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Art of China - General Works

General  Works

In this section you will find works published either as general art historical surveys, encyclopaedic works, bibliographies, dictionaries, or collection and exhibition catalogues. They provide overviews of Chinese art in its various forms and from different historic periods. Some monographs contain excellent bibliographies.

Auboyer, Jeannine ... [et al.] Oriental Art: A Handbook of Styles and Forms. New York: Rizzoli, 1980.

Translated from French, it provides basic information on styles, mythologies, religions, and cultures, covering South, Southeast and East Asia.

The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, edited by Jessica Rawson. London: British Museum Press, 1992. 395 p.

Written on the occasion of the opening of Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery at the British Museum, the book consists of 6 chapters on jade and bronzes, calligraphy and painting, sculpture, decorative arts, ceramics and Aluxuries for trade.@ The appended chronologies, lists of archaeological and Buddhist sites, painters and glossaries are extremely useful. It not only complements the display in the gallery, but also outlines various aspects of Chinese art.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

A good source for a quick reference on China in general. One can also find entries on Chinese art, architecture and archaeology.

Clunas, Craig. Art in China. (Oxford History of Art series). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 255 p.

Reader in History of Art at the University of Sussex, the author gives a concise history of art in China, with explanations on, AWhat is art in China?@

_____. Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991.

It discusses some of the ways of looking at things and connoisseurship in the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644) China, with broad themes, such as shaping of aesthetic values by social forces and expression of social distinctions Athrough things.@ It crosses the disciplinary boundaries of art and social history and looks at aspects of material culture and social context.

_____. Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China (Picturing history series). London: Reaktion, 1997.

The work focuses on the 17th century, a period of rapid economic development and cultural production, forming a consumer society. Pictures were a major source of consumable luxury at the time, Apictures@ not only in the form of Aart,@ but also in the form of wall decoration, in books and prints, on ceramics, lacquer, textiles and even on the dress of the prosperous.

Contemporary Chinese Aesthetics, edited Zhu Liyuan and Gene Blockner. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. 350 p.

A collection of 21 essays by contemporary leading Chinese aestheticians of different generations representing different schools, a mixture of Chinese, Marxist and other European aesthetics. Among the essays are, ASpace-consciousness in Chinese art,@ AArt appreciation as recreation,@ AAncient Chinese aesthetics,@ AModern Chinese aesthetics,@ Aart and image,@ and, AThe essence of art.@

Dictionary of Art, editor Jane Turner. New York: Grove=s Dictionaries; London: Macmillan, 1996. 34 volumes, including index. (The online version website: )

The entry on China (from v. 6, p. 607 to v. 7, p. 162) consists of a lengthy introduction including geography, history, trade, religion and philosophy, followed by exhaustive studies of 10 major art forms (architecture, sculpture, calligraphy, painting, bronzes, ceramics, jade-carving, lacquer, gold and silver, furniture and textiles) and discussions of 26 minor arts, such as arms and armour, bamboo-, ivory-, wood-carving, cloisonne, jewellery, even theatre, and sections on popular art, the arts of different nationalities of China, art training, collections and museums. There are also several hundred separate entries on Chinese artists and a hundred or so entries on archaeological sites and cities. (Lack of illustrations and not too up-to-date bibliographies)

Eberhard, Wolfram. A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

A translation from German, useful tool for identifying symbols in Chinese culture.

Gray, Basil. Studies in Chinese and Islamic art. London: The Pindar Press, 1985-1987.

Vol. 1 deals with Chinese art, drawing examples from various collections in Great Britain covering Chinese painting, calligraphy, decorative arts, and museums of China and Japan, and touching upon Korea.

Hansford, S. Howard. A Glossary of Chinese Art and Archaeology. 2nd rev. ed. London: The China Society, 1961.

Still a useful tool for students and collectors to gain a quick understanding of Chinese terms in art and archaeology, though intended for readers with a certain knowledge of Chinese language. Architecture and calligraphy are not included.

Hutt, Julia. Understanding Far Eastern Art: A Complete Guide to the Arts of China, Japan and Korea: Ceramics, Sculpture, Painting, Prints, Lacquer, Textiles and Metalwork. Oxford: Phaidon, 1987.

This work introduces the arts of China, Japan and Korea to the non-specialist, focusing on the main materials and techniques used, to help them understand the objects.

Jones, Lois Swan. Art Information and the Internet: How to Find It, How to Use It. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1999.

A good resource tool. (Read the review in Art documentation, v. 18, no. 1)

Lee, Sherman E. A History of Far Eastern Art. 5th ed. New York: Prentice Hall and Abrams, 1994. 576 p.

The first edition was the result of lectures delivered by the author at the University of Washington. The 5th completely revised edition still has the original concept, that is, to deal with Acomparisons of various and diverse things with an eye for an educated audience that has not had the time nor the patience to deal with the highly specialized studies,@ providing broad overall analysis. Pt. I and IV deal with China. The author is considered the last Asian art generalist.

