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Art, Archaeology and Science

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Chinese Archaeological and Artistic Materials

Meili Yang is Professor at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. Her primary interest is in combining her expertise in art history and materials science in the study of Chinese artistic and archaeological materials.

Science has played a crucial role in the initial stages of westerners’ collecting and studying ancient Chinese artworks and archaeological materials. The relevant scientific data were quickly generated using progressively sophisticated examination techniques. But the task of integrating scientific data with archaeological and art historical resources, and developing a workable interdisciplinary study method, has lagged behind scientific endeavor.

Part One of this book explores the modes and functions of the scientific resources available and their integration into interdisciplinary study methods and models; pre-war researchers particularly emphasized that their studies of Chinese artistic/archaeological materials were scientific. Improvements in precision and advanced specialization of examining instruments and techniques resulted in substantively more detailed scientific data, particularly in the post-war period. This brought with it new research dimensions and increased knowledge of targeted samples, and also greater challenges to the integration of interdisciplinary study.

In Part Two, Meili Yang establishes a feasible method of interdisciplinary study in terms of five case studies related to Chinese Song ceramics. Relevant data are provided and professionally explained, resulting in critical new information related to contemporary ceramic technologies. This technology information leads us to the recognition of the uniqueness of each single artwork and the artisan’s individual intention – and critically, recognition of the close association with contemporary society and culture at the time of manufacture. Utilizing this new method of interdisciplinary study, modern science, ancient technology, and art and society are seen to have explicit connections. The author not only broadens scholars’ and readers’ perspectives regarding ancient ceramic craft, but provides a rigorous methodology applicable to interdisciplinary studies across other disciplines.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-733-9
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $74.95
Release Date: November 2015
Page Extent / Format: 176 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Illustrations


1. Scientific Study of Archaeological Materials during the Chinese Song Dynasty: a Shen Kua Case Study

2. The Role of Science in Western Chinese Jade Collection and Knowledge Creation: a Case Study

3. Modern Western Science in Initial Chinese Archeology Development

4. Scientific Study of Chinese Archaeological Materials in the Pre-war Period: Berthold Laufer’s Han Porcelain Case Study

5. Qinghe and Song Shards: Rethinking Palmgren’s Scientific Investigation in Pre-war China

6. Ancient Chinese Shards in the Post-war West: Science and Art Perspectives

7. Technological Variations and the Artist’s Intention: a Case Study of Chinese Southern Song Guan Imperial Ware

8. Technology and Art in Society: the Significance of ‘Furnace Transmutation’ in Chinese Song Jun Ware

9. Sintering Technology and Art in Chinese Song Ding White Ware

10. Beyond Cross-technology: a Case Study of Chinese Song Imperial Ru in Jun Glaze

Yang presents ten journal articles based on recent research that describe the role that science has played in the collection and study of ancient Chinese art and archaeological materials by Westerners. The collection focuses specifically on the types of scientific resources employed and the methods utilized before, during, and after WWII, showing a significant shift influenced by the war; it also provides discourse and research around the issue of scientific research on these items in Chinese history. The book presents a series of case studies and several informative illustrations.

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