Xia Yong And The Jiehua Traditions In Yuan China (1279-1368)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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East Asian Languages & Civilizations
Architectural Painting
Xia Yong
Yuan Dynasty
Asian Studies
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
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Yu, Leqi

This dissertation studies a unique painting genre and its traditions in fourteenth-century China. This genre, called jiehua, relies on tools such as rulers to accurately represent architectural details and structures. Such technical consideration and mechanical perfection link this painting category with the builder’s art and led to Chinese elites’ belittlement. Jiehua has held a highly significant yet barely studied position in the history of Chinese art. The limited scholarship that does exist concentrates on the Song and Qing dynasties, while the significance of the Yuan dynasty, the period of Mongolian rule, has been downplayed. However, Yuan artists left us numerous jiehua and carried the genre to extremes of technical virtuosity. This dissertation is based primarily on visual materials, particularly those of the professional painter Xia Yong (14th c.), to investigate the Mongol Yuan’s unique role in China’s jiehua history. The first chapter clarifies four historical interpretations of the evolving concept jiehua. Then, through a literary review of the famous scroll Going up the River on the Qingming Festival, this chapter analyzes existing problems in the study of jiehua, namely the complex relations between artistic realism and reality, between the painter and society, and between jiehua and landscape painting. The following chapters both focus on a case study of Xia Yong’s paintings to deal with these problems. The second chapter looks in detail at Xia’s Yellow Pavilion paintings (often mistakenly treated as Yellow Crane Tower paintings) to determine whether his two-dimensional jiehua images represent contemporary three-dimensional buildings. It aims to show that the apparent realism of Xia’s jiehua derives from a modular system related to the transmission of models, rather than the mimesis of real architecture. The third chapter compares Xia’s Prince Teng Pavilion paintings with two other works of the same theme, which were separately attributed to Wang Zhenpeng (ca. 1275-1330) and Tang Di (1287-1355). It examines the technical innovation in Yuan jiehua (particularly its plain-drawing style), as well as its relationship to the Northern Song Li-Guo landscape tradition. Meanwhile, this chapter combines detailed visual analyses with a social-historical approach and explores whether the Mongol artistic patronage helped shape the mainstream of jiehua at the Yuan court.

Nancy S. Steinhardt
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