Nanjing Conference Abstracts

WANG EUGENE, Dome and Domestication: How to Align the Italian Renaissance with Chinese Art?

A dome painting produced in the late 1980s in China was allegedly inspired by the Sistine Chapel. The story it engenders is not, however, one of mere influence. Rather, it galvanizes deeper reflections and opens up wider horizons. For one thing, it raises the question about why this particular ceiling painting is so striking and exceptional in the Chinese context. Ceiling paintings, after all, have a long tradition in China. I will therefore use this occasion to spell out two contexts, one more general and broadly conceived, and the other more grounded and historically specific. One is the big picture: a broad overview includes a few historical moments in global contexts, and parallel developments in the East and West will be noted. The concept of the “heavenly eye” in China and Central Asia runs parallel with the pantocrator in the Mediterranean region and beyond. Questions raised include: why did the “heavenly eye” idea, akin to “pantocrakor”, only gain discursive currency in China, but not in architectural design? Another moment to be noted is the early sixteenth century. The Chigi Chapel that bears Raphael’s ceiling painting (dome 1513; painting 1523-1525) had its twin design in China exemplified by two pavilions built in 1536. Their striking structural similarity also belies the profound difference in their underlying cultural conceptions and preoccupations, chief among them, the entirely different notions of “heaven.” Finally, I will address a more specific context: why and how did the Renaissance-inspired ceiling painting speak to the 1980s China?

八十年代末,五位天津艺术家为天津火车站绘制了一铺题为精卫填海的穹顶画。画面的视觉效果强烈,震撼人心。据称,此画的缘由是因为天津市领导参观意大利, 被西斯廷教堂穹顶画感动,回来后要求天津画家创作类似样式的穹顶画,只是以传统中国素材为题材。这里引出的佳话不能简单归结为一个西方艺术影响中国当代艺术创作的例证,而是涉及更多更大的历史文化背景及异同。穹顶画在中西方都有源流长的传统,借此可以略作回顾。值得可比较的是中土及中亚流行的“天眼”观念。有趣的是中土有“天眼”的主导意念而较少有相应绘画形式(少数类似样式仅仅遗存于西域)。由此引出令人深省的问题:为何“天眼”观念在中土没有成为佛教石窟穹顶绘画设计的主导思想? 相比之下,类似于“天眼”的观念却在在地中海地区颇为流行,被称之为 “pantocrator”, 统治西方教堂穹顶设计数百年之久。中西在穹顶设计上的另一次遭遇是十六世纪。拉斐尔的教堂穹顶设计竟然在中国也有类似构造,相隔仅有数十年之差。但中西设计貌合神离,文化背景与关注焦点差异使然,主要是中西文化对“天”有根本不同理解。最后,再返回并聚焦中国八十年代:为何受意大利文艺复兴穹顶画启发的精卫填海的画面如此令人荡气回肠?它又是如何凝聚了八十年代的时代风云?

GE ZHAOGUANG, From Europe and Japan on to China: Influences of the Renaissance on East Asian Thought and Scholarship

At the turn of the Twentieth-Century, two distinctive ideas of the Renaissance prevailed among the intellectuals in China and Japan: one perceived it as a “Classical Revival”, focusing on the rediscovery of ancient art, literature and philosophy, the other emphasized “rebirth”, seeing the Renaissance as a period of enlightenment, marking the end of the dark Middle Ages and the beginning of modernization. These perceptions of the Renaissance were instrumental in the making of Modern Japan and China in various ways. The first view was particularly influential in East Asia, serving as a universal model for modern historiography.  In the second half of the Meiji Restoration, the idea of the Renaissance as the “Revival of Ancient Teachings” was popular in Japan, playing a key role in the restoration of imperial rule, promoting the modernization of the country and establishing a national identity. Chinese intellectuals of the late Qing and early Republic period also placed a particular emphasis on “Revival” in their understanding of the Renaissance.  The famous reformist Liang Qichao, for example, likened the scholarship of the Song Dynasty to the medieval period, and considered the scholarship of the Qing Dynasty, which criticized the former, the prelude to a “Chinese Renaissance”. Hu Shi, however, focused more on the “rebirth” aspect of the Renaissance, finding inspiration for the Chinese Vernacular Movement from Renaissance Europe.   Through detailed examination of the ideas of these East Asian scholars, this presentation aims to explain: How was the Renaissance understood in East Asia? How did different perceptions of the Renaissance influence East Asian thought, culture and scholarship?


