book jacket

A Story of Ruins
Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture
Wu Hung


This richly illustrated book examines the changing significance of ruins as vehicles for cultural memory in Chinese art and visual culture from ancient times to the present. Leading scholar of Chinese art Wu Hung shows how the story of ruins in China is different from but connected to "ruin culture" in the West. He investigates indigenous Chinese concepts of ruins and their visual manifestations, as well as the complex historical interactions between China and the West since the eighteenth century.

Analyzing a broad variety of traditional and contemporary visual materials, including painting, architecture, photography, prints, and cinema, Wu also embraces a wide variety of subjects--from indigenous methods of recording damage and decay in ancient China, to realistic images of architectural ruins in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the strong interest in urban ruins in contemporary China, as shown in the many artworks that depict demolished houses and decaying industrial sites. The result is an original interpretation of the development of Chinese art, as well as a unique contribution to global art history.

Wu Hung is the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History and director of the Center for the Art of East Asia, both at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs and Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space.