Online Lecture: ‘Picturing West Lake: The Poetics & Representation of an Iconic Place’ with with Dr Hui-shu Lee, East Asian Studies Program, Princeton University, 11 November 2020, 4:30pm (EST)

Picturing West Lake explores how a pictorial tradition in the representation of an iconic place was emplaced, fashioned, refashioned, transmuted and transmitted over time to convey cultural value, historical memory, political ideology, and artistic expression.   

Adjacent to the historically affluent city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and long celebrated for its natural beauty, West Lake became iconized for its singular role in the expression of art and culture with the establishment of Lin’an (Hangzhou) as the capital for the latter half of the Song dynasty (1127-1279). By the thirteenth century, a unique visual paradigm had evolved and over time the representation of West Lake in words and images proliferated as it was immortalized as a site of memory and culture. This reached an apogee during the eighteenth century of the Qing dynasty, when the representation of the place witnessed a renaissance in myriad forms and media of artistic production.

In my pursuit of the study of West Lake and its visual representation over time, some essential inquires have arisen. Looking beyond its physical charm, what factors were at play to make West Lake a unique cultural space and a locus in the representation of famous place? How was the representational paradigm in the visual depiction of the place established and how was the place iconized to become a site of memory after the downfall of the Southern Song? What insight can an investigation of the evolution of a single site through history – such as its changing representational status in mapped or painted media – provide? How are the salient features of a Chinese famous place like West Lake revealed, represented, emplaced, and “re-implaced” to become iconic? And lastly, how and why could a sustained mode in the pictorial representation of West Lake so prominently persist in the collective Chinese imagination for over six hundred years and beyond?

Focusing on the two quintessential visual modes in the representation of a Chinese place, linear/planimetric maps, tu圖, and painterly/lyrical paintings, hua畫, this talk is an attempt to address some of these inquires. At the same time, I hope to demonstrate the uniqueness of West Lake as a microcosmic site in a multifaceted cultural discourse involved with the poetics of representing place.

Hui-shu Lee is Professor of the Department of Art History at UCLA and a specialist in Chinese art history.  She received her doctorate degree from Yale University in 1994 after first studying at National Taiwan University and working in the National Palace Museum. Her field of specialization is Chinese painting and visual culture, with a particular focus on gender issues.  These include imperial female agency of the Song dynasty (960-1279) and dimensions of shifting gender persona in late imperial China. Other areas of research are the cultural mapping of Hangzhou and the representation of West Lake since the Southern Song (1127-1279), courtesan culture of Ming-Qing dynastic transition, the seventeenth-century individualist painter Bada Shanren (1626 -1705), and a number of modern and contemporary artists. Among her publications are Exquisite Moments: West Lake & Southern Song Art (New York: China Institute, 2001) and Empresses, Art, and Agency in Song Dynasty China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010). Currently, she is working on two book projects: Shifting Gender Persona in Chinese Art and West Lake & the Representation of An Iconic Place (upcoming with Zhejiang University Press). In addition, extended from her research on Song art and culture she has also taken on “Poetics of Song Gardens” as another book plan, as well as a newly initiated research and exhibition project on the cliff inscriptions along the ancient “Shudao, or Roads to Shu.”  

李慧漱,畢業于台灣大學歷史系、台灣大學歷史研究所藝術史組碩士、美國耶魯大學藝術史博士,曾任職於國立故宮博物院、香港科技大學人文學部與美國史丹福大學,目前任職美國加州大學洛杉磯校區藝術史系教授,專長為中國藝術與視覺文化,尤其以宋畫與南宋藝術領域為其研究特長,並對女性議題深入探討。學術論著與出版涉及宋代書畫與園林、南宋杭州與西湖、女性與中國藝術史的建構、性別發聲與跨越, 以及晚明文化與八大山人; 偶亦涉獵現代與當代藝術。代表著作有:

Exquisite Moments: West Lake & Southern Song Art (New York: China Institute, 2001). Empresses, Art, and Agency in Song Dynasty China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010). 目前除了兩部書稿:性別聲音與藝術 (Shifting Gender Persona in Chinese Art ) ,以及《西湖清趣图》与临安胜景图像的再现 (West Lake and the Representation of An Iconic Place)之外; 同時進行的項目有“宋代園林”(Poetics of Song Gardens), 以及  “蜀道石刻題記與山水”(“ The Roads to Shu: Landscape, Ecology, and Writings in Stone.”)。

Find out more here and register here.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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