Chinese Religious Art.

Author:Murray, Julia K.
Position:Book review
 
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Chinese Religious Art. By PATRICIA EICHENBAUM KARETZKY. Lanham, Md.: LEXINGTON BOOKS, 2014. Pp. vi + 387, 218 figs. $110 (cloth); $44.99 (paper).

Written for an audience of students and general readers, Patricia Karetzky's survey of Chinese religious art provides brief introductions to a large number of objects and sites, roughly half of which are illustrated in the text. Following a short introduction explaining and justifying her approach to presenting separately the arts of contemporaneous religious traditions, the book is divided into four main sections, each containing three or four chapters that are organized chronologically. Part one, "The Beginnings of Chinese Religious Art," treats funerary art from the Neolithic era through the Qin dynasty, which the author considers "fundamental to the formation of a religious ideology and the world view that follows" (p. 2). Parts two, three, and four are devoted to the arts and architecture associated with Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, respectively. Each of these three parts begins in the Han and ends in the Qing, summarizing historical and sectarian milestones for each period before introducing a selection of artworks, and concluding with a chapter on temple architecture. In a brief conclusion to the volume, Karetzky enumerates some common themes and elements in the arts that have been discussed under the separate religion headings. Her bibliography is subdivided to correspond to the four major sections of the book.

A major purpose of this publication is to bring together what Karetzky characterizes as previously separate traditions of scholarship on Buddhist and Daoist art and architecture, adding the more recent exploration of Confucian art to the mix. While acknowledging that Confucianism differed in being an official cult rather than a devotional religion, she suggests that similarities in its visual and material forms justify presenting it together with Daoism and Buddhism. In her introduction and conclusion she briefly identifies common features of their respective religious-art practices, such as constructing temples modeled after imperial palaces, with tiled-roof buildings inside walled enclosures organized according to principles of axial symmetry and hierarchy. She stresses the importance of filial piety from the earliest times, first as a motivation for grave offerings from the Neolithic period onward, subsequently becoming a core value in Confucianism, and eventually...

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