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Object Literacy Research through Epigraphy and Inscriptions in Chinese Art History

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Object Literacy Research through Epigraphy and Inscriptions in Chinese Art History

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 CHASE Cohort Development Fund doctoral training programme for 2017-18 comprising three one-day workshops held at SOAS University of London and the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum and British Library, led by Shane McCausland (SOAS), Wenny Teo (Courtauld Institute of Art) and Stacey Pierson (SOAS).

 

Inscriptions on aesthetic objects from China may be difficult to read and interpret even for seasoned researchers in art history, hence they sometimes remain the preserve of specialist epigraphers. The aim of this training is to build the capacity of participants to employ inscriptions on objects of art and material culture as historical evidence, through a rich introduction to epigraphy—specifically, to the historical framework for the addition, positioning and textual content of inscriptions as well as appraisal of the significance of stylistic references and graphic modes employed. This involves study of the diverse contexts in which inscriptions appear on art objects, as well as case studies of how to read and interpret inscriptions on standard pictorial and decorative art objects. There will be some consideration of early writing but the main emphasis is on aesthetic inscriptions from medieval to modern China, including examples tendered for study by the participants themselves. This training is not just about how to manage sometimes complex examples of epigraphic writing as resources, but also an exercise in developing ʻobject literacyʼ—the ability to read aesthetic objects as cultural forms which often bear textual inscriptions—through the transfer of knowledge by specialists, building skills and developing problem-solving techniques for transcription and translation.