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China Pluperfect – Branding the New with the Old


References to the ‘Ancients’ is a common feature of a large portion of the artistic theory produced in China.

In its first part, this project intends to analyze how these references have functioned after literati culture became prevalent in China, with a particular focus on the Ming-Qing and the early republican periods (partly by comparing it with the way antiquity and the ‘Ancients’ were also used in the Western world from the 17th century to the first developments of modernism). This will form the basis of the research to be conducted and will establish how the relation to the past has changed in the present forms of culture in Mainland China.

In its second part, this research intends to understand how past and present are used today in the debate on artistic creativity in Mainland China. If the past can be used to encourage a certain form of conservatism in the arts (sometimes, but not always, even politically motivated in Mainland China as in the case of so-called ‘ink art’), it can also be used to celebrate renewed forms of culture presented as contemporary, as in new forms of performative calligraphy for instance (but also as in the case, for example, of the ubiquitous reproductions of the Song dynasty court painting Qingming Shanghe 情明上河 that seem to celebrate the dominance of a renewed urban culture in Mainland China).