_____. China, 5000 Years: Innovation and Transformation in the Arts of China, selected by Sherman Lee. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1998.

Catalog of an exhibition of 250 outstanding objects from 17 provinces in China, at Guggenheim New York and Bilbao, 1998. The Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art, Ohio State University, has a website:, with images of the objects and sections of the catalog.

Li, Tse-hou. The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics. Beijing: Morning Glory Pub., 1988.

A translation of the 1983 Chinese edition, the work focuses on styles and motifs, characteristics of art in China and its interaction with Chinese culture and literature.

Medley, Margaret. A Handbook of Chinese Art for Collectors and Students. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Basic terminology (about 500 entries) for Chinese art; good for a quick reference.

Munsterberg, Hugo. Dictionary of Chinese and Japanese Art. New York: Hacker, 1981.

Another good tool for quick reference.

_____. Symbolism in Ancient Chinese Art. New York: Hacker, 1986.

Animal and other motifs, such as a dragon, tiger, bull, cicada, and celestial symbols, are discussed with examples from the art collections in the US, Canada and Great Britain.

Powers, Martin Joseph. Art and Political Expression in Early China. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Using pictorial images from sepulchral monuments and tomb reliefs, the work uses a combination of historical and stylistic data to build a picture of the Han dynasty (221 B.C.-220A.D.) It is also listed in ASculpture.@

Rawson, Jessica. Ancient China: Art and Archaeology. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Divided into five chapters by period, the Neolithic, Shang, Western Zhou, Eastern Zhou and Han dynasties, the book is intended as a companion to the British Museum=s collection of early Chinese art and archaeological material, but serves as a general historical survey of Chinese art up till 220 A.D.

_____. Chinese Ornament: The Lotus and the Dragon. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1984.

An exhibition catalog, it focuses on two dominant motifs, lotus and dragon, tracing the history of animal and floral ornaments, their ubiquity in Chinese art, and their influences on other cultures.

Seymour, Nancy N. An Index-Dictionary of Chinese Artists, Collectors, and Connoisseurs. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1988.

It includes more than 5000 Chinese names and biographical information, with Chinese characters, an index of modified stroke count, a tool for converting the two romanization systems, and a selected bibliography. For a quick reference.

Shulman, Frank Joseph. Doctoral Dissertations on China and on Inner Asia, 1976-1990: An Annotated Bibliography of Studies in Western Languages. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Continuation of his Doctoral Dissertations on China, 1945-1970 and Doctoral Dissertations on China, 1971-1975, the new publication is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary annotated guide to 10,293 dissertations in the humanities, social sciences, education, theology, and other disciplines. Entries #333-534 deal with art and art history; #648-711 with Chinese influence on Asian art, and #712-751 deal with Chinese influence on Western art.

Sickman, Laurence and Alexander Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1971.

Still a good reference book, focussing on painting, sculpture and architecture.

South East Asia & China: Art, Interaction & Commerce (Colloquies on art & archaeology in Asia; no. 17), edited by Rosemary Scott & John Guy. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 1995.

Consists of 15 papers delivered at the 17th Percival David Foundation Colloquy, dealing with Chinese influences and interaction with South East Asia as reflected in art.

Style in the East Asian Tradition (Colloquies on art & archaeology in Asia ; no. 14), edited by Rosemary E. Scott and Graham Hutt. London: Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 1987.

Consists of 12 papers delivered at the 14th Percival David Foundation Colloquy, in honor of William Watson, Professor of East Asian art at University of London, one of the early art historians. It includes a bibliography of William Watson=s works (p. 13-17).

Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Similar to the earlier editions of 1967 and 1973, it gives a historical survey of art in China beginning from the prehistoric era to the 20th century. The bibliographical references listed are of western languages before 1982.

_____. The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art. Berkeley: University of California, 1989.

Deals with Japan and China, the interaction of China and Europe and America and their mutual influences.

_____. Studies in the Art of China and South-East Asia. London: The Pindar Press, 1991.

Vol. 1 deals with Chinese art, with emphasis on pictorial art and some discussion on the influences of Western art and the Chinese response to it.

Tregear, Mary. Chinese Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980.

A short survey of Chinese art with illustrations.

Vanderstappen, Harrie A. The T.L. Yuan Bibliography of Western Writings on Chinese Art and Archaeology. London: Mansell, 1975.

A reference book on Chinese art and archaeology, listing 2278 books and 8954 articles, covering materials published between 1920 and 1965, with index. Very useful for searching for earlier works.

Walravens, Hartmut. Bibliographien Zur Ostasiatischen Kunstgeschichte in Deutschland. Hamburg: Bell, 1983-1984.

Contains bibliographical references written by German scholars Adolf Fischer, Freda Fischer, Karl With, Ludwig Bachhofer, Alfred Salmony, Otto Kümmel, with a list of reviews of the 1912 East Asian art exhibition in Berlin.

