The role and function of „Chinese Beauties“ in Japanese Painting

Lecture on Thursday, December 2, 2010, 6 pm, Room 311

Speaker: NAKAMACHI Keiko, Jissen Women's University
  Ishibashi Visiting Professor for Japanese Art History at Heidelberg University


In pre-modern periods, “Chinese Beauties” (kara bijin) as represented in Japanese paintings, functioned as a changing symbol of admiration for China, the country which exerted great cultural authority, and played diverse roles for Japan in her various historical periods. Represented as empress, court lady, woman literati, Buddhist or Taoist deity, „Chinese Beauties“ go way beyond mere portraits of foreign ladies, operating instead as a highly cultural image. Although becoming somewhat stereotyped, these figures were painted from the eighth through the early twentieth centuries and continued to be of aesthetic, social,  and political importance.

Lecture in Japanese with consecutive translation.



is professor for Japanese art history at Jissen Women’s University in Tokyo, and Ishibashi Visiting Professor for Japanese Art History in Heidelberg for the winter semester 2010/11. Her main area of expertise is the Rinpa School of Painters in early modern Japan. She has published three monographs on the most prominent artists and paintings from this school. While expanding on various pictorial genres, her approach is informed by close historical and contextual analyses, which yielded pathbreaking results for a better understanding of production processes and patronage questions.

Other foci of her research include the study of narrative paintings on the canonical Tales of Genji and Ise from the 16th through 19th centuries, ukiyo-e paintings and prints, art historiography, and the artistic exchange between China and Japan. Within this last topic, she led a two-years project, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, on the representation of Chinese Beauties in Japanese Art, which is also the topic of her lecture.


Image: 風流陣・明皇蝶幸(MOA美・部分)


This lecture is funded by the Cluster of Excellence „Asia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows“ at Heidelberg University.

Verantwortlich: SH
Letzte Änderung: 28.02.2012
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