CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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


Binding the canon: The butterfly-fold binding of Chinese art books in the 17th century

Session 21 Connecting Art Histories and World Art

Fine Art College, Shanghai Normal University


In the course of the seventeenth century, the status of pictures in China underwent a significant transformation, which was particularly visible in woodcuts. From being an integral part of the publications for satisfying the normal readers, the woodcuts came to designate an area of possible innovation. I wish to present a significant and unique example here, the Min Qiji’s Huizhen Album, as an only extant collection in Museum of East Asian Arts in Cologne.Such woodcuts have long been studied by art historians, but only in recent years has major interest been shown for the specific way of butterfly-fold binding. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, such printed works were used not only as a vehicle for the illustration of the dramas or stories, but also for the representation of the publishers or the owners.My paper will first try to sketch the historical development of the way of binding this “art book” and then go on to analyze the function of prints in the formation of the changing ideas of the canon. I am arguing that some woodcuts in late Ming dynasty more than any other illustrative “document” enabled modern art history to develop a multidimensional vision of the early “age of the image”, which is at the core of Chinese art history today in the “global turn”.



Born in 1986. 2004-2014, BA, MA, PhD in Art History, China Academy of Art. Doctoral dissertation on “Min Qiji’s Huizhen Album” advised by Prof. Fan Jingzhong. Since 2014, Lecturer, Fine Art College, Shanghai Normal University.