Reordering the Natural World: Animals, Plants, and the Natural Environment in Early Modern China (1000-1900)


The joint seminar, organized by Leiden University and Academia Sinica, aims to adumbrate an emerging cultural critique of how knowledge of animals, plants, and the natural environment was produced and manipulated, and how the educated public perceived human relationship with nature in early modern China (1000-1900). This seminar will tackle the above issues from the perspective of visual art and material culture.
The relationship between the natural and human world is usually generalized as harmonious and correlative in popular understanding as well as in scholarly enquiries. However, such idealization and reduction often mask the possibilities to unpack the shifting epistemological configuration and complex power dynamic between nature, culture, and politics in early modern China. It is our hypothesis that a shift in knowledge patterns of nature and the visual strategies of representing new things took place at the turn of the early modern period. The medieval knowledge system of animals, plants, and the natural environment was primarily built on symbolic and transcendental meanings and interpreted through religious practices. However, with urban growth, interest in empirical exploration, and globalized material exchange starting from the eleventh century, the medieval infatuation of the symbolic nature faced profound challenges, and the educated public set out to search for new ways to reconfigure systems of taxonomy, make visual representations, and produce cultural meanings.





Dr. F. Lin

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden


05/12/2019 tot 30/11/2019