Classical Antiquity in Byzantium and Middle Period China: Revivals and Reinventions in Visual and Intellectual Culture

PAIXUE Workshop 2

Pollock Room, St Leonard's Hall, Pollock Halls, 18 Holyrood Park Rd, EH16 5AY
Mon 13.00–19.00, Tue & Wed 9.45–18.00


*Online and in-person attendance available – To register please follow this link*

While the first PAIXUE conference examined classicising education and the role of literati in their wider cultural contexts, and the second focused on classicising performances of learning as practised across Eurasia and beyond, this final meeting will explore the complex ways in which ideas, beliefs, values and practices appealing to classical antiquity – however defined – played out in the realm of visual culture and its broader contexts, particularly from the 10th-14th centuries. Bringing together scholars with expertise in diverse fields spanning the arts, sciences, philosophy, and intellectual culture of both China and Byzantium, the conference aims to explore connections and commonalities among different visual media, and to advance our understanding of how developments in visuality and visual culture were linked to changes in thought, values, and intellectual life more broadly.

Although the imperial societies of China and Byzantium, located at the far ends of Eurasia, had little actual contact with one another, they are important cases for comparison because they possessed resonant structural and cultural characteristics that unfolded in intriguing convergent and divergent ways. A crucial commonality of both societies was a renewed interest in embodying and emulating the ideas, values, and civilisation of classical antiquity, which came to be understood in very particular ways during this period. Such a development not only shaped the development of text-based forms of learning but had a palpable impact on a broad range of endeavours encompassing philosophy, medicine, and the sciences more generally, as well as the visual and environmental arts.

Among the guiding questions of our conference are:

  • How was ‘antiquity’ conceived during this period, and how did the engagement with the legacy of the ancient past inform the values, forms, and concerns of middle period Chinese and Byzantine thinkers, patrons and artists
  • What distinctive forms of intellectual, cultural and artistic practice emerged during this period, and what role did the interest in antiquity play in the formation of such practices?
  • What connections or resonances can we identify between different genres, media or practices – such as between painting practice and science – and what might these reveal about the role and meaning of antiquity as construed during this period?

Topics of investigation include:

  • Connoisseurship and antiquarianism
  • Theories and practices of the arts (such as painting, calligraphy, and architecture)
  • Medicine and the body
  • Learning and self-cultivation
  • Nature, landscape and cosmology
  • Educational texts
  • Scientific diagrams

Confirmed speakers 

  • Benjamin Anderson (Cornell University)
  • Peter K. Bol (Harvard University)
  • Petros Bouras-Vallianatos (The University of Edinburgh)
  • Karine Chemla (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
  • Xin Conan-Wu (College of William and Mary)
  • Niels Gaul (The University of Edinburgh)
  • Asaf Goldschmidt (Tel Aviv University)
  • Ya-hwei Hsu (National Taiwan University)
  • Derek Krueger (University of North Carolina at Greensboro): Prof. Krueger's talk was delivered via Zoom on 18 March 2022 at 2pm GMT – for details see here
  • Divna Manolova (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
  • Stratis Papaioannou (University of Crete)
  • Stephen Teiser (Princeton University)
  • Curie Virág (The University of Edinburgh)
  • Alicia Walker (Bryn Mawr College)

Further details

Please download the programme here, the poster here, and the abstracts here.