New Thoughts on Botanic Painting in Late Imperial China: 晚清博物畫與西學

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To problematize the communication and translation of historical ideology and modern order, this paper examines the delicate situation of modern Chinese artists testing the balance between Western and Confucian learning through new translation terms since the late Qing. In seeking to tighten the focus and stimulate thinking about the role of translation within a specific linguistic realm and in particular in the field of art history and visual culture, this paper investigates the unusual drawings of atypical ocean species and typical botany by both Chinese literati artists and Chinese export painting workshops commissioned by Western plant hunters through the East India Company since late 18th century. While much attention has been paid to the drawings collected in Britain from the perspective of scientific art and Western collectors, these under-studied drawings require further research on the “knowing and making” of their Chinese counterparts. Through “historicizing” of new translations linguistically and visually from China, Japan, India and the West, this study examines how the drill of accumulating knowledge in bowu (broad learning about things) of Evidential Learning was adapted and transformed into the new science of natural history, as a series of linked cultural practices and a translation process in modern China. In turn, such a process has invited synergy between traditional Chinese evidential learning, the literary cosmos and the scientific investigation of nature in modern Chinese painting.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2022


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