A volume of scholarly essays published in April 2015 by the Spencer Museum and Yale University Press serves as the first inclusive study of color in East Asia. Color in Ancient and Medieval East Asia, a project of the Spencer’s Arts Research Collaboration initiative, comprises groundbreaking scholarship and a stunning array of images. It is the outcome of years of research and the collaboration of chemists, conservators, archaeologists, historians of art and literature, and Buddhist and Daoist scholars.
Individual essays in the book’s five sections explore the roles color played in the society, politics, thought, literature, art, and ritual practices of ancient and medieval East Asia (ca. 1600 BCE – ca. 1400 CE, while the introduction and section headings identify common themes. An appendix provides botanical, chemical, and historical information about each of the major dye plants used in ancient and medieval East Asia.
Dr. Mary M Dusenbury, research curator at the Spencer Museum of Art, is project director and editor-in-chief of the publication. Dusenbury, a prominent scholar of East Asian art history, has published extensively on the subject of color. She organized two interdisciplinary symposia on color in East Asia that preceded this publication, building up an international team of researchers from the arts, sciences, and humanities, with leading scholars from China, Japan, Korea, and the United States. The publication is supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Marilyn B. Stokstad Publication Fund, and the University of Kansas Research Investment Council.