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2007 Minutes

Ming Studies Evening Meeting, 7:00pm., March 23, 2007, AAS Conference,Boston, MA

The meeting was called to order by Past-president Martin Heijdra, on behalf of President Sarah Schneewind, introducing the new president of the Society of Ming Studies, Jenny Purtle. Jenny presided over the meeting.

Part I: Society Business

  1. Jenny began by thanking Martin, Sarah and Katie Ryor. Martin steps down as past-president. Sarah steps down as president to become past-president.Katie Ryor is stepping down from editor position of Ming Studies, to be replaced by Ken Hammond.
  2. An attendance list was passed around, including an indication of registry on the Minglist. (38 in attendance) People interested in subscribing, unsubscribing or revising their subscription to the Minglist can find complete instructions at: http://mailmanbox.colby.edu/mailman/listinfo/minglist
  3. Katie reported that Ming Studies is now “caught up” with volume 54 (fall 2006) in press and vol. 55 (spr 2007) ready to go. Vol. 56 (fall 2007) is already underway with its articles in revision. Katie urged Society members to keep the submissions coming.
  4. Katie also announced that Ming Studies will now consider publishing translations, preferably with introductions and annotations. The journal will also consider publishing conference papers as un-refereed research notes.
  5. Harriett Zurndorfer announced the publication of the Nannü volume on Ming male friendship, edited by Martin Huang, with articles by Martin, Anne Gerritsen, Kim Besio and Joseph Lam.
  6. Peter Ditmanson reported that the website is up and running at www.colby.edu/ming/. Kim Besio (kabesio@colby.edu) and/or Peter (pbditman@colby.edu) are the contacts for posting announcements or materials on the website. Submissions of materials or links would be most welcome.
  7. Martin announced that the Princeton text-reading seminar was cancelled due to lack of applicants. The materials will, however, be published as a book within the year. He also reiterated that the Geiss Foundation offers grants of $5000 to $10,000 for projects or conferences. More information can be found at http://www.geissfoundation.org/.
  8. Peter Bol announced that version 4 of the Historical GIS has been released, which includes county level data for the north China plain into the Ming period. There is a supplementary project underway to add population data that will include the 1390 census. County-level gazetteer information will also be added. A CD of the current version has not yet been produced, but the program can be downloaded for free at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~chgis/.
  9. The Society voted to elect Jiang Yonglin as president-elect of the Society of Ming Studies.Maram Epstein and Roland Higgins were also elected as new members of the board. In the absence of any nominations for a new graduate student representative, the board was granted permission to elect a student representative.
  10. There was a discussion of possible themes for next year’s meeting. Global connections to the Ming was one suggestion.Court material culture was another suggestion.It was agreed that this conversation would continue on the Minglist.
  11. There was discussion of Ming Studies sponsorship of panel proposals for AAS conferences.The issues were the criteria for sponsorship, the number of panels that could be sponsored and the timing. For timing, board members indicated that a deadline of 6 weeks before the AAS deadline was needed for board members to review the proposals and recommend changes.(NOTE: the board has since revised this deadline to 4 weeks. This year, with the AAS deadline of August 17, the Ming sponsorship deadline will be July 20).

Society members discussed and voted on the issue of the number of panels to sponsor, with the results being 13 in favor of 1 panel only; 6 opposed to limiting the number of sponsored panels; and 1 abstention.

It was agreed, however, that more information was needed on the significance and effect of Society sponsorship before such as judgment could be made. It was agreed that an inquiry would be made with AAS program committee and that the issue would be revisited. (NOTE: a recent inquiry with the AAS program committee found that organizational sponsorship does not affect panel selection for the AAS program.)

Part II: Panel on Material Culture

Sophie Volpp introduced four panelists to talk about material culture in the Ming: Josh Yiu, speaking on ceramics; Qian Shenbai, speaking on the materiality of rubbings; Lucille Chia, speaking on books; and Joseph Lam, speaking on music and musical instruments.

Josh Yiu (Seattle Art Museum) on ceramics

Josh introduced a bibliography of materials (attached) on ceramics and material culture, pointing out that many of the older “classic” studies on ceramics remain very useful.

Studies of ceramics tend to focus on dating, authenticity, services for which objects are used, technology and industry of production, and trade. Recently scholars have become more interested in how objects are used and consumed and what they tell us about daily life.

In the Ming, possession of ceramics involved either practical usage or collecting. The Ming inherited a long tradition of collecting ceramics, a tradition well embedded in the culture by that point.

The study of the use of objects is, in many ways, less straightforward than the study of collecting. Ceramics are not always easy to identify as utilitarian items and are often not easy to link to textual references. Objects that have one meaning or use in one time period can have a different meaning or use in a later period.

Josh discussed the pitfalls of interpreting ceramics in the light of material culture. One is that ceramics can come to be stereotypically associated with certain time periods and places, leading to premature assessments of their depiction in texts, paintings, etc. Another is that judgments of the taste in the decoration of utilitarian ceramic objects are problematic because of our lack of knowledge of their marketing.A bottle, for example, could have been purchased for its contents and not necessarily for its decoration.Therefore we are not entirely safe in assessing the tastes of the consumer of such an object.

