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Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art Hardcover – September 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0939117369 ISBN-10: 0939117363 Edition: Hardcover with Jacket

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Asian Art Museum; Hardcover with Jacket edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939117363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939117369
  • Product Dimensions: 12 x 9.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,821,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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The book is large, well bound and has a very generous amount of color photos and illustrations.
That notwithstanding, I honestly can say that it is the first book I turn to for information on rebuses and symbolism in Chinese art.
Bunclody Senator
The organization of the themes in the book help me to begin looking and understanding Chinese Art.
Celeste Johnston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By John C. Huntington on October 28, 2006
Let me say up front, I am not an unbiased reviewer. I have been a close friend of the author's since the early 60's and can attest to her love of this topic. However, I think I can offer some insight to the work and its value in the study of Chinese art objects.

The purpose of this book is to decode the intensely rich visual vocabulary of Chinese art. While paintings, ceramics, and virtually all other forms of Chinese may aesthetically stand on their own, without such interpretation (some art critics would rather have it that way), in the context of its cultural setting, such works are understood by the knowledgeable person to have quite specific meanings. For example, a painting of the Asiatic redheaded crane is a common symbol of a wish for long life.

For more than a century, there have been studies of the symbolism in Chinese art. There have also been a few studies of punning, plays on the hundreds of homophones in the Chinese language. Throughout her career, the author has studied both Chinese and Western language sources on this material with an unending relentlessness. For years, many of us in the field have known that Terese Bartholomew was THE authority on the topic and several of her other publications reflect this intense interest. However, what she has done in Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art is to put together the finest encyclopedic dictionary conceivable. This in not a "selection" of signs, symbols, and puns. Rather it is as complete as is humanly possible at this time. I cannot say that she has "every one" but I will say that most non-specialists are unlikely to ever come across one that is not in this magnificent work.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Merrily Baird on August 31, 2008
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Terese Tse Bartholomew's "Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art" is far and away the most impressively researched of all the books available in English on the complex and endlessly fascinating subject of symbolism in Chinese art. It is also cause for celebration that Bartholomew's scholarship is teamed with beautiful color photographs and drawings and that each substantive entry is accompanied by Chinese characters and pinyin transliterations. Despite these Chinese-centric flourishes, the book is as useful for the study of Japanese culture and art as it is for Chinese, and it is therefore no surprise that it is dedicated to Frances Bushell, one of the great patrons of Japanese art in the United States. Bartholmew's book is destined to be a classic and a critical resource for scholars and collectors, and one hopes that San Francisco's Asian art Museum will keep the book in print for decades to come.

In contrast to previous books on East Asian symbolism, Bartholomew's "Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art" often disaggregates its material on individual subjects. Thus references to peaches, peonies, and carp, for example, are scattered among multiple chapters, and the reader has to rely on the index to track down and reaggregate the full range of meanings for any one symbol. This occurs because Bartholomew has chosen to arrange the book according to such auspicious themes as Motifs for a Happy Marriage, Motifs for Numerous Sons, and Motifs for Wealth. While these motifs are dear to the hearts of the Chinese, this singular focus has ocasionally meant that some symbols, especially those related to religion and abstract constructs, are not included. Owners of the Bartholomew book therefore will want to keep on hand, or newly acquire, copies of C.A.S. Williams' early 20th-century study of Chinese motifs and symbolism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Davis on July 29, 2013
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Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art

Terese Tse Bartholomew

This book is beyond a tour de force, categorizing, deciphering and explaining the homonyms, puns, rebuses and motifs in Chinese art, whether they are in jade carvings, paintings, embroidery, plates, vases, etc. etc.

The author gives credit to a book on Chinese symbolism written in 1928 by a Japanese Nozaki Nobuchika, but only translated into Chinese in 1970. She classifies her book as a compendium. I can only stand gob smacked at this comprehensive, clearly written, beautifully illustrated book.

Terese fills her book with pictures and descriptions, 100s of examples. Motifs are described, chapter by chapter: 1. Blessings, 2. Happy Marriage, 3. Numerous Sons, 4. Passing Civil Service Examinations (Official Salary and Rank), 5. Official Rank, 6. Wealth, 7. Longevity, 8. Peace, 9. "As you wish," 10. Annual Festivals.

Whatever I paid for this book, it wasn't enough.

R. Davis
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