Research Project


Changing Fate: Visual Culture in the Ming and Early-Qing China

Ning Yao

The view of fate as moral retribution dominates Chinese history. Heaven offers its blessings with appearances of auspicious phenomena in response to the morality of the people or the good deeds of successful rulers. This belief is reinforced by the introduction of Buddhism into China during the Han period (206 BCE-220 CE). In the Ming period, merit accumulation, with the idea of moral retribution and moral cultivation, became an important issue in Chinese society. The project explores visual representations, such as paintings and woodblock prints, concerned with determining and changing fate in the Ming (1368-1644) and Early-Qing (1644-1911) Chinese society, wherein issues such as auspicious responses (ganying), merit accumulation, and Chinese purgatory will be discussed. This study aims not only to show how Chinese visual culture offers contributions, giving rise to certain artistic motifs like auspicious clouds (xiangyun), but also to examine how art history reflects on and contributes to the changes in the understanding of destiny in Chinese society.

back to "Notions of Fate and Prognostication and their Taxonomies" overview