Gender in Chinese art
- Lara C. W. Blanchard
Theories about sexual and gender differences emerged in Chinese thought by the 1st century BCE (Raphals 1998, 142). Such differences constituted an aspect of complementarity, or yin (female/feminine and other qualities, including spaces and behaviors conceived as inner/private) and yang (male/masculine and other qualities, including spaces and behaviors conceived as outer/public). These ideas inflect gendered representations in Chinese art, the conception of certain architectural spaces as feminine or masculine, and ideas about women’s participation in the arts. Historians of Chinese art have used gender as a category of analysis since the late 20th century, and premodern critics sometimes considered gender when evaluating art and artists.
Chinese sculptures, paintings, and woodblock prints represented ideas about gender directly through depictions of male or female figures or more subtly through images of nature.
As early as the Han Dynasty, some funerary sculptures conveyed meaning through gendered representations: examples from Sichuan tombs depict the Queen Mother of the West (later understood as a Daoist goddess) in conjunction with embracing couples or hybrid human-animal figures with erect penises, possibly to suggest fertility (Wu ...