Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Seeing ghosts in late eighteenth-century China in Luo Pin's 1766 “Guiqu Tu” (“Ghost Realm Amusements”) scroll
by Farrington, Katherine Paige, A.L.M., Harvard University, 2008, 105; 1457661
Abstract (Summary)

This study investigates the origin and reception of an eighteenth-century Chinese painting scroll on the subject of ghosts, Guiqu tu (Ghost Realm Amusements) by the Chinese painter Luo Pin (1733-1799). Painted around the year 1766—at the pinnacle of prosperity of the Qianlong reign and, incidentally at the moment the Qing dynasty began its sharp decline—the scroll depicts eight scenes of ghosts displaying a medley of characters—from the comic to the frightening. The scroll references legends, literary sources, and supposed "real" ghosts, and it also features two skeletons in a landscape that are based on fourteenth-century European engravings by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). Art historians have long debated the meaning of Guiqu tu, and this study rectifies earlier misunderstandings of interpretations of the scroll by connecting its origins with the practice of painting occasional paintings of the legendary ghost hero, Zhong Kui, during festival holidays. Additionally, Luo Pin's encounter with Western books, a second important source for Guiqu tu, is put into the context of the artist's study trip to Hangzhou in 1762. The final part of the thesis explores the ways in which the colophon commentaries reflect the evolution of Guiqu tu from sensational novelty in Beijing, to an artwork that continued to generate interest in the last twenty years of the artist's life and beyond. Luo Pin's two reprisals of Guiqu tu in 1796 and 1799 are also discussed for their art historical importance. Luo Pin's Guiqu tu, because of its complexity and accumulation of meanings, can function as a bridge between the culture of eighteenth-century China and today's inter-connected world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wang, Eugene Y., Ostrowski, Donald G.
School: Harvard University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: MAI 47/02M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian History, Art history
Keywords: 18th Century, China, Ghost Paintings, Ghosts, Guiqu Tu, Luo Pin
Publication Number: 1457661
ISBN: 978-0-549-88136-0
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