CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


Term, Concept, and Translation: Rethinking "xieshizhuyi" and "xianshizhuyi"

Session 1 Words and Concepts

University of Connecticut


In his 2009 talk at Altermodern: Tate Triennial, Okwui Enwezor pointed to the words “grand modernity” and “petit modernity” to address “a dual narrative that is often taken to be characteristic of modernity: the first is the idea of its unique Europeanness, and the second is its translatability into non-European cultures.” This issue of translatability, raised in Enwezor’s discussion, is particularly intriguing, since some key phrases used in the narration of modern China art were often entangled with the vocabulary imported from foreign languages. To tackle this translingual formation of art concept, this paper focuses on the term “realism,” which has been equated with two different Chinese expressions xieshi zhuyi and xianshi zhuyi. Although these two expressions are at times conceived as interchangeable, they imply rather divergent concepts about art and have their roots in distinctive historical contexts. 


Yan Geng is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Art and Art History and the Institute of Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. She completed her Ph.D. study in East Asian art history at Heidelberg University in Germany in 2012. Her dissertation focuses on the representation of Mao Zedong in the early People’s Republic of China and examines how Mao’s portrait as the nation’s leader was constructed and what such images suggest about the Chinese artists’ experience during the Communist takeover of the country. She has been teaching Asian art in Connecticut since 2013 and was awarded a fellowship for the exhibition “Postwar – Art between the Pacific and Atlantic 1945-1965” at Haus der Kunst, Munich during the academic year 2014-2015.