ZHANG JIAN, Beyond Identity and Revival of Expression: Some Remarks on Renaissance Art Historiography

The writings of Western classical art historians Wolfflin, Panofsky and Gombrich have functioned as shaping forces in the reception of Renaissance art in China since the 1980s. Wolfflin’s art historiography was basically founded on the concept of the mode of vision or formal sense which initially was connected with anthropomorphism-personification or empathy, and then with the assumed inner machinery of pure vision inherent in artworks supporting the art history, independent of social and cultural contexts. In contrast, Panofsky and Gombrich’s intellectual explorations of Renaissance art brought about a cultural history of art with more broad and complex perspectives, as well as the idea of art history as a humanistic discipline. These are two fundamental types of assumptions for Renaissance art. One focuses on pure formal concerns, always applied to justify certain cultural or national identity in arts; the other addresses universal views of cultural history or situations leading to the cultural history of art,  in which art always is overshadowed by varied cultural investigations and insights. What I want to demonstrate is that although Wolfflin’s formalism is usually criticized for its cyclical theory and imagination of a unified continuity of style, his concept of the mode of pure vision or expression --with its pairs of opposed precepts in “the Principles of Art History ” as well as Italian and the German Sense of Form which originally came from Conrad Fiedler and Hilderbrandt-- means to reach a visual understanding of artistic expressions, not be to justify artistic or cultural identities of varied epochs and nations. Of course, Wolfflin did not make his formalism a starting point to further explore a new type of cultural history of art, which was developed by the art historians from New Vienna School such as Otto Pacht. In the latter’s light, the world of Renaissance art might not appear to be so formally or intellectually unified, as well as chronologically and spatially ordered, which is a little different from the pictures Wolfflin, Panofsky and Gombrich offered us.


ZHANG PING, Some Ideas in Ku Teng’s historical Studies of Chinese Painting

During the early 20th century, Ku Teng, the first Chinese art historian in the modern sense of the term, was granted a doctoral degree in Germany. He had acquired a traditional education, and subsequently picked up European art historical methodologies during his study abroad. Combining both, he tried to construct a new model for Chinese art historiography. While he devoted himself to his research, his home country was confronted with constant social turmoil and much more frequent and direct international communication. The whole country was waiting for a change. Out of good faith, the society’s elite took the development of European culture and art as a point of reference through which Chinese cultural and artistic traditions could be re-evaluated, and their future direction decided. Against such a background and out of personal interest, Ku Teng’s study of Chinese painting exhibited a certain inevitability and contingency. This paper looks into a few ideas conveyed in his studies, which stemmed from European history and art history. On one hand, the investigation will demonstrate the influence of such ideas on Chinese art historical studies; on the other, the distinctiveness of Chinese art and its history was revealed.


SHEN YUBING, Three Models of China's Reception of the Western Renaissance

In China's reception of the Western Renaissance, there were three basic models. The first one is that of Zhu Guangqian's translation of Hegel's Lectures of Aesthetics, which dealt with the Zeitgeist and social basis of Italy and Holland, but not the artists and works. The second is that of Fu Lei's translation of Taine's Philosophy of Art, which focused on the ethnical, national, and social background of the Renaissance in Italy and the Netherlands, but not the personal artists and concrete work. The third is that of Fan Jingzhong's translation of Gombrich's The Story of Art, which emphasized the schematic evolution of representational styles, but not, more or less, the relationships between artistic style and social background. Each model has its advantages as well as shortcomings. There could be a new, fourth model in the future, and the author hopes it will be a more concrete and focused one, which could lead to  more accurate and revealing understanding of the western Renaissance in Chinese culture.


LIU CHEN, Fu Lei, Liang Sicheng, and the Afterlife of Leonardo in Twentieth-Century China