Watson, William. The Arts of China to AD 900. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

As the title indicates the book covers historic periods till the Tang dynasty (618-907). Subjects, such as pottery, bronzes, jade, lacquer, sculpture, Buddhist and secular, are discussed chronologically from the Neolithic age to the end of the Tang.

Werner, E.T.C. A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology. New York: Julian Press, 1969.

Useful tool for finding myths and legends of China, with index and bibliography

Williams, C.A.S. Encyclopedia of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives. New York: Julian Press, 1960.

Still useful and easy to use with entries arranged in alphabetical order. At the end of each entry one can find bibliographical references.

Wu, Hung. Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.

A broad-ranging investigation of the abstract concept of monumentality, spanning two thousand years of Chinese art history and a variety of media, the work provides a new type of history of early Chinese art and architecture, covering the rise and decline of ritual art, palaces and funerary monuments in the Qin and Han (221 B.C.- 220 A.D.) with stone as medium, also discussing the emergence of the individual artist in the post-Han period.

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Archives of Asian art. ISSN 0066-6637. New York: Asia Society, v. 20 (1967)-

Continues: Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America (1945/46-1965). The most recent issue: v. 49 (1996). Vol. 50, no. 1 just out after 3-year delay.

Ars Orientalis. ISSN 0571-1371. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Dept. of the History of Art, University of Michigan, 1954-

Sponsored by the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, the periodical is current but irregular.

Artibus Asiae. ISSN 0004-3648. Zurich: The Museum Rietberg in cooperation with the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1925-

Irregular, but current.

Arts Asiatique. ISSN 0004-3958. Paris: Direction des Musees de France, 1954-

Annual, current

Arts of Asia. ISSN 0004-4083. Hong Kong: Arts of Asia Publications, 1971-

Bimonthly, current at:

An online journal for the study and exhibition of the arts of Asia. Links to associations, exhibitions, articles, galleries.

Asian Art & Culture. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994-

Continues: Asian Art (1987/88-1993). Since 1997 it has become a Amonographic@ series, published by University of Washington Press. So far two monographs have been published.

The Asian Art Newspaper. ISSN 1460-8537. London: The Asian Art Ltd., 1997-

Monthly (except July and August); published for collectors, dealers, museums and galleries, with reviews on exhibitions and books.

Asian Perspectives: The Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific. ISSN 0066-8435. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1957-

Semiannual, current

Bibliography of Asian Studies. ISSN 0067-7159. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 1970-

Current with delay

The Bulletin of the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: The OCS, 1975-

Irregular, current

Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. ISSN 0041-977X. London: The School, 1940-

Three times a year

China Archaeology and Art Digest. ISSN 1027-1503. Hong Kong: Art Text (HK), 1996-

A new quarterly journal, digest and index in English of all Chinese publications in the archaeological and art history fields, for scholars, collectors, museums and libraries. Very useful.

Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies. ISSN 0254-9948. Peiping: Vetch, 1935-

Now published annually in Sankt Augustin, Germany by Monumenta Serica Institute, it covers all areas of Sinology, including art. Also has book reviews and notes.

Museum of East Asian Art Journal. Bath, England: The Museum, 1995-

Annual, current

Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities Bulletin. ISSN 0081-5691. Stockholm: The Museum, 1960-

Annual, current

National Palace Museum Bulletin. ISSN 0027-9846. Taipei, Taiwan: National Palace Museum, 1966-

Bimonthly, current. The Museum has a website:

Newsletter, East Asian Art & Archaeology. ISSN 8755-4593. Ann Arbor, Mich.: East Asian Program, The University of Michigan, 1977-

Semiannual, current

Oriental Art. ISSN 0196-0008. London: Oriental Art Magazine, 1948-

Quarterly, current

Orientations. ISSN 0030-5448. Hong Kong: Pacific Communications, 1970-

Monthly, current

Revue Bibliographique de Sinologie = Review of bibliography in Sinology. ISSN 0080-2484. Paris: Editions de l=Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, 1957-

Annual, current, with one chapter dealing with art and archaeology, listing both monographs and journal articles in western and Asian languages.

Silk Road Art and Archaeology: Journal of the Institute of Silk Road Studies, Kamakura. ISSN 0917-1614. Kamakura-shi, Japan: The Institute, 1990-

Annual, current.

Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society. ISSN 0306-0926. London: The Society, 1923-

Begun with an unnumbered issue for 1921/22, it is published annually. Articles cover not only Chinese art and Chinese ceramics, but also other Asian art.

The Society also has a newsletter, listing museum exhibitions, gallery and dealer shows, symposia, lecture series, courses and workshops, museum news and publications.

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Prepared by the Library of the Freer Gallery of Art
and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
Smithsonian Institution

revised 11 October 2000


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