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Presented By: Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)

The Premodern Colloquium. Why Did Public Infrastructure Appear in Song Court Landscape Painting?

Gerui Wang, U-M History of Art

Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This essay examines the public infrastructure depicted in Northern Song (960-1127) court landscape paintings, which includes roads, waterways, bridges, and river ports. These paintings not only depict the public works but also portray people from all social strata utilizing these public resources. This new development in the landscape genre coincided with the political and social thought of the period, which held that the state should spend tax revenues collected from the population to improve the wellbeing of the people.

The reading investigates visual materials ranging from court landscape painting, administrative maps in local gazetteers, as well as steles. The legal basis for the emergence of such landscape paintings in the 11th century was the separation of the emperor’s private treasury from the public treasury of the state. That separation was a factor in numerous policy debates from the period and was systematically documented in an early thirteenth-century book.
Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Attributed to Qu Ding (Chinese, active ca. 1023–ca. 1056), Summer Mountains, ca.1050, China, ink and color on silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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