Chinese Painting History (History of the Pictorial Traditions of China)
Field and Archival Research Paper AHI 163B
Chinese Painting History (History of the Pictorial Traditions of China)
Spring 2019 Professor Katharine Burnett
This assignment teaches you how art historians conduct basic fieldwork in museums and archival research in libraries.
As a young scholar interested in China’s pictorial traditions, you have been invited to submit a short article to the Art Bulletin1 for publication consideration in a volume of essays produced by college students about a pictorial work of Chinese art (that is, one that is a painting, or has a significant pictorial aspect, such as an incised stone tablet with a scene containing figures or landscapes). You will select a topic, develop a motivating question about it, conduct research to find the answers for your question, and then write up your findings in a well organized and thoughtfully argued paper. Topic choices
Study an image that was not discussed in class. Discuss it in terms of one of the thematic categories discussed in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market-place. Compare it to an object studied in class that you believe is its closest type AND ALSO contrast it against an object discussed in class that you consider to be its opposite.Study an object on display in the Chinese painting galleries at the Asian Art Museum. Discuss it in terms of one of the thematic categories discussed in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market- place. Compare it to an object studied in class that you believe is its closest type AND ALSO contrast it against an object discussed in class that you consider to be its opposite.
1 The Art Bulletin is a journal of scholarly art history articles published by the College Art Association (CAA), the premier national organization for artists and art historians in the US.
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 2
Study a painting that interests you that is reproduced in a peer reviewed book or article (such as those listed at the end of the Syllabus). Discuss it in terms of one of the thematic categories discussed in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market-place. Compare it to an object studied in class that you believe is its closest type AND ALSO contrast it against an object discussed in class that you consider to be its oppositeStudy a theme, such as plum blossoms or drought stories, etc., to see how the topic has been handled in different times by different artists. A question you might ask of these images is: Does the meaning of the artwork change over time? Does it always fit into one (and only one) of the categories studied in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market-place?Study a myth or folk tale to see how the topic was handled in different times by different artists. A question you might ask of these images is: Does the meaning of the artwork change over time? Does it always fit into one (and only one) of the categories studied in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market-place?Select a passage(s) of Chinese art theory or criticism, and discuss how the statement can help us better understand a selected painting or group of paintings. What category or categories does the theory apply to of the categories studied in class: art in the tomb, art at court, art in the temple, art in the life of the elite, and art in the market-place?Other: with permission of the instructor in advance of writing process. Topics that are generally not acceptable as the focus for this assignment:
Objects discussed in class lectures (though these may be used for comparisons). Objects from any culture other than China (though these may be used for
comparisons). Essays must use scholarly and persuasive language and conform to the formatting instructions provided below.
Prepare to research: Move from a general topic to a focused one
Once you have selected an object and have a general topic in mind, use the formulae provided to test your topic’s validity. First, fill in the blanks to develop your motivating question, and then test your motivating question with the test question. Not only will your motivating question help you develop a focused topic, but also it will help you develop your hypothesis, set up questions that will set limits on your research work, and provide a significance (i.e., The “Big So What?” that every writer must address to satisfy readers).
Motivating question: I am studying XTOPIC because I want to learn about YQUESTION in order to help my reader better understand ZSIGNIFICANCE.Test of the motivating question: If my readers want to achieve the goal of ZSIGNIFICANCE, would they think that they could do it if they found out about YQUESTION?
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 3
Try using these formulae on your own first, but then work in small writing groups to help each other. These formulae will help you narrow your topic from a general interest to a workable topic, and then help you figure out the questions that can help focus your research, and practically guarantee you success!2 Good example:
I am studying TOPIC the Buddhist murals in Dunhuang Cave 285 QUESTION because I want to learn about Buddhist belief systems and what they were imagined to look like on the Silk Route, in order to help my reader better understand the Buddhist belief system practiced by the monks and pilgrims of the 6 Dynasties period SIGNIFICANCE .
If my readers want to achieve the goal of understanding that the Buddhist belief system practiced by the monks and pilgrims on the Silk Route during the 6 Dynasties period SIGNIFICANCE, would they think that they could do it if they found out about Buddhist belief systems in the 6 Dynasties period on the Silk Route and what they were imagined to look like then, especially as manifested in the murals in Dunhuang Cave 285 QUESTION?
I am studying TOPIC ancient paintings QUESTION because I want to learn about religious icons in order to help my reader better understand the Buddhist faith SIGNIFICANCE .
If my readers want to achieve the goal of understanding the Buddhist faith SIGNIFICANCE, would they think that they could do it if they found out about religious icons in ancient paintings QUESTION?
Why is the first example a good example? (It’s focused and precise.) Why is the second example inadequate? (It’s too unfocused and imprecise.)
Prepare to write:
Hypothesis (i.e., your main claim, thesis statement)
Make sure your paper has a clear and strong hypothesis. Typically, hypotheses in the humanities are conceptual in nature, and are statements that do one of the following:
Make a claim. (E.g., Originality was a paradigmatic value in seventeenth-century Chinese art, theory and criticism.)
Ask a question. (E.g., Why has popular and scholarly opinion been set against understanding the importance of originality in China prior to the twentieth-century?)
Tell the reader that your paper provides new information. (This paper explains that new data indicates xxxx, something not known before.)
2 For more information about the process of moving from topics to questions, see Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 3rd Edn., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, chapters 3 and 4. This book is on shelf reserve in Shields Library and in the VRF (Everson 163/165).
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 4
Disrupt or disagree with the standard understanding of an issue. (This paper argues that while we used to think that xxx was the case, the situation is actually yyyy.)
