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Art history: A Western discipline’s centennial experience in China

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

In 1882, the American scholar E. F. Fenollosa first introduced the new western discipline “art history” to Japan in a series of lectures entitled “The True Meaning of Fine Art” in Tokyo. The next year, the French word esthetique was translated into Japanese using Kanji by Nakae Chomin. The term “fine arts” first appeared in the Chinese language in a translation by Wang Guowei, who put the words in a glossary attached to the Chinese version (1902) of Motora Yujiro’s book Ethics. From the time when Wang employed the term in his famous article “Confucian’s artistic education” (1904), then Huang Binhong and Deng Shi co-compiled The Library of Fine Arts (1911), to the year of 2003 when Fan Jingzhong began his monumental work The Shapes of Art History, the introduction of the western discipline has a history of one hundred years, which demonstrates the rich understanding of “art history” which has played an increasingly prominent role in East Asian cultures.


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