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Toward The Contextualization Of Woodblock Illustration: A Critique Of Art Historical Method

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Chapter Summary

Woodblock book illustration has long been seen as one of China’s minor arts. It evoked little discussion in the Ming and Qing periods. The relationship between illustration and text is not limited to the mimetic function. Performance illustration entirely dispenses with the mimetic function in an attempt to embed the story within the ontological frame of the stage. The relation between function, layout, and literary genre has slowly evolved over the centuries-long history of Chinese illustration. The extant five pinghua publications feature the same pictures-above-text layout: the image is displayed across the top of two half-folio pages. Performance illustration rapidly rose to dominance, but just as rapidly began to fade in the late Wanli period. The Wu School dominated Chinese painting from the era of Wen Zhengming until the fall of the Ming dynasty.

Keywords: China; Chinese illustration; mimetic function; Ming dynasty; pinghua publications; Wanli period; Wen Zhengming; Woodblock book illustration; Wu School



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