Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming china
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248pp. July 2013
Screen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China
Author: Clunas, Craig;
Screen of Kings is the first book in any language to examine the cultural role of the regional aristocracy – relatives of the emperors – in Ming dynasty China (1368–1644). Through an analysis of their patronage of architecture, calligraphy, painting and other art forms, and through a study of the contents of their splendid and recently excavated tombs, this innovative study puts the aristocracy back at the heart of accounts of China’s culture, from which they have been excluded until very recently.

Screen of Kings challenges much of the received wisdom about Ming China. Craig Clunas sheds new light on many familiar artworks, as well as works that have never before been reproduced. New archaeological discoveries have furnished the author with evidence of the lavish and spectacular lifestyles of these provincial princes and demonstrate how central the imperial family was to the high culture of the Ming era.

Written by the leading specialist in the art and culture of the Ming period, this book illuminates a key aspect of China’s past, and will significantly alter our understanding of the Ming. It will be enjoyed by anyone with a serious interest in the history and art of this great civilization.

100 illus., 60 in color

For sale only in the U.S., its dependencies, Canada, and Mexico
“In addition to reorienting our focus to kingly figures in the Ming (an often-overlooked but deeply significant historical group), Screen of Kings also moves us away from the oft-trod historiographical territory of the Jiangnan region and toward regions that boasted a significant kingly presence but don’t usually earn a significant place in our histories of Ming China. The kingly cityscapes in Clunas’s beautifully-written book are full of buildings, gardens, tombs, calligraphic texts, paintings, jewelry, poems, bronzes, and musical instruments. The book situates these objects in an innovative way, emphasizing the importance of Ming kingly courts as sites of cultural innovation, production, and reproduction, and of kings as producers, collectors, and patrons of the arts. This is a must-read for anyone interested in Ming history, the history of the arts in China, histories of locality, or the history of relationships between art and power more broadly conceived. It is also an absolute pleasure to read.” —Carla Nappi, University of British Columbia

“Cutting through traditional biases and energetically finding new material, Clunas persuasively argues for the cultural importance and intrinsic interest of these kings. He supplies handsome illustrations of beautiful objects in many media and brings a breadth of context that comes from familiarity with parallels in other times and places. Screen of Kings opens up the field of Ming art and culture, and points forward to more informed scholarly work and to more knowledgeable collecting. Craig Clunas writes accessibly for the intelligent non-specialist, and this is a beautifully illustrated book that can be consumed with pleasure.” —Susan Naquin, Princeton University

"Clunas's meticulous research reveals that emperors often presented gifts of paintings, calligraphy, or scholarly books to relatives who were "kings" of provinces, thus promoting erudition of the gentlemanly arts on surprising levels. Translated inscriptions also offer new insights into the lives of the lesser-known Ming aristocracy with an exactness one has come to expect from the author's research. Enhanced with exhaustive notes and an invaluable bibliography, this exciting new contribution to the field is indispensable for scholars and students of Ming China. . . .Essential." —CHOICE (April 2014)

“Clunas is an outstanding scholar and specialist of the Ming period whose works on collecting and on Ming society have radically changed the field. Screen of Kings takes his work into a new area . . . a superb contribution which will provide new and exciting insights.” —Lothar Ledderose, Director, Institute of East Asian Art History, Heidelberg, Baden-Würrtemberg

Screen of Kings is an exceptional and ambitious endeavour to narrate simultaneously the history and historiography of the regional princes and to write the history of their artistic production. A ground-breaking monograph that seeks to revise our understanding of the arts of the Ming dynasty.” —Jennifer Purtle, Associate Professor, Department of Art, University of Toronto

"Assembling a diverse range of texts, pictures and objects, not all of which are conventionally thought of as Chinese art, Clunas provides us with an enlarged vision of the visual and material world of the Ming. . . . Screen of Kings opens up the field of Ming art and culture, and points forward to more informed scholarly work and to more knowledgeable collecting. Craig Clunas writes accessibly for the intelligent non-specialist, and this is a beautifully illustrated book that can be consumed with pleasure." —Orientations, 45:4 (May 2014)

Author: Clunas, Craig;
Craig Clunas is professor of history of art at the University of Oxford.
Read the Contents (PDF) and Chapter 1 (PDF).



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