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Distributed for Reaktion Books

A Story of Ruins

Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture

1st Edition

Distributed for Reaktion Books

A Story of Ruins

Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture

1st Edition

This richly illustrated book examines the changing significance of ruins as vehicles for cultural memory in Chinese art and visual culture from ancient times to the present. The story of ruins in China is different from but connected to “ruin culture” in the West. This book explores indigenous Chinese concepts of ruins and their visual manifestations, as well as the complex historical interactions between China and the West since the eighteenth century.

Wu Hung leads us through an array of traditional and contemporary visual materials, including painting, architecture, photography, prints, and cinema. A Story of Ruins shows how ruins are integral to traditional Chinese culture in both architecture and pictorial forms. It traces the changes in their representation over time, from indigenous methods of recording damage and decay in ancient China, to realistic images of architectural ruins in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the strong interest in urban ruins in contemporary China, as shown in the many artworks that depict demolished houses and decaying industrial sites. The result is an original interpretation of the development of Chinese art, as well as a unique contribution to global art history.

296 pages | 131 color plates, 59 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2013

Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

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“A provocative and breathless race through very different aspects of Chinese art and culture over more than 2,000 years.”

Times Literary Supplement

A Story of Ruins brims with provocative ideas and surprising insights.”

Journal of Chinese Studies

“With admirable clarity and precision, this ambitious book examines a rich topic—the multiple varieties of significance that have been invested in ruins as vehicles of cultural memory in China, from classical times until the present. A Story of Ruins is an original and welcome contribution not only to the study of art in China but art generally.”

Martin Powers, University of Michigan

“Emphasizing the interconnection of East and West, this is a landmark book in the study of global art. Unprecedentedly ambitious, it covers all at once chinoiserie in the West and the arts of imperial, republican, and communist China. The arguments, supported with rich evidence, are original, sophisticated, and free of jargon but full of theoretical insights. With its unusual breadth and depth, A Story of Ruins should appeal to a very wide audience.”

Lillian Lan-ying Tseng, New York University

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