Representing Things: Visuality and Materiality in East Asia
Things, or physical objects, have been a subject matter of representation in many conventions. “Depicting things” (yongwu or eibutsu) became an important literary genre in traditional China and Japan, and has generated strong interest in modern scholarship. In contrast, things were seldom a self-content category in pictorial art, even though they frequently appeared and played a significant role in paintings about figures, landscape, and still life. Moreover, things as implements were delineated in illustrated manuals for ritual, medical or other pragmatic purposes, but they have not yet caught due academic attention. This conference is to offer a platform for scholars in different fields—art, literature, history, and history of sciences—to explore various dimensions of things that were textually or visually represented. It asks what kinds of things were selected for representation and if they conveyed certain “Chinese-ness,” “Japanese-ness,” or “Asian-ness.” It questions how selected things were represented: Was there any device, strategy, or technique invented or employed to better capture the visual or material attributes of things, such as their volume, surface, texture, sound, or smell? How mediums—for example printing, rubbing, painting, and drawing—transmitted, translated and transformed things? The conference also inquires why things were represented and welcomes further discussion on social, economic, and political contexts in which their representation occurred. Interdisciplinary and cross-cultural, this conference will bridge the gap between text and image and shed new light on the cultural history of East Asia.