are a historical introduction to Taoism, archaeological evidence for early Taoist art, and a general introduction to the functions of art in religious Taoism. Lavishly illustrated with over 150 color images, this volume affords a sweeping view of an artistic terrain that until now has received too little exposure in the West. Its publication constitutes a major advance in Western understanding ofthis important tradition.

Author Biography: Stephen Little, Pritzker Curator of Asian Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, is an authority on Chinese and Japanese art. His numerous publications include Spirit Stones of China (California, 1999), Visions of the Dharma: Japanese Buddhist Paintings and Prints in the Honolulu Academy of Arts(1991), and Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period,1620-1683 (1983).

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Groundbreaking exhibitions live on through their catalogs, and here's one of the best, the first scholarly guide to the subject in any Western language. All other work on the subject will henceforth begin here.
San Francisco Examiner
"The marvelous catalog might tide you over between visits . . ." (San Francisco Examiner review of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum exhibition)
Library Journal
Taoism is one of China's primary spiritual exports. Yet although yin and yang, one of its main concepts, seems to appear on every American street corner, average Americans know very little about Taoism. This catalog to an exhibition by Little, Pritzker Curator of Asian art at the Art Institute of Chicago, serves as a fabulous introduction to China's major indigenous religion by examining the iconography and function of works of art made to serve Taoism. The exhibition explores the beginning of Taoist philosophy in the late Bronze Age (fifth to third centuries B.C.E.) and the transformation of Taoism into an organized religion during the East Jin and Six Dynasties (317-589 C.E.). With contributions from a group of experts in the field, the exhibition takes an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon architectural history, religious studies, literature, cultural history, and the history of science to convey a new understanding of Taoism. Works of the highest aesthetic order have been selected and are handsomely displayed here. An example of serious scholarship, this book is recommended for large public and all academic libraries. Lucia S. Chen, NYPL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Enhanced with 190 color illustrations and 50 b/w photographs, Asian art expert Stephen Little's Taoism And The Arts Of China is an impressive, erudite compendium of art from one of China's most ancient and influential philosophical and religious traditions. This scholarly and informative historical artwork survey begins with the Zhou dynasty (fifth to third century B.C.E.) down to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). With insightful essays by Kristofer Shipper, Wu Hung, Patricia Ebrey, and Nancy Steinhardt, Taoism And The Arts Of China is a core addition to any personal, academic, or community library art history, Asian Studies, or Taoism reference collection. This superbly presented art history is also available in hardcover (0-520-22784-0, $60.00).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520227859
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
11/30/2000
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
415
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 12.00(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

III.6 THE SACRED LANDSCAPE

One of the earliest texts of religious Taoism, the Scripture of Great Peace (Taiping Jing), teaches a profound respect for the Earth as a living body. This section of the exhibition catalogue explores the traditional Taoist concept of the natural landscape as sacred and reflecting the inherently divine structure of both the cosmos and the inner human body (i.e., macrocosm and microcosm). The divine correspondence between the outer terrestrial and Inner landscape of the human body is a fundamental aspect of Taoist techniques of visualizaton and inner Alchemy, and can be seen in such works as the Illustration of Inner Circulation (Neijing tu; cat. no. 133), a diagram that originated in the Six Dynasties period (420-589).

This concept of the Earth as a sacred body is often given visual expression in Chinese paintings. The earliest Chinese texts that discuss the theory and practice of landscape painting, for example, emphasize the importance of the artist capturing and conveying the dynamic movement of vital energy (qi) that defines and animates the dynamic forms of the earth. The concept of the Earth as sacred is explored here on several levels. First is the concept of the sacred mountain. Mountains are revered throughout Taoist history as places where adepts meditate, pursue alchemy, and encounter immortals and gods. In mountains can be found numinous cavern-heavens (dongtian), mysterious grottoes that are actually gateways to the spirit world. A direct extension of this concept of sacred space is the frequent siting of Taoist temples on or near mountains.

Examples of these concepts of sacred space as illustrated in Chinese painting include Juran's Seeking the Tao in the Autumn Mountains (cat. no. 138), Ni Zan's The Crane Grove (depicting an outdoor Taoist stone altar; cat. no. 139), Dai Jin's Seeking the Tao in a Cavern-Heaven (cat. no. 148), Wen Zhengming's The Seven Junipers (a painting of seven trees that are living symbols of the seven stars of the Northern Dipper; cat. no. 147), and a large topographical painting by Guan Huai, a Qing court artist, depicting the Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity) sect temple complex at Dragon and Tiger Mountain (Longhu Shan) in Jiangxi province (cat. no. 151)


Meet the Author

Stephen Little, Pritzker Curator of Asian Art at the Art
Institute of Chicago, is an authority on Chinese and Japanese art. His numerous publications include Spirit Stones of China (California, 1999), Visions of the Dharma: Japanese Buddhist Paintings and Prints in the Honolulu Academy of Arts(1991), and Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period,1620-1683 (1983).

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