In the decades following the Chinese Revolution of 1911, many students went abroad and were exposed to Western thought for the first time. Profoundly inspired by the achievements of the Renaissance, they began to reflect upon China’s own possible “renaissance”. Their endeavours to transmit Renaissance concepts largely influenced the intellectual and artistic life of China. This paper discusses two important texts on Leonardo da Vinci from this period: the first was one of twenty lectures on European art by Fu Lei; the second was published in 1952 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Leonardo’s birth by architect Liang Sicheng. While Fu is more sympathetic to the idea of Leonardo being an artist above anything else, Liang chooses instead to present Leonardo as an engineer, profusely emphasizing Leonardo’s “empirical methods”, the “correctness and advancement” of Leonardo’s architectural thinking. Most strikingly, he remarks that Leonardo’s schemes “could only be realized in a planned economy of today’s most advanced socialist countries.” The subtle difference in his empirical approach and Fu’s humanistic approach demonstrates the changing cultural and political temperament during the decades bracing the establishment of the PRC. Liang’s perspective is unavoidably conditioned by the social-political air of the 1950s, when people had genuine faith in a promising future founded on Marxism and Socialist ideals. Still, his paints a fuller and more complex picture of Leonardo the architect and engineer for Chinese audience. Not long after Liang wrote the Leonardo article, political conditions intensified, he was accused of “thinking that Communist Party did not understand architecture.”  Sadly, today his Leonardo article has almost been entirely forgotten. By comparison, Fu’s 20 lectures had a far-reaching influence among Chinese artists and scholars. But he did not survive the Cultural Revolution, either. Both Liang and Fu were rehabilitated posthumously. Each in their own way devoted their entire lives to the enrichment of the “house of humanity”; at the same time, they introduced their fellow citizens to the great legacy of the Italian Renaissance.

过去一个世纪里,中国学者对意大利文艺复兴的识见,鲜为西方学界所知。但这段故事在不断拓展的文艺复兴历史书写中理应占有一席之地。1911年辛亥革命之后,大量年轻学子负笈远游,初次接触西方文化和思想。他们深受文艺复兴的启示,也开始思考中国自己的“复兴”之路。很多年轻学者致力于传播文艺复兴的理念,给当时中国的思想和艺术生活带来了很大影响。本文着重谈这一时期出现的两种关于列奥纳多·达·芬奇的文本:其一收录在翻译家傅雷《西方美术名作二十讲》中,其二是建筑家梁思成发表于1952年的一篇纪念列奥纳多诞辰四百周年的文章。傅雷视列奥纳多为“超越一切”的大艺术家,而梁思成则选择呈现一位工程师的形象,并反复强调列奥纳多的“实证方法”及其建筑思想的“正确性和进步性”。尤其特别的是,梁认为列奥纳多的设计方案“只有在今天最进步的社会主义国家的计划经济体制里才能实现”。梁思成的实证论观点与傅雷的人文主义视角之间的微妙区别很能说明中华人民共和国成立前后潜移默化的文化和政治氛围。五十年代,人民对建立在马克思主义和社会主义理想基础上的光明未来怀有真诚的信念,梁的视角不可避免的受到当时社会政治空气的限制。尽管如此,他为中国读者描绘了一幅更丰满而复杂的建筑师、工程师列奥纳多的肖像。此文发表之后不久,政治局势日益紧张,梁受到剧烈批评,被指责“认为共产党不懂建筑”。遗憾的是,这篇文章今天几乎已被遗忘。 相比之下,傅雷的《西方美术名作二十讲》在中国学者和艺术家中产生了深远影响。但他也没能逃过时代之劫。梁思成与傅雷以各自的方式为“人文之宇”的丰盈奉献了一生,为中国同胞打开一扇窗户,为他们呈现出意大利文艺复兴的伟大遗产。


GAO XIN, Review of Chinese Literature about the Italian Renaissance, 1840-2000

The Italian Renaissance, as an “Other” opposed to Chinese thought, has played an important role in helping Chinese intellectuals and scholars to reshape their subjective imagination about nations, states, art, beliefs, values, and individuality. At the inception of Modernization, it provoked several waves of debate among Chinese artists, theorists, historians, intellectuals and scholars, respectively during early 1930s, 1978-1980, and 2007-2008. Broadly speaking, Chinese scholarship on the Italian Renaissance has developed in several directions. In terms of research objectives, it ranges from instrumentalist and pragmatic appropriations of Western learning, to more comprehensive, sophisticated social historical research and cultural studies. In terms of a judgmental stance, this ranges from an idolization of the Italian Renaissance to a more objective critique of the different contexts between Chinese and Western art, literature, and culture, and of the disadvantages of “individuality”, “instrumental rationality,” etc. In terms of subject matter, Chinese scholars shift their focus from some master artists, thinkers, and famous families, to more diverse topics, including weddings, funerals, sexuality, cities, everyday life and so on.