Hypotheses are usually located toward the end of a paper’s introduction. Your paper will likely be organized around the reasons that support your hypothesis (main claim).3
THE STEPS INVOLVED IN WRITING YOUR RESEARCH PAPER:
Part 1: formal (visual) analysis and archival fieldwork
First, choose your preferred option.
A. If going to the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco: Select one object from the Chinese galleries that was made at any time. All Chinese paintings in the Asian Art Museum’s galleries are acceptable. Chinese objects that are pictorial (e.g., a ceramic vase with a painted image on it, or an incised stone slab with pictorial imagery), may be acceptable but require the instructor’s permission. The object cannot be a loan object or in a special exhibition; it must belong to the Asian Art Museum. All alternative topics must have the approval of the instructor before you begin your project. Projects developed without the instructor’s permission will not be read. For information about the Asian Art Museum, please see http://www.asianart.org/ . B. If preferring to work from book or online reproductions: Work through Shields Library or websites of museums with strong collections of Chinese painting/art. Find relevant books and articles. Select a Chinese painting, or set of paintings. Chinese objects that are pictorial, as per class discussions. All alternative topics must have the approval of the instructor before you begin your project. Projects developed without the instructor’s permission will not be read.Photograph the object as well as you can. If in the Museum, be sure to get a frontal view
of the whole object and details of interesting elements. Please note: The Museum will permit photography, but only of objects it owns, and only without
flash. Whether or not you end up writing about a Museum object, plan to go to the
AAM once at the beginning of the course to scope out your object. If writing about an AAM object, best to go at least once again after you have done
most of your textual research to confirm that you understand what you have been looking at.
3 Your paper will likely make several claims, but the major one that holds your whole paper
together is your hypothesis.
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 5
NB: In museums or Special Collections (Rare Book Rooms) in a library: use pencil only (pen can deface objects). Take detailed notes about the object at the Museum: size, medium, format, most important viewpoint, effect on the viewer, etc. About that pencil… Museums and archives (such as rare book rooms) permit pencil use only, no pen– and not even a mechanical pencil. Even in museums where objects are protected by glass cases, patrons are still restricted to pencil use. Museums and archives do their best to protect their objects for the benefit of future generations of patrons.
Thoroughly describe the object, taking careful notes. For instruction on this, see Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art.Object identification: Carefully take notes about the object from its museum label or book caption. (Sometimes full identifying information for objects is located in a special section at the back of books.) Provide a complete identification for the object. This includes brief statements about: what the object is, where it is from, when it was made and the dynastic/period name and dates. (This information is
typically be provided in the caption of the image in the book. Sometimes this will be listed in a separate section of the book. For objects from the Asian Art Museum, this information typically appears on the accompanying label-copy.)
how it was made, including its medium, format, and production technique. You will need this information as you continue your research and write your paper. When you write your first draft, this information will be placed toward the front of your paper.
Write a formal analysis (sometimes also called “visual analysis”) about the object. In
your analysis, compare the object to at least one other object that we have studied (or will study) in class.4 For instruction on how to write an informative comparison, see Barnet, A Short Guide to Writing about Art.
Category of object: In your paper, explain which of the broad categories defined by Craig Clunas in Art in China, does your object fall into: art for the tomb, temple, court, élite, or market-place? (Or, does your object belong in more than 1 category?) Explain. Support your claims with evidence. Specific kinds of evidence can include: information from label copy, similar to an object(s) studied in class or readings; information from books; your observation of the object. NB: a combination of all three is the best!
4 Images studied in class will appear in the Lecture PDFs in our “Files” folder on Canvas.
Objects that will likely be discussed in class appear in the Study Images folder in our “Files”
folder on Canvas. All are acceptable for comparison images in your papers. You are not
restricted to these objects.
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 6
Explain how the category of object can dictate a) the choices made by the artist who created it, and b) how you interpret it. That is, you may have certain expectations for tomb art, etc. Explain what they are.
If your object falls into more than one category, explain how this is so. Support your claims with evidence.
Thoughtfully compare your object to others, especially those we have studied in class to support your claim(s).
To help establish the importance of your selected object:
Discuss what kinds of ideas/belief systems it manifests, and how these ideas are communicated through the object. How does your object represent period values, such as belief systems, a political situation, folk beliefs, the social class of the maker and/or the patron, issues of patronage, etc.?
Explain how the ideas/belief systems manifested in your object(s) relate to the object’s historical context.
Determine if something about your object is commonplace or anomalous to its time and place of production.
For each of the prompts just provided, you may find it helpful to compare your object to others, such as those we have studied in class.
For each point, you must provide an illustration (numbered sequentially Figure 1, Figure 2, etc., in order of appearance) for each object discussed. For examples, see how your assigned readings and reference materials handle the issue.
And of course, discuss anything else that you believe is important and relevant to your object that will help your reader better understand your claims.
In writing your paper, you may find it helpful to address the following: How close
stylistically is your object to the ones we have studied? How does it differ (including location of production) to objects we have studied?
Provide illustrations in your paper of all the objects you discuss. Scan them into your paper either after the paragraph where they are first discussed in your text, or place them at the end of your text. In all cases, please number them sequentially as Figure 1, Figure 2, etc., and add a caption with identifying information.
Part 2: textual research
Go to the assigned readings for the course, and take notes on the information that is relevant to your object.Through archival research, find relevant information. A good starting point is the “Bibliographic Essay” at the back of Clunas’s Art in China and also “Further Readings” at the back of 3000 Years of Chinese Art, as well as the endnotes of each. Read no fewer
AHI 163B Research Paper Assignment 7
Chinese Painting History (History of the Pictorial Traditions of China)