Shih-Shan Susan Huang
Art History, Rice University
Daoist ‘Imagetext’ in Context


Friday, November 1, 2013


12:00 pm – 1:30 pm


38 West 86th Street

Open to BGC faculty, staff, and students only.


Shih-Shan Susan Huang will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch talk on Friday, November 1, from 12:00 to 1:30pm. Her talk is entitled “Daoist ‘Imagetext.’”

Shih-Shan Susan Huang is Associate Professor of Art History at Rice University, where she teaches courses in Chinese art history and visual culture. Prior to her current position, she was Assistant Professor of Chinese Art at the University of Washington-Seattle. She received her PhD from Yale University in 2002. Huang’s first book, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China (Harvard University Asia Center Publication, 2012), investigates a long neglected topic: the visual culture of Daoism, China’s primary indigenous religion, and asks questions regarding the visuality, meaning, and function of Daoist images. Her current research project, First Impressions: Chinese Religious Prints before Gutenberg, 850-1450, is the first book-length study about religious woodcuts from the “Golden Age” of Chinese printmaking, which predates Gutenberg’s first Bible by some six centuries. Her forthcoming publications include “Color in Daoist Visual Culture,” in Mary M. Dusenbury ed., Color in Ancient and Medieval (Yale University Press, Spencer Museum, Marquand Books, forthcoming) and “Daoist Visual Culture,” in John Lagerwey ed., Modern Chinese Religion, Part 1: Song-Liao-Jin-Yuan (960–1368) (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.)

One of the most striking symbols created by Daoism—China’s indigenous religion—is the hybrid “imagetext” that creates ambiguity between words and images, legibility and illegibility, the representational and the nonrepresentational. Various charts, talismans, and magical writs preserved in the fifteenth-century Daoist Canon appropriate elements of writings to create new visual forms. Daoist practice of “imagetext” highlights the long-lasting fascination with writing in religious Daoism. “Imagetext” is not a simple interface of text and image, but rather is imbedded in cosmological and spatial dimensions, for according to the Daoist perception of world creation, “imagetext” is part of the landscape.

Brown Bag Lunch