Category Archives: Asian Art

‘What makes work meaningful?’: Q&A with ‘The Social Life of Inkstones’ author Dorothy Ko

The following interview originally appeared at Barnard News and is adapted and used with permission. (Courtesy of N. Jamiyla Chisholm, Barnard College, New York City.)


To honor Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Barnard College professor of history Dorothy Ko offers a peek into ancient and modern-day Eastern culture and politics.

According to the Library of Congress, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month takes place in May for two reasons: May 7, 1843, marked the immigration of the first Japanese citizen to the U.S.; and on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, mostly by Chinese immigrant workers.

Credit: Marvin Trachetenberg

Dorothy Ko explores the subjects of gender and body in early modern China. In her books, Ko unravels the complex worlds of Chinese footbinding (Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding), fashion (Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet), and feminism (Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China). Her latest, The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China, introduces the West to the world of ancient Asian stones and includes close to 100 images (see slideshow below). Ko explains the significance of this highly specialized art form.

What exactly is an inkstone and what is its significance in East Asian culture?

An inkstone is a piece of polished stone about the size of an outstretched palm. Before the invention of fountain pens, let alone laptops and iPads, every student, writer, or painter in East Asia had to grind a fresh supply of ink at the desk by dipping an ink-stick in water and rubbing it on the surface of the stone. This process was as instinctive to them as recharging our iPhones is to us. Day in and day out, the writers and painters developed deep attachments to their implements. More than an instrument for writing, the inkstone was a collectible object of art, a father’s gift to his school-bound son, a token of friendship, and even a diplomatic gift between states.

Why is this tool so unfamiliar to Western civilizations when it has represented so much for the East for more than a millennium?

Europeans drew ink from an inkpot so they had no use for an ink-grinding stone. Nor did the early European collectors appreciate its subtle beauty as the Chinese connoisseurs did. The color of the inkstone tended to be deep purple or black; it is small and does not display well in a stately home or fancy apartment. So it is no wonder that there is no notable collection of inkstones in Europe or America.

Your book shines a light on craftswoman Gu Erniang who became famous for her inkstone-making skills, which were refined between the 1680s and 1730s. What made her such a standout?

Her extraordinary skills. Gu Erniang was a remarkable woman who thrived in a field dominated by men; she became more famous than her male colleagues. Her name was associated with technical and artistic innovations as well as refined taste. It is also interesting to mention that she enjoyed more gender freedom than her genteel sisters in that she could receive male patrons in her studio to discuss commissioned projects face-to-face.

How has the significance of inkstone artisans changed over time?

Gu Erniang was one of the first inkstone makers in China to attach her signature mark on her work, suggesting a heightened respect that exceptional artisans like her enjoyed. Today, because the inkstone is no longer a functional object, all inkstone artisans have to present themselves as creative artists.

What interests you most in this topic area and what are some of the biggest “ah ha!” moments you had conducting research for the book?

I love all the modern conveniences we enjoy but increasingly feel the need to look back and reassess the heavy price we pay for such “industrial development” or “progress.” I became interested in the craftsmen because theirs was a sustainable livelihood that was environmentally responsible. Through their eyes, I arrive at tentative answers to my big question at the moment: What makes work meaningful? The craftsman’s answer: Making one-of-a-kind objects with attention and skill in a collaborative environment. Craft makes us more human by inspiring us to strive for perfection.

How does the research conducted for this book connect to research from your previous publications on footbinding and Chinese feminism?

As a historian of gender, I’m sensitive to power inequalities and trained to analyze the operations of power. In the same way that I had retrieved women in Chinese history in my earlier books, I set out to retrieve the artisans from erasure in the hands of male scholars. Little did I know that the latter turned out to be a far more difficult project.

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Association for Asian Studies Conference Preview

From March 16-19, we will be attending the 2017 Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annual conference in Toronto, Canada.

Executive editor Lorri Hagman and advancement and grants manager Beth Fuget will be representing the press at the meeting. Come see us in the exhibit hall at booth 409 and follow along with the meeting on social media at #AAS2017.

We are thrilled to celebrate the debut of a number of new and recent titles across the range of our Asian Studies titles including offerings in our Classics of Chinese Thought translation series, the Global South Asia series, the Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies series, books in the Mellon-funded collaborative Modern Language Initiative (MLI), and these recent book prize winners:

The Emotions of Justice by Jisoo M. Kim is winner of the 2017 James B. Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.


Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China
by Antje Richter was awarded an honorable mention for the 2016 Kayden Book Award in literary studies.

