At a time when interest in China has never been greater, this revised edition ofMary Tregear's authoritative survey of the Chinese visual arts will be welcomed by art lovers, travelers, and students alike. Generously illustrated and eminently readable, it covers not only bronzes, jades, calligraphy, and painting, but also Buddhist sculpture, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, lacquer, garden design, and architecture. For the revised edition, Chinese names, places, and terms have been romanized to current international usage. Throughout, information has been updated in view of new finds; there is a new introduction, and the final chapter on twentieth-century art has been completely rewritten. Includes a chronology of Chinese historical periods and six maps.
These two current overviews of Chinese art take very different approaches. Keeper of the Department of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Tregear offers a chronologically organized work that covers its topic in brief survey form, using representative examples of bronzes, painting, laquerware, ceramics, jade, and stone carving. The book is so brief and the sweep is so broad that a reader not already familiar with the general outline of Chinese history and common Chinese terms may have trouble forming a coherent picture, particularly in regard to the earliest centuries covered. Significantly, Tregear leaves out the important find of a cache of figures at Shanxingdui in 1986, which has been of enormous importance in broadening the known range of cultures in ancient China. On the other hand, she provides an excellent section on 20th-century Chinese art, an area neglected by many of the standard histories. Clunas's (history of art, Univ. of Sussex) approach, by contrast, involves a more critical, theoretical inquiry into Western notions of Chinese art. He eschews a chronological arrangement in favor of thematic chapters on art at court, in the tomb, in the temple, in the life of the elite, and in the marketplace. He makes a point of including objects that have been considered masterpieces intermixed with other less well-known works. He is concerned throughout his text with issues of the historical place of art in Chinese society and with how that society evaluated various objects. The finds at Shanxingdui are mentioned, and some attention is paid to 20th-century work, though not as much in Tregear's survey. Both of these titles have merits as overviews of Chinese art and both could be used by students as well as interested lay readers. If your library can afford only one work, Clunas's is the more up-to-date, both in approach to its material and in selection of works to discuss.Kathryn Wekselman, Univ. of Cincinnati Lib., Ohio