Chinese workers in the third century b.c. created seven thousand life-sized terracotta soldiers to guard the tomb of the First Emperor. In the eleventh century a.d., Chinese builders constructed a pagoda from as many as thirty thousand separately carved wooden pieces. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, China exported more than a hundred million pieces of porcelain to the West. As these examples show, the Chinese throughout history have produced works of art in astonishing quantities--and have done so without sacrificing quality, affordability, or speed of manufacture.
||Princeton University Press
How have they managed this? Lothar Ledderose takes us on a remarkable tour of Chinese art and culture to explain how artists used complex systems of mass production to assemble extraordinary objects from standardized parts or modules. As he reveals, these systems have deep roots in Chinese thought--in the idea that the universe consists of ten thousand categories of things, for example--and reflect characteristically Chinese modes of social organization. He shows as well how modular patterns of thought run through Chinese ideas about personal freedom, China's culture of bureaucracy, Chinese religion, and even the organization of Chinese restaurants. Originally presented as a series of Mellon lectures at the National Gallery of Art, Ten Thousand Things combines keen aesthetic and cultural insights with a rich variety of illustrations to make a profound new statement about Chinese art and society.