Lara Jaishree NettingA Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture

Hong Kong University Press, 2013

by Carla Nappi on September 11, 2014

View on Amazon

Lara Netting’s new book explores the life, career, and work of one man as a window into the history and associated practices of “Chinese art” during a period of massive transformation in the China of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While reading A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture (Hong Kong University Press, 2013), we journey along with John C. Ferguson as he navigates through a complex and fascinating world of government officials, art dealers, scholars, and museums in China and the US. Ferguson gradually became embedded in a social web whose connections made it possible for him to transform from a minister’s son in rural Ontario to a world-class collector, dealer, and scholar of Chinese art while the very notion of “Chinese art” was still emerging and being debated. Netting’s book charts the early development of Ferguson’s relationships with key figures in the political and social landscape of Qing and Republican China, tracing the ways that these relationships gave him an access to and a perspective on antiquities that would shape his later scholarship and career. For that reason, it offers a wonderful perspective on the history of modern China, and specifically on the role of foreign residents of China in that history. A Perpetual Fire also pays special attention to the making of some important museum collections in Chinese art and antiquities – including the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of Ferguson himself – and so it is of special import to readers interested in museum studies, in material culture, and in knowing the complex and fascinating history of how the objects hanging on museum walls and illuminated in display cases got there in the first place.

{ 0 comments }

Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, eds.Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America

September 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Modernity and religion have often been seen as fundamentally at odds. However, the articles in Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America (University of Hawaii Press, 2014 ), edited by Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, argue that Protestant Christianity has played an important role in how East Asians understood and adapted [...]

Read the full article →

Jolyon ThomasDrawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan

September 6, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] The worlds of cinema and illustrated fiction are replete with exciting data for the historian of religion. Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University Of Hawai’i Press, 2012), by author Jolyon Thomas, sets up a robust theoretical model for examining how the concept of religion is deployed in these mediums. [...]

Read the full article →

Hideaki FujikiMaking Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan

September 4, 2014

Stardom has a history. Hideaki Fujiki’s new book traces that history through a story of the transformations of Japanese film stars in the early twentieth century. Taking a deeply transnational approach to understanding the imbrication of film stardom and modernity in Japan, Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013) [...]

Read the full article →

Gregory SmitsSeismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake

August 16, 2014

In two recent books, Gregory Smits offers a history of earthquakes and seismology in Japan that creates a wonderful dialogue between history and the sciences. Seismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake (University of Hawai’i Press, 2013) is a deeply contextualized study of the 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake and [...]

Read the full article →

Tine M. GammeltoftHaunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam

July 22, 2014

Tine Gammeltoft’s new book explores the process of reproductive decision making in contemporary Hanoi. Haunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2014) develops an anthropology of belonging, paying special attention to the ways that women and their communities understand and make decisions based on ultrasound imaging technologies. In [...]

Read the full article →

Christina LaffinRewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu

July 15, 2014

Known primarily as a travel writer thanks to the frequent assignment of her Diary in high school history and literature classes, Nun Abutsu was a thirteenth-century poet, scholar, and teacher, and also a prolific writer. Christina Laffin’s new book explores Abutsu’s life and written works, taking readers in turn through her letters, memoirs, poems, prayers, [...]

Read the full article →

Craig ClunasScreen of Kings: Royal Art and Power in Ming China

July 2, 2014

Craig Clunas’s new book explores the significance of members of the imperial clan, or “kings” in Ming China. A king was established in a “state” (guo), and mapping the Ming in terms of guo’s is a way of mapping Ming space in units that had centers, but not boundaries. (In having many guo’s, the Ming thus had many [...]

Read the full article →

Wensheng WangWhite Lotus Rebels and South China Pirates: Crisis and Reform in the Qing Empire

June 23, 2014

Wensheng Wang’s new book takes us into a key turning point in the history of the Qing empire, the Qianlong-Jiaqing reign periods. In White Lotus Rebels and South China Pirates: Crisis and Reform in the Qing Empire (Harvard University Press, 2014), Wang re-evaluates how we understand this crucial period in light of the eruption of [...]

Read the full article →

James CarterHeart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth-Century Monk

June 11, 2014

Jay Carter’s new book follows the life of one man as a way of opening a window into the lived history of twentieth-century China. Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth-Century Monk (Oxford University Press, 2011; paperback edition 2014) is less a traditional biography than a life of an emergent [...]

Read the full article →