Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


Art and Art History


Xin Wu

Committee Members

Catherine Levesque

Kevin Vose

Cristina Stancioiu


Ancient Chinese ceramics are objects of appreciation around the world and have been defined as works of art by the art world. My thesis, however, points out that the taken-for-granted idea that ceramics are born to be works of art in ancient China, is, in fact, a constructed interpretation. In the thesis, I ask the question: when and how were ceramics transformed from functional objects into works of art in ancient China? The thesis investigates the change of roles and imperial tastes of ceramics during the Tang-Song transition, and examines the formation of a new aesthetics of ceramics, combining two aesthetic concepts: unadorned naturalness and antiquarianism, under Emperor Huizong of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). Ru ware, the imperial ceramics cherished by Huizong, was produced after the new ceramic aesthetics. Through examining the life of Ru ware in relation to Song dynasty literati culture and court rituals, the thesis proposes that Emperor Huizong developed the new ceramic aesthetics through appropriating contemporary literati aesthetics of nature and synthesizing it with his political interest in reviving antiquity. The ceramics aesthetics was established as a powerful cultural discourse rejecting the extravagant lifestyle of the Tang court and emphasizing a return to morality, which also elevated functional ceramics into the realm of art.

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