Jun Hu specializes in Chinese art and architecture, with an emphasis on how the material process of art-making intersects with other modes of knowledge production. His research and teaching engage with the history of Chinese architecture and its connections to other scholarly traditions, print culture and painting theory in the early modern period, and interregional interactions between China, Japan, and Korea.
He is currently at work on The Perturbed Circle: Chinese Architecture and Its Periphery, an intellectual history of Chinese architecture that spans the two millennia between the Han and Republican periods. The book seeks to recover strains of political, religious, and social thinking that informed the designs of Confucian, Buddhist, and mortuary structures. But more importantly, it shows how architecture constituted a discursive space through which intellectual problems were worked out, and religious questions posed. The modular system in a construction manual sheds light on a period model of thinking about the role of the individual within an increasingly centralized state. The perennial debates over the design of the Luminous Hall (mingtang) are shown to crystalize the synergy and contradictions of various systems of correlative thinking—cosmological, numerological, and morphological—that provided the frames of reference as well as fault lines for conceptualizing ritual. A study of early Buddhist architecture in China, built in brick, timber, and excavated into cliffs, reveals this bricolage of architectural facades was brought together for the purpose of housing icons of unusual scale. Finally, the scholarship of the first generation of architectural historians led by Liang Sicheng (1901–1972), when brought into dialogue with several less-studied figures and architectural projects—the restoration of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, university campuses overseen by American architects active in China at the time, and urban planning conducted by the Japanese colonial government in Manchuria—paints a nuanced picture of uncertainty, of several models of historiography in contention with Liang’s. Therefore, this is not just a history of making architecture, but a series of moments when making and thinking converged to shed light on each other.
In addition, Hu has embarked on a new research project on the interaction between various technologies of replication and painting theory in seventeenth-century China. Through a study of metaphors of mechanical replication in period discourse on painting, he postulates that the proliferation of painting in various mediated forms—copies, embroideries, ink rubbings, woodblock prints— exerted pressure on writers to produce a hitherto missing vocabulary of process and labor to warrant the authenticity of the “painter’s hand.”
“A Confederation of Confounded Tongues or an Embarrassment of Riches: Some Thoughts on Creative Misunderstanding and World Art History,” in Terms, edited by Zhu Qingsheng et al. Shanghai: Shangwu shuju (forthcoming).
“Narrative, Architecture, and Figuration in Mogao Cave 420,” in Visualizing Dunhuang, edited by Dora Ching. Princeton: Tang Center for East Asian Art (forthcoming).
“Global Medieval at the End of the Silk Road circa 756 CE: The Shōsō-in Collection in Japan,” in A World within Worlds, edited by Christina Normore, a special issue of The Medieval Globe 3.2 (2017): 177-202.
Review: Craig Clunas, Chinese Painting and Its Audiences. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. The Journal of Asian Studies,77.3 (2018): 773-775.
Review: Wei-cheng Lin, Building a Sacred Mountain: The Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. caa.reviews. September 2015.
Translation: Craig Clunas. Elegant Debts: The Social Art of Wen Zhengming 雅債: 文徵明的社交性藝術. Taipei: Rock Publishing International, 2009; Beijing: Sanlian chubanshe, 2012 (with Liu Yu-jen and Ch’iu Shih-hua).