Site-Based Art Historical Research in China:

Site-Based Art Historical Research in China:





















Faculty Instructor: Professor Richard Vinograd, Department of Art & Art History

Arrival Date in Beijing, China: June 15, 2013
Departure Date from Beijing, China: July 6, 2013


Seminar Overview

Many kinds of art historical research can effectively be conducted in museums, archives, or through online sources or reproductive media. However, the experiential and physical aspects of architectural, garden, or ritual sites as environments for images and objects can offer valuable insights into conditions of viewing and reception, embodied and performative responses, and potentials for interactions with art media. The Beijing region harbors a diverse roster of Yuan, Ming, Qing and modern era art historical sites, though in dramatically varying states of physical survival, preservation, or restoration, and thus can serve as a kind of laboratory for exploring the problems and potentials of site-based art historical research.

This seminar will survey several categories of local art historically significant sites in the Beijing area. There will also be a week-long field trip to Shanxi Province where we will visit a number of important art historical sites including the Yongle Daoist Temple, Liao Timber Pagoda, and Yunggang Buddhist Grottoes.Our activities will take the form of alternating site visits and seminar discussions of associated scholarly studies that exemplify the problems and potentials of site-specific investigations. The seminar agenda will be organized around some of the following categories:

1. Virtual Sites of Representation: such as Mi Wanzhong’s (1570-1628) late Ming dynasty Shao Yuan Garden site on the Peking University campus, which survives only in the form of pictorial and textual representations.

2. Ruins: such as the Qing era Yuanmingyuan (Garden of Perfect Brightness).

3. Integral Sites: such as the early 15th century Fahai (Sea of the Dharma) Buddhist temple in the Western suburbs of Beijing, with a cycle of original mural paintings

4. Living Historical Sites: such as the Yonghe Gong Lama Temple in northeast Beijing.

5. Curated Meta-Sites: such as the Forbidden City, with its layered Ming and Qing era buildings and repurposings, and modern museological adaptations.


Prerequisites and Expectations

Graduate participants: a minimum of one upper level or graduate level course or seminar in art history (any field); or in Asian history, literature, philosophy, or religious studies. Permission of the instructor required.

Undergraduate participants: a minimum of one course in art history, or archaeology, or Asian area studies - history, literature, anthropology, or religious studies. Permission of the instructor required.

Participants will be expected to prepare summaries and discussions of assigned readings, and to participate fully in all site visits and seminar discussions.


Grading Basis

This seminar is non unit-bearing and grades will not be assigned. Students who would like to enroll for credit may consult with the seminar instructor and/or their individual departments to explore "directed research" opportunities.


Faculty Bio

Richard Vinograd is the Christensen Fund Professor in Asian Art in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1989. Professor Vinograd’s research interests include Chinese portraiture, landscape painting and cultural geography, urban cultural spaces, painting aesthetics and theory, art historiography, and inter-media studies.



SCPKU is Stanford’s headquarters for faculty and students engaged in research, teaching, training and outreach activities in China. The Center is located on the PKU campus in the Haidian District of Beijing, which is known for its rich intellectual community, including top universities, research academies and government agencies. The 3400-square-meter center is designed as a resource for the entire Stanford community, providing collaborative spaces and offices as well as support services to facilitate the work of scholars and programs. SCPKU is a focal point for building academic and educational networks throughout East Asia, bringing together established researchers and a new generation of young scholars to create a vibrant and dynamic hub of intellectual exchange and collaboration.


For More Information

Contact Connie Chao for more information about SCPKU's Graduate Seminar Program and other programs and events at the center.