Understanding Chinese Tombs

The Art of the Yellow SpringsNo other civilization in the premodern world was more obsessed with constructing underground burial structures than China, where for at least five thousand years people devoted a great amount of wealth and labor to build tombs and furnish them with exquisite objects and images. For the most part, tombs have been mainly appreciated as “treasure troves,” the contents of which has allowed art historians to rewrite histories of individual art forms such as bronze, jade, sculpture, and painting. However, new trends in Chinese art history place the entire burial (rather than its individual components) at the center of observation and interpretation. Wu Hung’s The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs takes this to the next level by focusing on interpretive methods. It argues that to achieve a genuine understanding of Chinese tombs we need to reconsider a host of art historical concepts (including visuality, viewership, space, formal analysis, function, and context) and derive an analytical framework from the three most essential aspects of any manufactured work: spatiality, materiality, and temporality.

“Most informative and innovative. . . written in a lucid style that should appeal to both engaged and general readers. Wu Hung has again proven himself to be a ground-breaker of Chinese art history.” —David D. W. Wang, Harvard University

May 2010 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3426-5 / $50.00 (CLOTH)