HU WEI, Flower, Leaf, Root, Source: What the Italian Renaissance Language Theories Meant for Modern China

My essay examines a significant historical moment that deeply impacted the formation of European national languages and literatures and would fuel China’s modern vernacular movement in the early 20th century. It concerns the Italian Renaissance, which the Chinese movement deeply identified with. My essay focuses on the organicist linguistic views that encouraged a “cultivation” of the young and “tender” vernaculars, “grafting” foreign elements, “revivifying” the soil with their “germinal” powers. The chief examples are Dante (c.1305; translation by Trissino 1529), Pietro Bembo (1525), Sperone Speroni (1542) and his French plagiarist Du Bellay (1549). Key themes are mutability (caducità), belatedness (indugio), renewal (reparatio), the dialectics of pruning and mingling, Tuscan regionalism, national rivalry (précellence), and the particularly fraught relationship with classical antiquity. Many of the historical context-specific themes would end up lost or ignored in the modern Chinese reception. Nonetheless, China’s most visionary thinkers, Lu Xun and Hu Shih especially, did grasp the core message — linguistic unification and stabilization and organic growth — and see it as central to their national vernacular project, though they underrated the extent of Renaissance Latinity and classicism. For comparison, I want to further historicize by discussing the relevant views of the 19th-century literary historians Saint-Beuve and De Sanctis, who were influential and immediate predecessors to the Chinese champions. My essay ends with a consideration of a dialectical movement of thought that emerged out of the 19th century’s full-blown nationalism: “Renaissance orientale” (Quinet), Europe’s paradoxical reinvention of an Asian antiquity, a re-modeling the East/West temporalities, as it were, a quaint re-searching for cultural roots and sources and affinities. All such made for a greater, and ongoing, cultural rapprochement of Europe and China through the ages.

中国新文化运动对白话文的提倡,众所周知,有意识借鉴了意大利文艺复兴时期对建立现代民族语言规范的理论讨论以及成功尝试。本文拟就“五四”一代学人的语言 观展开一个更宽广的内容,呈现文艺复兴时期语言议题的广度与深度,传达历史情境里的各方话语与视角,并进一步讨论口语、俗语、民族语言的本质问题。我集中 考察方式一种“有机化”的看待语言的方式,以花叶树木的比喻描述语言的凋零(caducità)与更新(reparatio),用修剪芜枝与接入新枝解说 语言生命力之所在、外向包容性与内在精度的辩证关系,以迟发之花后来居上的说辞比喻欧洲民族语言的“来迟”(indugio)与相互争位 (précellence)。我主要解读的是但丁(约1305年,被译为意大利文出版于1529年)、本博(1525年出版)、斯博容尼(1542年)、 杜贝雷(1549年)等人的有关作品,都是文艺复兴时代核心的带有宣言性质的语言论述,在研究近代中国的白话文运动的指导思想时是值得比照详谈的。中世纪 末期三诗人的历史评价问题,分裂的意大利地区中心主义问题,俗语与古典传统的共生问题,都有其比起一般的概要理解更为复杂的维度。为了进一步历史化我的叙 述,我还讨论了19世纪的大学者圣伯夫(Saint-Beuve)与德桑柯提斯(De Sanctis)的生动的文学史观和他们对欧洲文艺复兴的认识,而他们可能是对鲁迅、胡适等有直接启发的前一代学人。19世纪欧洲民族主义达到高峰,包孕 了20世纪未来历史动向,为20世纪中国民族语言与文学的新的自我定义定下了基调。有意思的是,19世纪也有一种反向运动,即印欧语系同源论与比较宗教与 比较民俗研究,在东方世界追寻“根源”,新制造出另一种古典,东西方的迥异时间形态与文化形式得以对观而调整。有些趋势是矫枉过正的,但双向流动促使了东 西方的更多接触,也为中国在20世纪里兴起一场新文化运动准备了思想资源。

HUI ZOU, Embodiment of the Renaissance Memory Theater in Chinese Architecture

Ancient Roman Vitruvius’ Ten Books on Architecture was rediscovered, translated, illustrated and passionately interpreted by Renaissance architects and humanists to establish architectural principles based on Neo-Platonism. Referring to Vitruvius and implying the Greek myth of Daedalus, Renaissance authors, such as Luca Pacioli, Sebastiano Serlio, Giulio Camillo and the Jesuits theorized the significant interaction among divinity, geometry, theater, labyrinth, and memory in architecture. Serlio’s theory of satiric stage and Camillo’s project of the memory theater were metaphorically applied by the Jesuits in their illusory perspectival stage designs for the Qing emperor Qianlong during the 18th century. Jesuit architectural praxis in China thus became the earliest historical case of the embodiment of the Renaissance memory theater in Chinese architecture. Such a humanist tradition fulfilled through ecstatic cultural encounters is sustained as a poetical resistance to the Chinese contemporary architecture and urbanism that is based on a technical worldview. In this respect, the depth of historical meanings embodied by Steven Holl’s theatrical architecture, Tang Hua’s mystic architecture, and I. M. Pei’s geometrical architecture in China can be revealed and understood from a cross-cultural perspective during an age when memory and cultural differences are being flattened.


