Tian Chun gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, from 12 to 1:30pm, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His talk is entitled “Parasols and Pagodas: Lacquer Furniture and East West Exchange in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.”

In his talk, Dr. Chun will investigate the parasol and the pagoda, both popular chinoiserie motifs in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European decorative arts. The illustrations in Johan Nieuhoff’s 1665 account of his travels in China may be the first examples of these model patterns, which are also found in the plates of John Stalker and George Parker’s 1688 Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing. As Chinese and Japanese export lacquer arrived in Europe, frequent imitations appeared, often featuring Westernized interpretations of parasols and pagodas. Usually, parasols appear as resembling fans and canopies. Pagodas come in many different forms and sizes, sometimes depicting just the top part. At times these simplified pagodas and parasols are easily confused. In either case, they both lost their original Chinese political or religious meanings. Parasols, related to strict hierarchy in China, signified luxury and prestige in the West. Pagodas, originally related to Buddhism, worship, Fengshui, and the warding off of evil, became understood simply as exotic sculptures. It was because only the form, not the meaning, was adopted that the parasol and pagoda was successfully transformed into a visual metonym of exoticism, to be consumed and circulated for Western audiences.

Tian Chun is Associate Professor of Art and Design History at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Currently, he is a Visiting Fellow at Bard Graduate Center. He received his PhD in Theory of Literature and Art from Jinan University, Guangzhou, China, where he completed a dissertation titled Studies on Aesthetic Perception. His research interests include aesthetics and design history, and he has published a number of articles and books on these topics. His publications include The Relationship between Picturesque Idea and Chinese Garden (Collected Papers of the 18th International Congress of Aesthetics, China Social Science Press, 2014) and Aesthetics of Design (Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, China, 2011). Recently he has been focusing on chinoiserie in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.