Roads Not Taken
The final chapter takes up developments in the Qing period, above all the fascinating story of the Jesuit efforts to introduce into China the most up-to-date painting and drawing techniques from Europe (along with much else from Renaissance culture), and Chinese responses to those efforts. Two outstanding figures will help flesh out this story: Wang Zheng, the first Chinese to attempt to engage seriously with Renaissance mechanics, and the painter Jiao Bingzhen who produced under imperial sponsorship a remarkable new series of illustrations for the Pictures of Tilling and Weaving that were very much influenced by the new western techniques, especially linear perspective. Our examination of certain developments in Renaissance Europe that found little or no resonance in China will help us to understand the difficulties Wang encountered in trying to get an intellectual grip on both the ideas and the illustrations of the new science of mechanics as well as the limited influence Jiao’s and similar efforts had on Chinese painting practice. In the latter case, the new techniques were met with considerable skepticism as to their value or usefulness even when they enjoyed a certain admiration for their cleverness.
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