The transition from the Ming (1368–1644) to the Qing (1636/1644–1911) dynasties brought about suffering and the loss of human life on epic scales. While mourning always was part of the human experience and played a central role in China’s Confucian society, the cataclysmic events of the seventeenth century heightened an awareness among artists for the otherwise often eschewed and inauspicious topics of death, remembrance, and commemoration. This lecture looks at a number of seventeenth-century paintings of tombs, burial sites and places of commemoration. Examining different levels of intimacy between the artist and the deceased—from historical figure to the artist’s own parents—the paper rethinks the fundamental role of mourning and commemoration as a constitutive part of early Qing visual production.
Henning von Mirbach (Ph.D., UCSB) is an Associate Lecturer in the Art and Architecture of Early Modern China at the Courtauld Institute of Art. He specializes in East Asian art history, especially the visual and pictorial cultures of early modern China in their social and global contexts. Prior to joining the Courtauld, Henning was a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he taught courses on Chinese art history and a Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica in Taipei. His current research project investigates how early Qing (1644–1911) painters employed landscapes in the production of locally situated communities through appealing to familial lineages and local culture. This project highlights the recuperative potential of landscape paintings—that is, their capacity to reconstitute social bonds in the aftermath of conquest and colonization. It examines desires, expressed through landscape paintings, to look inwards and root post-conquest identities in the past.