From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography

PastimesPastimes: From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography, by Shana J. Brown, is the first book in English on Chinese jinshi, or antiquarianism, the pinnacle of traditional connoisseurship of ancient artifacts and inscriptions. As a scholarly field, jinshi was inaugurated in the Northern Song (960–1127) and remained popular until the early twentieth century. Literally the study of inscriptions on bronze vessels and stone steles, jinshi combined calligraphy and painting, the collection of artifacts, and philological and historical research. For aficionados of Chinese art, the practices of jinshi offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of traditional Chinese scholars and artists, who spent their days roaming the sometimes seamy world of the commercial art market before attending elegant antiquarian parties, where they composed poetic tributes to their ancient objects of obsession. And during times of political upheaval, such as the nineteenth century, the art and artifact studies of jinshi legitimatized reform and contributed to a dynamic and progressive field of learning.

The history of jinshi offers insights that are relevant to Chinese cultural and intellectual history, art history, and politics. Scholars of the modern period will find the resiliency and continuing influence of jinshi to be an important counterpoint to received views on the trajectory of Chinese cultural and intellectual change.

“Shana Brown’s new study represents the first serious examination in any Western language of the phenomenon of what we have (somewhat disparagingly) called antiquarianism in modern Chinese culture. To her great credit, she not only accords her many subjects the respect they deserve, but she puts meat on the bones of what many have dismissed as hopelessly outdated, conservative culturalism. Many of the finest minds in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century China fall under the rubric of antiquarianism, and we have ignored their work at our peril.” —Joshua Fogel, York University

August 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3498-2 / $48.00 (CLOTH)