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The Political Body In Chinese Art

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Chapter Summary

The uses of visual images based on calligraphy and the depiction of the human body in Chinese art have served an important role in the exercise of political power by leaders in Chinese culture. The two media that are most closely linked to the exercise of political power in Chinese culture are written or performed calligraphy and representational art featuring the human figure. This chapter provides a brief introduction to a Chinese understanding of the body in traditional Chinese culture. Next, it examines the political uses first, of calligraphy, and then of figurative representation. The chapter considers the works of two contemporary Chinese artists, Xu Bing and Ma Bao Zhong, whose contemporary art offers a different understanding of the roles of calligraphy and visual representation with respect to political power.

Keywords: calligraphy; Chinese art; Chinese culture; Ma Bao Zhong; political body; Xu Bing



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