Wu Hung Seminar Two: Art History Under Reconstruction

Time: April 16th, 2016 10:00-17:00

Organizer: OCAT Institute

Co-Organizer: University of Chicago Center in Beijing

Moderator: Guo Weiqi, Asscociate Professor, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

Venue: University of Chicago Center in Beijing. 20th floor, Culture Plaza, No. 59A Zhong Guan Cun Street, Haidian District, Beijing

Support: OCT Beiing



Modern disciplines in China have witnessed nearly a century of intermittent establishment. By the 1980s they started to converge with the international tide of academic reflection, and entered respectively into the phase of “rewriting” in the 90s, typified by the field of “intellectual history”and “literature history”. While Western art history was arranging its tool box according to historiography, Chinese art history also entered a phase of active reflection. Stimulated by various new methodologies and concepts, such reflection usually embodies huge destructive force, again planting doubts in the newly matured viewpoints of Chinese art history. Therefore, during the past three decades, general history writing paused while case studies prospered. The architecture of the discipline was completely dismantled and each brick re-examined, hence the exclamation in Du Fu’s verse “Where can I get a big broad shelter a thousand, ten thousand spans wide”. However, it proved impossible to find a universally-approved construction blueprint. Under such circumstances, even the seemingly general history works widely used as textbooks in the West appeared in shatters.


“Art History Under Reconstruction” is the title of one of the articles in professor Wu Hung’s book Meishushi shiyi (Ten Discourses on Art History). The article mainly concerns itself with art history research and teaching in university. “Under Reconstruction” in fact means that we are yet to find a replacing mode after self-deconstruction in the pre-existing period frames, style concept, narrative threads, et.  However, it also means that we will not give up the attempt in searching. During the last seminar, we discussed the concepts of monument and ruins, behind which lie the two practices in reconstructing art history. Additionally, “Art History Under Reconstruction” makes an anticipation on the discipline: art history teaching and research will take on various outlooks in various regions and universities in the future.


This seminar invites four scholars from different regions and academic backgrounds. Professor Li Song( School of  Arts, Peking University ) is an authority in domestic Daoist art research. He had already made prompt reflections on the research scope of art history as early as more than a decade ago. Professor Ma Yazhen, (Institute of History, National Tsing Hua University), studied at Stanford University, and in recent years is devoted to exploring interdisciplinary fields through war images. Professor Huang Xiaofeng(  Department of Art History, Central Academy of Fine Arts) is known in domestic academic circle for inheriting academic traditions of classical calligraphy and painting research. Professor Deng Fei (National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Fudan University) graduated from Department of Oriental Studies, Oxford University and embodies the exchange between European sinology and art history. Among these scholars there are art historians devoted to history and archaeology, as well as historians devoted to image research. Together they participate in the reconstruction of the discipline of Chinese art history.


Seminar Schedule 


Li Song, Professor, School of Arts, Peking University

Living, Historical and Psychological Space: Thoughts on A Group of Qianlong Portraits

Ma Ya-Chen, Associate Professor, Institute of History, National Tsing Hua University

Re-thinking Documentary Paintings at Qing Court from Images of Official Accomplishment


Huang Xiaofeng, Associate Professor, School of Humanities, Central Academy Of Fine Arts

Rescuing Zheng Sixiao: Ink Orchid Painting and Private Life of A Southern Song Remnant

Deng Fei, Associate Professor, National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Fudan University

Pattern and Innovation: On the Construction and Techniques of Song-Jin Decorated Tombs



Roundtable Discussion

Present Scholars: Wu Hung, Li Song, Ma Yazhen, Huang Xiaofeng, Deng Fei, Guo Weiqi

Topic Introduction [Wu Hung Seminar 2: Art History Under Reconstruction]