[Josh later provided a bibliography]

Lucille Chia (UC Riverside) on Rare Books

Lucille Chia discussed the process of searching for and examining rare books.She presented a handout that she stressed was “a bare-bones” guide (attached). Lucille emphasized that one must be resourceful in the process of hunting for rare volumes, since they are often kept in places other than the Rare Book sections of libraries. Frequently books that are rare can also be found in other parts of the library.

Rare volumes can also be found in museums (such as the Palace Museum), religious organizations and temples, private collections, state-run cultural relics offices, and even in flea markets.

In searching for rare books, one must use both online and printed catalogs. Older catalogs often include valuable information.Online catalogs are usually copied from the printed catalogs, often with mistakes. Electronic catalogs are also harder to browse. Lucille emphasized picking the brains of local EAS librarians before making a trip to a library elsewhere.

Access to rare book collections in libraries varies. Letters of introduction are important and it is useful to ask around about contacts and to seek information about possible closures.

Although major libraries are in the process of scanning materials, one should try to see original editions to inspect the paper, ink, color, condition and marginalia.Make sure to bring pencils, notebook, ruler and a magnifying glass. Take measurements, as those in the catalog are often unreliable. Be careful in handling fragile editions.

Lucille recommended taking careful note of the kind of paper and ink. Editions that are purportedly the same sometimes aren’t.Tell-take clues include different annotations, seals, publishers, lacunae, prefaces, post-faces, and fanli (authorial guidelines).

One should also bring money for making copies. In case it is possible to take photographs of an edition, one should bring a camera and a piece of light-colored fabric for background. One should also bring permissions request information and forms, etc. so that one does not need to send these to the library later.

[Lucille also provided a guide to finding rare books]

Qianshen Bai (Boston University) on rubbings

Qianshen introduced the some of the problems of the historicity of rubbings.

One of the basic methodological problems in the use of rubbings lies in establishing the sequence of rubbings on the premise that rubbings reflect decay in the original inscription. The problem is that rubbings are often treated as photographs.Reading rubbings in this way fails to take into account the circumstances of the time the rubbing was made (temperature, humidity, quality of materials, etc.)Moreover, rubbings were themselves regarded as works of art, often with blurring as an intentional effect. Hence the refinement of the rubbing cannot be taken as clear evidence either for the decay of the inscription or for the date of the rubbing.

Older rubbings of Yuan, Ming and Qing stele are rare because these were regarded as having lesser market value and collector interest. Rubbings frequently include additional historical data, such as the seal of collectors.

Qianshen noted that major collections of rubbings can be found at the Field Museum of the Harvard-Yenching Library and at the Chinese National Library (Beijing), Library of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Beijing University Library, and the Shanghai Library.

Qianshen also offered the following bibliographic references on rubbings:

  • Qianshen Bai, “The Artistic and Intellectual Aspects of Chinese Calligraphy Rubbings: Some Examples from the Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth.” Orientations 30, no. 3 (March, 1999):82-8.
  • Qianshen Bai, “The Intellectual Legacy of Huang Yi and His Friends: Reflections on Some Issues Raised by Recarving China’s Past,” in Proceedings of the International Symposium “Recarving China’s Past,” Princeton University Art Museum, 2007 (forthcoming).
  • Wu Hung, “On Rubbings: Their Materiality and Historicity,” in Writing and Materiality in China: Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan, ed. Judith T. Zeitlin and Lydia H. Liu (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), 29-72.
  • Ma Ziyun ???, Jinshi chuan ta jifa ??????. (Beijing: Remin meishu chubanshe, 1988)
  • Fang Ruoyuan ???, with supplement by Wang Zhuanghong???, Zengbu xiaobei suibi???? ??. (Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 1981).
4. Joseph Lam (University of Michigan) on Musical Instruments

In his presentation, Joseph indicated that music should be regarded as a discourse, not simply as an aggregation of sound. He focused on the information that can be gleaned about Ming society and culture from a careful examination of the musical instruments of the period.As gifts and as commodities, instruments yield information about social relations. The social place of musical instruments can be understood through such information as pricing, collectability, and the use of instruments in decoration.

One important area of information is the inscriptions on instruments. Joseph showed examples of inscriptions on temple bells and on the guqinthat give the socio-political context surrounding the creation or presentation of the instrument.

Information on the social meaning of music and musical instruments can be found in the representation of instruments in architectural designs, in court paintings (of official processions), temple murals, and in the paintings of individual artists.Joseph used examples of paintings that suggest the psychological and social meaning of musical instruments, including indicators of gender and social relations.Joseph cautioned that some images are realistic and depict the accurate use of these instruments, while others are unrealistic and show improbable handling. This adds to the challenge of reading and interpreting these depictions.

Joseph indicated that he is interested broadly in any information that colleagues come across about the social meaning of music in the Ming.

This concluded the evening’s presentations.

Ted made a motion to adjourn the meeting. All seconded.

Submitted by Peter Ditmanson, Secretary of Ming Studies.

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