Ornamental, Practical, or Cosmological? Scopic Regimes of Botany in Chinese Painting of the Ming Dynasty
By the sixteenth century in China, there was a vast corpus of published texts on plants, which ranged from horticultural treatises of single species to manuals of elegant living, and from pharmacopeia to encyclopedias that compiled knowledge of all aspects of the natural world. Some of these printed texts had illustrations, but they existed within a larger economy of knowledge that included one of the three major genres of painting, “bird-and-flower” painting, which can more accurately be characterized as the depiction of flora and fauna. This talk examined the ways in which handscroll paintings of flowers and plants during the latter half of the Ming dynasty reflect the ways in which the cultivation of garden plants served as a mode of producing botanical knowledge, as well as a means to understanding the cosmos. UW-Madison Art Historian Yuhang Li served as the moderator for this CEAS free public lecture.
Kathleen M. Ryor is the Tanaka Memorial Professor of International Understanding and Art History at Carleton College. Professor Ryor’s research has focused on the artist Xu Wei (1521-93), military patronage of the arts, Buddhist ink painting by secular artists and lay practitioners, as well as the relationship of painting to garden culture, food, and medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the topic of her current project.