Children in Chinese Art

Children in Chinese Art

Edited by Ann Barrott Wicks
Copyright Date: 2002
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Children in Chinese Art
    Book Description:

    Depictions of children have had a prominent place in Chinese art since the Song period (960-1279). Yet one would be hard pressed to find any significant discussion of children in art in the historical documents of imperial China or contemporary scholarship on Chinese art.Children in Chinese Artbrings to the forefront themes and motifs that have crossed social boundaries for centuries but have been overlooked in scholarly treatises. In this volume, experts in the fields of art, religion, literature, and history introduce and elucidate many of the issues surrounding child imagery in China, including its use for didactic reinforcement of social values as well as the amuletic function of these works.

    The introduction provides a thought-provoking overview of the history of depictions of children, exploring both stylistic development and the emergence of specific themes. In an insightful essay, China specialists combine expertise in literature and painting to propose that the focus on children in both genres during the Song is an indication of a truly humane society. Skillful use of visual and textual sources from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) period explains children's games and the meaning of depictions of boys at play. Gender issues are examined in an intriguing look at mothers and children in woodblock illustrations to Ming versions of the classical textLie ni juan.Depictions of the childhood of saints and sages from murals and commemorative tablets in ancient temples are considered. The volume concludes with two highly original essays on child protectors and destroyers in Chinese folk religion and family portraits and their scarcity in China before the nineteenth century.

    Contributors:Ellen B. Avril, Catherine Barnhart, Richard Barnhart, Terese Tse Bartholomew, Julia K. Murray, Ann Waltner, Ann Barrott Wicks.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6181-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Periods in Chinese History
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: Children in Chinese Art
    (pp. 1-30)
    Ann Barrott Wicks and Ellen B. Avril

    Depictions of children have had a prominent place in Chinese art since the Song period (960–1279). The number of works commissioned at all levels of society indicates that child imagery was exceptionally meaningful to generations of people across China. Yet one would be hard-pressed to find in the carefully preserved historical documents of imperial China any significant discussion of children in art. Neither has contemporary scholarship given the subject much coverage, despite the rich materials available for research. Very little has been published in the way of serious study of the iconography or meaning of images of children. This...

  6. 2 Images of Children in Song Painting and Poetry
    (pp. 31-56)
    Richard Barnhart and Catherine Barnhart

    The sudden appearance of sophisticated images of children in painting and poetry during the Tang (618–907) and Song (960–1279) periods comes after millennia during which children only occasionally and randomly appeared in the arts. But briefly, between the eighth and twelfth centuries, a great many memorable pictorial and literary representations of children appeared and several distinct genres of subject matter centered on children were invented. Gradually thereafter, children receded again into relative anonymity until the modern era, continuing to appear often in the auspicious imagery of family, clan, and society but only as stock players in institutionalized pageants...

  7. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  8. 3 One Hundred Children: From Boys at Play to Icons of Good Fortune
    (pp. 57-83)
    Terese Tse Bartholomew

    The theme of boys playing in a garden was an established subject in the paintings of the Song dynasty (960–1279). It continued to be a favorite among artists and craftsmen of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, but the iconography fluctuated according to the medium and the times. The focus of this essay is the changing emphasis of this theme in the decorative arts of the Ming and Qing periods. Exploring the subject of boys playing in a garden, the essay attempts to identify toys, games, and their hidden meanings, and to use the established themes...

  9. 4 Representations of Children in Three Stories from Biographies of Exemplary Women
    (pp. 84-107)
    Ann Waltner

    Images of children are not uncommon in Chinese art. Sometimes children are portrayed with their mothers; more often they are portrayed in an idealized, timeless plane where all adults are absent. But pictures of children in family groupings with both parents are rare. This presents, at first glance, something of a mystery: If the Chinese family is as central to the construction of Chinese society as most scholars assert, why is it so seldom represented in works of art? There are a few instances of families portrayed in domestic settings, such as the Gu Jianlong (1606–after 1686) painting of...

  10. 5 The Childhood of Gods and Sages
    (pp. 108-132)
    Julia K. Murray

    Stories about deities who once lived on Earth are found in the literature of many cultures. Such accounts invariably claim that these divine beings were conceived and born in an unusual manner. It is also typical of hagiographical narratives to describe supernatural abilities or behavior that these individuals demonstrated as children.¹ For example, prodigious events are prominent in Christian accounts of the conception, birth, and youth of Jesus Christ.² First, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce that the Holy Spirit had become incarnate in her through an immaculate conception. Immediately before Jesus was born, a supernova...

  11. 6 The Art of Deliverance and Protection: Folk Deities in Paintings and Woodblock Prints
    (pp. 133-158)
    Ann Barrott Wicks

    Art objects that celebrate and promote children as an essential family asset are widespread both geographically and chronologically in China. But individual members of the groups that produced these artworks had no effective control over the birth of healthy boys or the protection of young children from disease. Problems with infertility, infant mortality, and desired gender were thus frequently linked with supernatural forces. Stories of malignant spirits harmful to children illustrate the creative methods used to explain what is inexplicable to the human heart, the death or debilitating illness of a child. For example, an early tale recorded in the...

  12. 7 Family Pictures
    (pp. 159-178)
    Ann Barrott Wicks

    The most important institutional affiliation in imperial China was the family. It was regarded as both the embodiment of civilization and the means of transcending death. Yet who among us who have studied traditional Chinese art can name more than a handful of works that depict the family as a unit? Of the pictures that do exist, none before the Qing period (1644–1911) could be considered an actual likeness of a real family. The few paintings that show a mother and father together with their children illustrate set themes. They are prototypes with strong cultural messages, including the insignificance...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 179-192)
  14. Glossary of Chinese Characters
    (pp. 193-200)
  15. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 201-208)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 209-210)
  17. Index
    (pp. 211-218)