Heping Liu will be coming to speak in the Seminar in Comparative Medieval Material Culture (China, Islam, Europe) Wednesday, March 10, 2010, on “Hydraulic Engineering, Emperorship, and Ecology in 10th and 11th Century China: Evidence from the Visual Arts”

Heping Liu is associate professor of Asian art history at Wellesley College. Born in China and among the first post-Cultural Revolution college students, Professor Liu received his B.A. in English in 1982 from Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Languages (China). He came to the United Stated in 1986 to pursue graduate study in art history, respectively at Southern Methodist University (M.A. 1988), University of California at Berkeley (1988–90), and Yale University (M.A. 1991, M.Phil.1995, Ph.D. 1997). Among his many awards are a graduate assistantship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1987), Starr, Rockefeller, and Ford foundation fellowships and grants from Asian Cultural Council (1989–93), an Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Fellowship (1995), an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (2002), and several Wellesley faculty research grants.

Professor Liu’s research focuses on art and society in Northern Song dynasty China (960–1126). His major publications include “The Water-Mill and Northern Song Imperial Patronage of Art, Commerce, and Science” in Art Bulletin (2002), “Empress Liu’s Icon of Maitreya: Portraiture and Privacy at the Early Song Court” in Artibus Asiae (2003), and “Juecheng: An Indian Buddhist Monk Painter in Early 11th-Century Chinese Court” in Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology (2007). He is currently working on a book project entitled, Painting and Empire in Early Song Dynasty China, 960-1063.

Dr. Liu will speak about “Hydraulic Engineering, Emperorship, and Ecology in 10th and 11th Century China: Evidence from the Visual Arts.” Tenth and eleventh-century China saw a “revolution in science and technology” through a systematic experimental investigation of nature or exploitation of natural resources. The main driving force was the government. The emperor and his court officials defined which technology was emblematic of imperial power and which resources commanded state control and enhanced its image and prestige. Hydraulic engineering was such an imperial technology employed to align political and economic interests, as in the utilization of water resources, flood control, and other imperial hydraulic projects. Such exploitation raised environmental concerns. This seminar talk examines the contemporary political and scientific discourse and surviving evidence of court-sponsored pictures of water mills, flood control, hydraulic astronomical clocks, and landscape and explores how all things were interrelated and produced as representations of emperorship in service to the public good.

Please join us in the Lecture Hall at 38 West 86th Street, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West, at 5:45pm for a reception before the talk.