For aspiring collectors in early modern China, the meaning, the authenticity and the very existence of whole categories of material artifacts was contingent on a skein of relationships between textual and material realities. Through a case study of the bronze censers attributed to the early-Ming court of Xuande (1425–36), as they were perceived by collectors from the mid-sixteenth century onward, the paper examines the co-creation of object and text. It finds that the changing historical imagination and the technical complexities of industrial production interact in explaining and obscuring novelty, in bridging the marketable and the ineffable and in making present a desirable past.
About the Speaker
Bruce Rusk is an associate professor of department of Asian Studies in the University of British Columbia. His main areas of research and teaching are the cultural history of China, especially the Ming (1368–1644) through early Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. He has worked on the history of textual studies, literary culture, writing systems, and connoisseurship.