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IIAS/Rijksmuseum Annual Lecture | Water’s Way: Female Agency and the Artful Legacy of Chinese Imperial Women

The IIAS cordially invites KVVAK members and other interested parties to a lecture (in English) by Professor Hui-shu Lee.

The Lecture

Water, the embodiment of yin femininity that complements yang masculinity, has been the most enduring element of Chinese cosmological thought since the Book of Changes.  It is the metaphor of the supreme yin in Laozi’s Daode jing, venerated as the highest good, close to the Way or Dao. Water’s pliable nature, however, belies its true power. Water not only signifies the ultimate female image but the powerful presence of Chinese imperial women.

Utilizing a wide range of diverse historical sources and materials, this interdisciplinary study pieces together a lost history of female creativity by recounting the oft-hidden but critical role imperial women played as patrons, collectors, tastemakers, and artists in imperial China.  Their artful legacy is evident from temple building, sculpture making, and capital planning to the arts of writing and painting, or in other words every aspect of art production. This gendered mode of expression, or the “way of water,” provided a lasting model for the conveyance of Chinese female imperial agency.

The Speaker

Hui-shu Lee is Professor of Art History at UCLA. She received her doctorate degree from Yale University in 1994 after first studying at National Taiwan University and working in the National Palace Museum. Her field of specialization is Chinese painting and visual culture in the pre-modern era, with a particular focus on gender issues. She also works extensively on representations of place, cultural mapping, and gardens. Among her publications are Exquisite Moments: West Lake & Southern Song Art (New York: China Institute, 2001) and Empresses, Art, and Agency in Song Dynasty China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010). She is currently completing a book titled Picturing West Lake: the Poetics and Representation of An Iconic Place.


14:45 – 15:30  Registration, coffee/tea

15:30 – 15:40  Welcome & Introduction by Dr Ching-Ling Wang, Curator of Chinese Art at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

15:40 – 16:30  Lecture by Professor Hui-shu Lee, UCLA

16.30 – 17:00  Q&A guided by Dr Ching-Ling Wang


You can register for this lecture via the IIAS website, the registration form is on the right.