Parting the Mists: Discovering Japan and the Rise of National-Style Painting in Modern China
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216pp. March 2006
Parting the Mists: Discovering Japan and the Rise of National-Style Painting in Modern China
Author: Wong, Aida Yuen;
In Parting the Mists, Aida Yuen Wong makes a convincing argument that the forging of a national tradition in modern China was frequently pursued in association with rather than in rejection of Japan. The focus of her book is on Japan’s integral role in the invention of "national-style painting," or guohua, in early-twentieth-century China. Guohua, referring to brush paintings on traditional formats, is often misconstrued as a residual conservatism from the dynastic age that barricaded itself within classical traditions. Wong places this art form at the forefront of cross-cultural exchange. Notable proponents of guohua (e.g., Chen Hengke, Jin Cheng, Fu Baoshi, and Gao Jianfu) are discussed in connection with Japan, where they discovered stylistic and ideological paradigms consonant with the empowering of "Asian/Oriental" cultural practices against the backdrop of encroaching westernization. Not just a "window on the West," Japan stood as an informant of China modernism in its own right.

The first book in English devoted to Sino-Japanese dialogues in modern art, Parting the Mists explores the sensitive phenomenon of Japanism in the practice and theory of Chinese painting. Wong carries out a methodologically agile study that sheds light on multiple spheres: stylistic and iconographic innovations, history writing, art theory, patronage and the market, geopolitics, the creation of artists’ societies, and exhibitions. Without avoiding the dark history of Japanese imperialism, she provides a nuanced reading of Chinese views about Japan and the two countries’ convergent, and often colliding, courses of nationalism.

64 illus., 30 in color


Asian Interactions and Comparisons Series
Published jointly with the Association for Asian Studies
Author: Wong, Aida Yuen;
Aida Yuen Wong teaches art history at Brandeis University. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary Asia, particularly issues of transculturalism and national identity.
Read the introduction (PDF).



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