Iconicity and indexicality: The body in Chinese art

David Clarke

in Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9789888083060
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9789882209794 | DOI:
Iconicity and indexicality: The body in Chinese art

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This chapter considers the place of the body in Chinese art. It begins by identifying in a somewhat schematic way various defining characteristics of literati painting and calligraphy, the art of the social elite in pre-modern China. The chapter then considers, with greater historical focus, the moment when a distinctly modern visual culture, drawing self-consciously on Western sources, appears in China. It sees this latter art as modern in a way that is specific to the Chinese cultural context—it directly counters certain key qualities of the dominant inherited tradition, particularly through its emphasis on the represented female body, and thus cannot be seen simply as a mimicking of European modernism. The chapter's primary tool in making a contrast between aspects of literati painting and calligraphy and certain tendencies in Chinese artistic modernism is a semiotic one. It is reliant on Charles Sanders Peirce's distinction between iconic and indexical modes of signification.

Keywords: Chinese art; literati painting; calligraphy; pre-modern China; modern visual culture

Chapter.  5199 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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