The Allure of Matter: Materiality Across Chinese Art

Since the inventions of porcelain and gunpowder, Chinese artists have experimented with unconventional artistic materials and used conventional materials in unorthodox ways.

This groundbreaking volume is the first publication to expound the trans-historical importance of materiality in Chinese art by bringing together essays from leading scholars, curators, and conservators. Essayists Anne Feng, Yuhang Li, Wei-Cheng Lin, Catherine Stuer, and Yusen Yu examine how materials including lacquer, rock crystal, paper, and gold stimulated advances in premodern Chinese art. Alex Burchmore, Orianna Cacchione, Nancy P. Lin, Sara A. Moy, and Rachel Rivenc analyze several instances of material experimentation in contemporary Chinese art in essays that consider materials as varied as gunpowder, plastic, and water.

This book builds upon scholarship originally presented at the Art and Materiality Symposium, held on the occasion of the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China.

The Allure of Matter: Materiality across Chinese Art was supported by a generous grant from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, with additional funding from a Yuen Research Grant, Ralph Wanger, and the Center for the Art of East Asia, The University of Chicago.


Edited by Orianna Cacchione and Wei-Cheng Lin, with essays by Alex Burchmore, Orianna Cacchione, Anne Feng, Yuhang Li, Nancy P. Lin, Wei-Cheng Lin, Sara A. Moy, Rachel Rivenc, Catherine Stuer, and Yusen Yu. 


328 pages, 110 color plates, 7-3/4" x 10-1/4"



Purchase this catalogue

Available for $35 online through the University of Chicago Press.

Related program

Virtual book launch celebration, recorded December 7, 2021. The event featured contributors Yuhang Li and Alex Burchmore in conversation with the editors of the volume, Orianna Cacchione and Wei-Cheng Lin, with opening remarks from Wu Hung.