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Beauty & Happiness: Chinese perspectives

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Jason C. Kuo is Professor of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He studied connoisseurship at the National Palace Museum and later received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has taught at Williams College and Yale University. His books and exhibition catalogs include Wang Yüan-ch’i’s Art of Landscape Painting (Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1981); Trapping Heaven and Earth in the Cage of Form (Taipei: Shih-pao wen-hua Publishing, 1986); Innovation within Tradition: The Painting of Huang Pin-hung (Williamstown: Williams College Museum of Art, 1989); The Austere Landscape: The Paintings of Hung-jen (Taipei and New York: SMC Publishing in cooperation with University of Washington Press, 1991); Word as Image: The Art of Chinese Seal Engraving (New York: China Institute in America; distributed by University of Washington Press, 1992); Chen Chikwan (Taipei: Chin-hsiu Publishing, 1995); Rethinking Art History and Art Criticism (Taipei: National Museum of History, 1996); Practicing Art History and Art Criticism (Taipei: National Museum of History, 2002); and Transforming Traditions in Modern Chinese Painting: Huang Pin-hung’s Late Work (Bern and New York: Peter Lang, 2004), and Chinese Ink Painting Now (New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2010). He is the editor of several books and exhibition catalogs, including Sense of Beauty and Creation of Form (Taipei: Lien-ching Publishing, 1982); The Paintings of Lo Ch’ing (Taipei: Tung-ta Publishing, 1990); Contemporary Essays on Painting in Taiwan, 1945-1990 (Taipei: Hsiung-shih Publishing, 1991); Heirs to a Great Tradition: Modern Chinese Painting from the Tsien-hsiang-chai Collection (distributed by University of Washington Press, 1993); The Helen D. Ling Collection of Chinese Ceramics (distributed by University of Washington Press, 1995); Visual Culture in Taiwan, 1975-1995 (Taipie: I-shu-chia Publishing, 1995); Discovering Chinese Painting: Dialogues with Art Historians (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2006); Visual Culture in Shanghai, 1850s–1930s (Washington, D.C.: New Academia, 2007); Perspectives on Connoisseurship of Chinese Painting (Washington, D.C.: New Academia, 2008); and Stones from Other Mountains: Chinese Painting Studies in Postwar America (Washington, D.C.: New Academia, 2009). His writings have appeared in numerous journals, including Art Journal, Asian Culture Quarterly , Chinese Culture Quarterly, Chinese Studies, Bulletin of the National Palace Museum, Orientations, China Quarterly, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Asian and African Studies, and Ars Orientalis . He has received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, two Stoddard Fellowships in Asian Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, two fellowships from the J. D. Rockefeller III Fund, and many other scholastic honors. In 1991–1992, he received the Lilly Fellowship for teaching excellence at the University of Maryland. In 1992–1993 he organized and directed a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College Teachers on “The Art of Imperial China.” From 1993 to 1998, he undertook the study of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century art of Shanghai, a research project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that combined the work of six scholars from China and six from the United State. He directed the Summer Institute of Connoisseurship in Chinese Calligraphy and Painting from 2001 to 2003, also funded by the Luce Foundation. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Taipei in 2001–2002.


My lecture explores the intersection between the Chinese sense of beauty and Chinese spiritual and cultural ideals. It will focus on Taoist, Confucian, and Buddhist ideas about happiness and how those ideas might be related to an understanding of Chinese art. More specifically, it will discuss the theory and practice of spontaneity in the pursuit of happiness and beauty in Chinese culture. It will also examine the possibilities for a cross-cultural understanding of beauty and happiness.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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