Catalogue

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Ordinary images /
Stanley K. Abe.
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c2002.
description
xxv, 373 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0226000443 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, c2002.
isbn
0226000443 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
4755598
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 347-366) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
In this richly illustrated book Stanley Abe explores the large body of sculpture, ceramics, and other religious imagery produced for China's common classes from the third to the sixth centuries C.E. Created for those of lesser standing, these works contrast sharply with those made for imperial patrons, illustrious monastics, or other luminaries. They were often modest in scale, mass-produced, and at times incomplete. These "ordinary images" have been considered a largely nebulous, undistinguished mass of works because they cannot be related to well-known historical figures or social groups. Additionally, in a time and place where most inhabitants were not literate, the available textual evidence provides us with a remarkable view of China through the eyes of a small and privileged educated class. There exists precious little written material that embodies the concerns and voices of those of lower standing. Situating his study in the gaps between conventional categories such as Buddhism, Daoism, and Chinese popular imagery, Abe examines works that were commissioned by patrons of modest standing in specific local contexts. These works include some of the earliest known examples of Buddha-like images in China; a group of small stone stupas from the northwest; inscribed image niches from a cavernous Buddhist cave temple; and large stele with Buddhist, Daoist, and mixed Buddhist-Daoist iconography from Shaanxi province. In these four case studies, Abe questions established notions of art historical practice by treating the works in a manner that allows for more rather than less contradiction, less rather than more certainty. Sensitive to the fragmentary nature of the evidence and his position in a long tradition of scholarly writing, the author offers a sustained argument against established paradigms of cultural adaptation and formal development. Sophisticated and lucidly written, Ordinary Images offers an unprecedented exploration of the lively and diverse nature of image making and popular practices.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2003-05-01:
Abe (art history, Duke Univ.) has written a fascinating study of material seldom seen, much less published: art truly outside the mainstream. He focuses on Chinese art from the third to sixth centuries, analyzing it in four chapters, each devoted to an individual geographical area (with some overlapping) reaching from Dunhuang in the northwest to Shanghai on the coast and to Yunan Province in the southwest. Much of the material is from caves and tombs. Abe discusses why he chose this material and offers his rationale for using "images" instead of "art": the objects studied are explicitly distinguished from the so-called masterpieces that carry viewer experience as a significant aspect. The objects were created for the lower classes--the "sub-elites"--as distinct from the aristocracy, members of the imperial court, and major monastic centers. For the most part they are by unknown artists and often for anonymous donors, and any context is all but absent because there is very little specific documentary evidence. Abe's writing is clear and sensitive. Extensive notes; five maps; black-and-white illustrations; plans of tombs and drawings of interior spaces; large bibliography divided between Western languages and Chinese/Japanese. All in all, an excellent addition to the traditional "masterpieces" approach. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. K. Haworth emeritus, Carleton College
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Abe has presented a substantive study in this book, which is written with clarity and full of insights. The thorough documentation of sources is invaluable for further investigation."
"Abe has presented a substantive study in this book, which is written with clarity and full of insights. The thorough documentation of sources is invaluable for further investigation."Dorothy C. Wong, Journal of Asian Studies
"Abe's elegant new book, packed with photographs, maps, and diagrams, follows on decades of consistent and often spectacular excavation and scholarship. . . . Abe reviews a good part of this material, describing both new finds and older ones, and presenting the new wealth of scholarship in English, Japanese, and especially Chinese on Buddhist artifacts from early medieval China."
"Abe's elegant new book, packed with photographs, maps, and diagrams, follows on decades of consistent and often spectacular excavation and scholarship. . . . Abe reviews a good part of this material, describing both new finds and older ones, and presenting the new wealth of scholarship in English, Japanese, and especially Chinese on Buddhist artifacts from early medieval China." Journal of Chinese Religion
"Abe treats the images as case studies of specific regional and temporal groups outside the scope of traditional surveys of Chinese art history and engages the reader with his fresh visual insights and conviction that ordinary images are significant in their own right. His focus on and respect for objects and his resistance to using them merely for rhetorical or illustrative purposes can serve as an example to art historians and those in other fields of study who work with visual materials."
"Abe treats the images as case studies of specific regional and temporal groups outside the scope of traditional surveys of Chinese art history and engages the reader with his fresh visual insights and conviction that ordinary images are significant in their own right. His focus on and respect for objects and his resistance to using them merely for rhetorical or illustrative purposes can serve as an example to art historians and those in other fields of study who work with visual materials."Katherine R. Tsiang Artibus Asiae
"This lavishly illustrated volume revises our understanding of China's early medieval (200-600 CE) religious sculpture. Through an exhaustive analysis of run-of-the-mill religious art objects and their accompanying inscriptions, Abe skillfully demonstrates the explanatory insufficiency of previous interpretative paradigms. . . . For students of East Asian religion and culture, it is a must."
"This lavishly illustrated volume revises our understanding of China's early medieval (200-600 CE) religious sculpture. Through an exhaustive analysis of run-of-the-mill religious art objects and their accompanying inscriptions, Abe skillfully demonstrates the explanatory insufficiency of previous interpretative paradigms. . . . For students of East Asian religion and culture, it is a must."Keith N. Knapp, Religious Studies Review
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 2003
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
This richly illustrated book explores the large body of sculpture, paintings, and other religious imagery produced for China's common classes from the third to the sixth centuries C.E. In contrast to the works made for imperial patrons, illustrious monastics, or other luminaries, these ordinary images-modest in scale, mass produced, and at times incomplete-were created for those of lesser standing. Because they cannot be related to well-known historical figures or social groups, these images have been considered a largely nebulous, undistinguished mass of works. Situating his study in the gaps between conventional categories such as Buddhism, Daoism, and Chinese popular art, Abe examines works--including some of the earliest known examples of Buddha-like images in China--that were commissioned by patrons of modest standing and produced by nameless artists and artisans. Sophisticated and lucidly written, Ordinary Images offers an unprecedented exploration of the lively and diverse nature of image making and popular practices.
Main Description
This richly illustrated book explores the large body of sculpture, paintings, and other religious imagery produced for China's common classes from the third to the sixth centuries C.E. In contrast to the works made for imperial patrons, illustrious monastics, or other luminaries, these ordinary images-modest in scale, mass produced, and at times incomplete-were created for those of lesser standing. Because they cannot be related to well-known historical figures or social groups, these images have been considered a largely nebulous, undistinguished mass of works. Situating his study in the gaps between conventional categories such as Buddhism, Daoism, and Chinese popular art, Abe examines worksincluding some of the earliest known examples of Buddha-like images in Chinathat were commissioned by patrons of modest standing and produced by nameless artists and artisans. Sophisticated and lucidly written, Ordinary Images offers an unprecedented exploration of the lively and diverse nature of image making and popular practices.
Table of Contents
List Of Maps
List Of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Conventions
Ordinary Images
Small Beginnings
Local Context
Sinicization
Alternatives
Conclusion
Ordinary Practice
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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