New and Recent Books

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Read an excerpt from Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan: Commentary on the “Spring and Autumn Annals”

Forthcoming from the Global South Asia series

Banaras Reconstructed: Architecture and Sacred Space in a Hindu Holy City
By Madhuri Desai
Forthcoming May 2017

Desai examines the confluences, as well as the tensions, that have shaped this complex and remarkable city. In so doing, she raises issues central to historical as well as contemporary
Indian identity and delves into larger questions about religious urban environments in South Asia.


Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India

By Rebecca M. Brown
Forthcoming June 2017

Using extensive archival research and interviews with artists, curators, diplomats, and visitors, Brown analyzes a selection of museum shows that were part of the Festival of India to unfurl new exhibitionary modes: the time of transformation, of interruption, of potential and the future, as well as the contemporary and the now.

Now Available in Paperback

New in Art History and Visual Culture for CAA 2017

From February 15-18, we are excited to attend the annual conference of the College Art Association in New York, NY. Editor in chief Larin McLaughlin and advancement and grants manager Beth Fuget will be representing the Press, debuting several new books, and meeting with authors, publishing partners, and other professionals in the arts.

We are thrilled to introduce our recent and forthcoming titles in art history and visual culture at the meeting. Please stop by our booth (#206) to get a first look at our new offerings, and join the discussion on social media with #caa2017.

New and Recent Books

Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture
Edited by Leigh Raiford and Heike Raphael-Hernandez

Migrating the Black Body explores how visual media—from painting to photography, from global independent cinema to Hollywood movies, from posters and broadsides to digital media, from public art to graphic novels—has shaped diasporic imaginings of the individual and collective self.

Forthcoming Books

The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness
By Barbara Johns
Foreword by Roger Daniels
Introduction to the diary by Sandy Kita
Scott and Laurie Oki Series in Asian American Studies
Forthcoming May 2017

The Hope of Another Spring reveals the rare find of a heretofore unknown collection of art produced during World War II. The centerpiece of the collection is Fujii’s illustrated diary that historian Roger Daniels has called “the most remarkable document created by a Japanese American prisoner during the wartime incarceration.”

Sonny Assu: A Selective History
By Sonny Assu
With Candice Hopkins, Marianne Nicholson, Richard Van Camp, and Ellyn Walker
Forthcoming June 2017

Through large-scale installation, sculpture, photography,
printmaking, and painting, Sonny Assu
merges the aesthetics of Indigenous iconography
with a pop-art sensibility. This stunning retrospective
spans over a decade of Assu’s career, highlighting
more than 120 full-color works, including several
never-before-exhibited pieces.

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art
Edited by Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe
Foreword by Susette Min
Afterword by Kyoo Lee
Jacob Lawrence Series on American Artists
Forthcoming May 2017

These artist interviews, cutting-edge visual artworks, and critical essays explore contemporary currents and experiences within Asian American art, including the multiple axes of race and identity; queer bodies and forms; kinship and affect; and digital identities and performances. Continue reading

Annual Conference on South Asia Preview

The 45th Annual Conference on South Asia takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, this week (October 20-23, 2016). We are thrilled to celebrate the publication of three new titles in the Global South Asia series.

Edited by Padma Kaimal, Kalyanakrishnan (Shivi) Sivaramakrishnan, and Anand A. Yang, Global South Asia draws on humanities, social sciences, and interdisciplinary approaches to examine the ways in which South Asia is and has been global and shaping the world. Learn more in the series flyer.

16-cosa-final-colorIf you are attending the meeting, we hope you will stop by booth #4 to check out our new and forthcoming titles in South Asian studies and to meet Executive Editor Lorri Hagman.

Read on for more information about our featured titles:

The Afterlife of Sai Baba: Competing Visions of a Global Saint
By Karline McLain

Karline McLain uses a wide range of sources to investigate the different ways that Sai Baba has been understood in South Asia and beyond, and the reasons behind his skyrocketing popularity among Hindus in particular for an entertaining and enlightening look at one of the world’s most popular spiritual gurus.

Sensitive Space: Fragmented Territory at the India-Bangladesh Border
By Jason Cons

Offering lessons for the study of enclaves, lines of control, restricted areas, gray spaces, and other geographic anomalies, Sensitive Space develops frameworks for understanding the persistent confusions of land, community, and belonging in the India-Bangladesh border zones.


The Gender of Caste: Representing Dalits in Print
By Charu Gupta

The Gender of Caste uses print as a critical tool to examine the depictions of Dalits by colonizers, nationalists, reformers, and Dalits themselves and shows how differentials of gender were critical in structuring patterns of domination and subordination.