DU JIAFENG, Images of Savonarola in Chinese Academia

There are two ambivalent images about Savonarola in Chinese scholarly texts: 1) Savonarola was supported by the people, but he rejected humanism, thus restoring medieval tradition and being contrary to the historical trend; and 2) Savonarola tried to establish a theocratic government through his opposition to the corruption of the Roman Curia and the tyranny of the Medici. Both of these images contain contradictions and misunderstandings. This paper explains how these images were created, on the one hand, through the analysis of historical events about Savonarola which the Chinese know well, and on the other, by foreign scholars who influenced Chinese scholars. Finally, the paper aims to use the figure of Savonarola to reflect on the differences between Chinese and Western ideas of the historical figure in Italian Renaissance history.


HUANG YUE, Pius II in China: Patron, Educator, and Historian

The idea that Pope Pius II is a humanist Pope comes from his act as a patron, an educator and a historian. First, Pius II as a patron came to be known by the Chinese because of the rebuilding of his home village Corsignano into a town: Pienza. Second, is the making of Pius II’s image as an educator. Piccolomini was a tutor of Ladislas, king of Bohemia and Hungary, and he wrote letters to tell Ladislas how a young adult should be educated in order to become a future king. Third is Pius II as a historian. Pius II is the only Pope to write an autobiography. As a work of history, his Commentaries offer a rare eyewitness account of some of the most storied events of the fifteenth century. However, from 1458-1464, Pope Pius II devoted most of his time to the Crusades. The Pope did his best but made no progress. Pope Pius II as an organizer of the Crusades is a missing part in Chinese works. In addition, ‘Crusade’ is a concept related to the Middle Ages, somewhat conflicting with the Renaissance and Humanism, but in Chinese works, Piccolomini is often seen as a “Humanist Pope”. What’s more, after ascending the throne, Pope Pius II asked people to “Reject Aneas, accept Pius”. This paper explores the making of three images of Pope Pius II in China and how these images differ from his real life.


LI JUN, “The Angel ascending from the East ”: A New Perspective on the Pictures and Pictorial Programs in the Upper Church of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi

After deciphering some secrets hidden within the pictorial programs of the Upper Church of the  Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, especially the east wall frescoes, this paper turns to the East, and considers the work within the context of the so-called Pax Mongolica across the Eurasian Continent in the 14th Century. With the help of a new transcultural perspective, both material and spiritual, it aims to connect different visual phenomena that emerged in China, Central Asia and Europe, and finally, to tell another story about the Renaissance.


DING FANG, Cultural Geography and Spiritual Art

Geographically, China is a vast territory rich in natural resources, but hasn’t produced much quality art works to match this greatness, except the bronze ware in the early ages.  If we took a tour to see all the art forms by the human civilizations around the world, we would understand that the level of the materials used in the Chinese art had been gradually declining. This is because of the fact that we ourselves have given up on the “Ancient Culture of Hardship” This results from the characteristics of basic survival in the cultural geography of China. In the field of visual art, the representative is the bronze ware while in the field of audio art; the first appearance is the “work songs” from the bottom of people’s heart. We can still hear the origins of these songs along the Yangtze River and Yellow River in China. Millions of years ago, the collision and extrusion between the Indian Plate and the Asian continent set the living conditions for the Chinese. The struggle to survive caused by the harsh natural environment and ferocious disasters from the harsh highlands, the sparse vegetation, to the rolling mountains and the extreme climate has brought up the most important characteristic in the Chinese art - the deep feeling of pain. Being a hiker who tracks down culture still alive in China, I have worked hard to experience and reflect both the natural and cultural geography of China, turning the pain expressed in the “work songs” into a painted language and creating the art form of original Chinese topography. The true “spiritual art” will be born in China in the 21st century, and it will reach a new peak by absorbing the best of what China’s powerful geographical resources have to offer. At the same time, this “spiritual art” will go beyond the national geographical boundaries and look back the traditional values in the transcendentalist spirituality from the West to the East, planting the lost tree of the spirit back into the motherland.