to top


University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara)
Department of History of Art and Architecture

Thesis Topic

“Local Landscapes: Fa Ruozhen (1613–1696) and the Making of Conquest Identities in Early Qing China”

The dissertation recovers the Qing “collaborator” and painter Fa Ruozhen 法若真 (1613–1696), a literati from northern Shandong. Through Fa, I problematize traditional scholarly approaches that privilege accounts of “national” memories produced by Ming loyalists and foreground instead what I argue united artists from both sides of the political spectrum, namely the widespread turn to picturing the locale and its capacity to serve as a site of personal and collective memories that were a key to individual and group identity formation. Following the establishment of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), commemorative landscape paintings took pride of place in artists’ oeuvres. In the 1660s, the new regime executed over seventy literati for recording their memories of the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Known as the Ming History Case, this brutal episode gave new weight and urgency to the act of recording memories. I contend that Fa Ruozhen responded to the traumatic dynastic change and imperial censorship by turning to the well-established genre of commemorative landscape painting. Where imperial commissions celebrated national events, designed to consolidate Manchu rulership, Fa’s artistic practice aimed at reconstructing collective literati identities of the conquest generation by elevating familial and local memories. Strikingly, the same strategies are evident in the landscapes of painters who are usually seen as the ethical antithesis to early Qing officials: those who remained loyal to the Ming dynasty such as the artist Xu Fang 徐枋 (1622–1694). I contend that the commemorative landscapes of the early Qing became a vibrant site for the negotiation of conquest identities. They provided a medium for artists to construct continuities across political and dynastic divides, pointing to the vitality of the genre in a period of rapid transformation.

Fa Ruozhen (1613–1696), Cloudy Mountains, 1684. Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 137.5 x 69.5 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.