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No. 5, April 2000
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Oxford History of Art - Art in China
Get Art in China from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. - Book your hotel in China online.
updated on July 29, 2002
 
In the valuable series Oxford History of Art you can find the 1997 publication Art in China by Craig Clunas. The 255 pages of his volume give an introduction to art in the tomb from the neolithic age to the year 650 CE, art at court from the Tang dynasty to the late Qing Court, art in the temple from the early Buddhist Art to the religious art of the Qing as well as an essay on art in the life of the elite. This article focuses e.g. on calligraphy as an elite art. The final chapter of the book is dedicated to art in the market-place from the Song dynasty to present-day China.
 
Craig Clunas deliberately called his introductory study Art in China and not Chinese Art because Chinese art unifies very different types of objects made at very different times which make it a very changing and unstable subject. Even dynasties such as Tang or Ming do not form an entity. Excavations reveal a much more disparate, heterogeneous and less ethnically pure ancient China than many art lovers are used to think of.

The "Terracotta Army" of the First Emperor of Qin, d.210 BCE. Photograph: Art in China.

Porcelain bowl, made for the Ming imperial court
in the Xuande reign, 1426-35 CE.
Photograph: Art in China.
 
 

 
 

It is of course impossible to cover all aspects of art in China during more than 5,000 years in such a small book, but some weak points must be addressed. The reader does not learn much about the Xia dynasty (2205-1818 BC), besides its name. There is no article on erotic art. There is no picture of e.g. a Tang horse, one of the best-known forms of art in China. Still, Craig Clunas has written a basic introduction embracing a huge diversity of forms of art, including jade, lacquer, porcelain, painted scrolls and fans, sculptures in stone, bronze and wood, calligraphy and murals, based on recent studies. Art in China also includes a short bibliographic essay, a timeline and numerous illustrations.
 

Get Art in China from
Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
 

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No. 5, April 2000
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Copyright 2000: www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber. All rights reserved.