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Lecture | IIAS/Rijksmuseum Annual Lecture

Water’s Way: Female Agency and the Artful Legacy of Chinese Imperial Women

  • Hui-shu Lee (University of California)
Friday 1 December 2023
Museumstraat 1
1071 XX Amsterdam

Water, the embodiment of yin femininity that complements yang masculinity, has been the most enduring element of Chinese cosmological thought since the Book of Changes.  It is the metaphor of the supreme yin in Laozi’s Daode jing, venerated as the highest good, close to the Way or Dao. Water’s pliable nature, however, belies its true power. Water not only signifies the ultimate female image but the powerful presence of Chinese imperial women.  

Utilizing a wide range of diverse historical sources and materials, this interdisciplinary study pieces together a lost history of female creativity by recounting the oft-hidden but critical role imperial women played as patrons, collectors, tastemakers, and artists in imperial China.  Their artful legacy is evident from temple building, sculpture making, and capital planning to the arts of writing and painting, or in other words every aspect of art production. This gendered mode of expression, or the “way of water,” provided a lasting model for the conveyance of Chinese female imperial agency. 

Want to know more?

More information on this event and the registration form can be found on the website of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS).

You might also be interested in the masterclass for students Picturing West Lake: the Representation of An Iconic Place in Tu and Hua on 30 November 2023.

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