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Artistic Affinities from the Outside:
Key Terminology in Early Chinese Painting Theory and its Relationship with Buddhism

Date:  20 Apr 2024 - 20 Apr 2024

Date:  Saturday, 20 April 2024

Time: 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Venue: Drake Gallery, 1/F, Fung Ping Shan Building, University Museum and Art Gallery, HKU, 90 Bonham Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

Language: Putonghua (Dr Florian Knothe, Director of the University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong will introduce the event in English)

  Dr Michael Cavayero | Assistant Professor, Peking University, School of Arts; Cross-Appointed Research Fellow, Peking University Research Center for Aesthetics and Aesthetic Education


Discussant and Moderator : Dr Ling Chao | Assistant Professor, Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong


Discussant: Dr Zhao Yi (Joey) | Research Assistant Professor, Department of Chinese History and Culture, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University


The early medieval period (3rd–9th c.) in ancient China marks the beginning of Chinese art history and theoretical discussions on painting. Due to social upheaval and the introduction of Buddhism, this period saw the emergence of many new terms in painting theory literature that could better interpret the spiritual essence of artists. ‘Externally learning from Creation (Nature), and internally attaining the xinyuan (i.e., the fountainhead/source of [the] mind; all things)’ is the famous artistic theory proposed by the painter Zhang Zao (fl. 8th c.), which had a profound influence on subsequent eras of Chinese art history and painting theory. This presentation will use Zhang Zao’s central concept of ‘the source of [the] mind’ (xinyuan) as a case study to explore the rationale for introducing Buddhist language and concepts. It will analyse how, due to the abstract concepts in Chinese painting and similarities with certain Buddhist concepts, painters began consciously borrowing Buddhist terminology to explain their artistic ideas, reexamining the impact of Buddhist philosophy on the foundational aspects of Eastern art and its subsequent development.


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