The peony, as a subject worthy of painting and poetry, has an extensive history in Chinese art and literature. As early as the Tang dynasty (618-907), the beauty of the peony incited great appreciation, even mania. In every March during times of peace, Luoyang experienced a carnival of peony extravaganza, as aficionados competed to create, own, and display the most sumptuous beauties. With such sensational attention, the peony became imbued with a wide range of associations. The allure of the flower, long associated with feminine seductiveness, inspired poems extolling its sensuous charms. For most admirers, the peony was celebrated in paintings, praised in poetry, and acclaimed in botanical studies. For others, however, the floral beauty was regarded with some reservations – a subject too seductive for proper scholarly attention or artistic expression. In this lecture, Dr. Roslyn Hammers will explore varying facets of peonies as presented in paintings, poetry and prose, in order to reclaim the complexities it evoked, as well as to consider the apprehension the blossoming temptress motivated.
Dr. Roslyn Lee Hammers earned her PhD at the University of Michigan and teaches courses on Chinese painting, South Asian art, and Asian architectural history at the University of Hong Kong. She has published a volume entitled "Pictures of Tilling and Weaving: Art, Labor, and Technology in Song and Yuan China" (Hong Kong University Press, 2011), and other articles on the interactions between technology and artistic production. She was a Fellow at the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge University, U.K. as well as at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C.