Jan 14 2020


6:30 pm - 7:30 pm


Free and open to the public

Lecture: Rocks As Art—A Chinese Tradition with Jan Stuart, PhD

In late imperial China, carefully selected rocks were admired on a par with the finiest manmade arts, including painting, calligraphy, and porcelain. This lecture takes as its subject the tradition of rocks as art, examining stones–large and small–as well as other types of artworks that connect to China’s deep fascination with geological specimens. How rocks were installed and appreciated in various settings in Ming and Qing dynasty China is considered, including the placement of giant Lake Tai rocks in the garden estates of China’s elite. Serving as “mountains” they triggered imaginative associations and earned a reputation for luring immortals who lived on craggy mountain isles to the garden to share their secrets of long life. Diminutive stones set on a scholar’s desk were treasured as much as outdoor boulders and were esteemed so highly they were displayed among favorite possessions, such as precious collected antiquities.

It is impossible to understand China’s artistic tradition without embracing rocks.


Jan Stuart is the first Melvin R. Seiden Curator of Chinese Art at the Smithosonian: Freer|Sackler. Stuart works broadly in the area of Chinese art, with a special focus on ceramiz, decorative arts, textiles, and court arts, including paintings, from the Song through Qing dynasty. She has held a Mellon Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She earned degrees from Princeton and Yale Universities, specializing in Chinese art, language, and culture.

Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Seating is limited and first come, first served.

This lecture is made possible by the Louis A. and Frances B. Wagner lecture fund.

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