Sensuous Surfaces

The Decorative Object in Early Modern China

Sensuous Surfaces

Distributed for Reaktion Books

440 pages | 7.5 x 9.8
?Sensuous Surfaces is a systematic introduction to the decorative arts in Ming and Qing dynasty China. Jonathan Hay’s analysis takes in both material and technique, and also issues of patronage and taste, which together formed a loose system of informal rules that affected every level of decoration in early modern China, from an individual object to the arrangement of an entire residential interior. By engaging the actual and metaphoric potential of surface, this system guided the production and use of the decorative arts during a period of explosive growth, which started in the late sixteenth century and continued until the mid-nineteenth century. The system made a fundamental contribution to the sensory education of China’s early modern urban population, both as individuals and in their embodiment of established social roles. Sensuous Surfaces is also a meditation on the role of pleasure in decoration. Often intellectually dismissed as merely pleasurable, Hay argues that decoration is better understood as a necessary form of art which can fulfil its function only by engaging the human capacity for erotic response. Featuring around 280 colour images, of a wide range of early modern Chinese objects and art-works, this book will engage anyone with an interest in decoration, art, China – or the experience of pleasure itself.
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