Recent Award Winners in Asian Studies

Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China
By Antje Richter

Honorable Mention for the 2016 Eugene M. Kayden Book Award


The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath
By Zhang Daye
Translated by Xiaofei Tian

Winner of the 2016 Patrick D. Hanan Prize for Translation (China), Association for Asian Studies


Excavating the Afterlife: The Archaeology of Early Chinese Religion
By Guolong Lai

Honorable Mention in the Scholarly Category for the Society for American Archaeology Book Award

Exhibitions on View: ‘Conflicts of Interest’

We are delighted to present the catalog to accompany the exhibition, Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan, presented at the Saint Louis Art Museum from October 16, 2016 – January 8, 2017.

Conflicts of Interest showcases extraordinary visual material documenting Japan’s rise as a military power in East Asia, starting with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, then depicting events of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), two wars between Japan and its imperial neighbors China and Russia, and then culminating with Pearl Harbor.

The exhibition is organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum and curated by Philip Hu, associate curator-in-charge of Asian Art, in collaboration with Rhiannon Paget, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Japanese Art. The corresponding book edited by Philip Hu features essays by Hu, Andreas Marks, Sonja Hotwagner, Sebastian Dobson, Rhiannon Paget, and Maki Kaneko; catalogue entries by Hu and Paget; and contributions by Sonja Hotwagner.

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915),The Fall of Jinzhou Fortress: Private First Class Onoguchi Tokuji, 1895, published by Katada Chojiro (active late 19th-early 20th century), center panel of triptych of color woodblock prints, 121:2010b.

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915),The Fall of Jinzhou Fortress: Private First Class Onoguchi Tokuji, 1895, published by Katada Chojiro (active late 19th-early 20th century), center panel of triptych of color woodblock prints, 121:2010b.

In presenting highlights of this collection to the public, the Museum endeavors to foster understanding of the extraordinary art and visual culture of wartime Japan and the complex causes and repercussions of these conflicts, as well as reflect on the ways in which the images communicate, sometimes with devastating consequences, narratives and ideals of nation, empire, and ethnic identity.—From the foreword by Brent R. Benjamin, The Barbara B. Taylor Director, Saint Louis Art Museum

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Exhibitions on View: ‘Bhupen Khakhar’

Bhupen

Khakhar painting “Paan Beedi Shop” at Documenta IX, Kassel, 1992. Photograph by Benjamin Katz.

“I think your own weakness should also be reflected in painting. One can’t hide oneself behind a painting. It is standing naked in front of everyone—what you are.”—Bhupen Khakhar, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1983

The University of Washington Press recently copublished Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All, edited by Chris Dercon and Nada Raza, with Tate Modern in London. The book accompanies an exhibition on display until November 6, 2016. Bringing together Khakhar’s paintings and some of his ceramics, Bhupen Khakhar: You Can’t Please All is a rare opportunity to discover Khakhar’s work and his inspirational story. Continue reading

June 2016 News, Reviews, and Events

News

Niccole Coggins staff news photo

We are pleased to announce that Niccole Leilanionapae‘āina Coggins has joined us as the 2016-2017 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow, effective June 1. Niccole comes to us from the department of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Please welcome Niccole to the Press!

Congratulations to artist, author, and University of Washington alumna Barbara Earl Thomas, recently awarded the 2016 Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award from Artist Trust, and a nominee for a 2016 Stranger Genius Award in visual arts. Thomas is the author of Storm Watch (1998) and co-author of Never Late for Heaven (2003) and Joe Feddersen (2008).

College Art Association has awarded a grant through the Millard Meiss Publication Fund for Painting by Candlelight: The Art of Resistance in Mao’s China by Shelley Drake Hawks (Fall 2017). Congratulations to the author and all involved!

Congratulations to Antje Richter, awarded an Honorable Mention for Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China (2013) by the Eugene M. Kayden Book Award at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

We also congratulate Barbara Goldstein, editor of Public Art by the Book, winner of the 2016 Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Award.

spring-sale-2016Our Spring Sale 2016 is on now! Visit our site through June 30, 2016 to save 50% off hundreds of titles. Use code WSPR to order online or call 1-800-537-5487.

The University of Washington Press shares in the remembrance of three remarkable people. Anne Gould Hauberg, a major figure in Seattle’s cultural life, advocate for the learning disabled, and subject of the biography Fired by Beauty: Anne Gould Hauberg by Barbara Johns, passed away on April 11 at age 98. Arthur (Art) R. Kruckeberg, influential botanist and author of Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, among other books, died on May 25 at age 96. Renowned Chinese writer Yang Jiang—author of Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder’ (Ganxiao liuji), translated by Howard Goldblatt—passed away on May 25 at age 104.

Reviews and Interviews

An excerpt of Once and Future River with photographs by Tom Reese and essay by Eric Wagner appears online at the Seattle Times and in print in Pacific NW Magazine.
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