Kevin McLoughlin. Book Review: Original Intentions: Essays on Production, Reproduction, and Interpretation in the Arts of China edited by Nicholas Pearce and Jason Steuber
The varied and dichotomous relationship between intention and replication in the production, reproduction and scholarship surrounding Chinese art and artefacts forms the ground surveyed in this fascinating volume of essays. Replication has from earliest times been an integral part of Chinese art production, whether in the form of the more culturally sanctioned practices found in Chinese painting like lin (copying), mo (tracing), and fang (imitating); or the typically far less universally sanctioned jia (faking), through to the repetition and duplication involved in the systemic modular and mass-production processes used to produce lacquers, weapons, bronze vessels, porcelains and printed texts. The seven essays in Original Intentions, each from a different scholar and each very well illustrated, respond to the themes of reproduction and replication in very different and very engaging ways. The essays range chronologically from the ancient to the contemporary, and across context and medium to include early bronzes, Qing imperial patronage, the workshop practices involved in producing Buddhist wall murals, and contemporary photography. Given the aim of this volume to explore replication and authenticity in Chinese cultural production, it is appropriate that both the initial and final essays centre on the technically and scholarly challenging area of archaic bronze vessels.