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Cover for The Arts of China, 1600-1900

The Arts of China, 1600-1900

William Watson, Chumei Ho


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In this volume, William Watson and Chuimei Ho begin with discussions of “fine” art and painting and progress to an analysis of carving and sculpture, ceramics, glassware, and textiles. The authors demonstrate how, in the age of the Emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, the “decorative” arts rose to prominence in a way quite unlike the western experience. Avoiding misrepresentative categorization, they single out period styles, identify repeated phases of archaism and Buddhist art, and discuss characteristic groups of jade, ivory, ceramics, glassware, and textiles.  They consider the importance of the imperial workshops and their role in developing craftsmen’s skills and encouraging the cross-over of techniques from different disciplines, and they direct attention to the compelling influence of Emperor Qianlong’s aesthetic innovations.
In architecture, the vast plan and overwhelming authority of the imperial buildings is discussed in contrast with the restrained subtlety of domestic architecture and garden design, where magnificent rocks were the principal feature just as in landscape painting. The survey concludes by examining the development of East/West trade and the effects of commercialization on Chinese arts and crafts. This is a handsome, well-illustrated book that will be a valuable and illuminating resource for all who are interested in the arts of China.

Yale University Press, 9780300107357, 320pp.

Publication Date: May 28, 2007

About the Author

William Watson is emeritus professor of Chinese art and archaeology at the University of London. Chuimei Ho is adjunct curator of  East and Southeast Asian art and archaeology at the Field Museum in Chicago.