Title in the Upper Right


Culture and International Relations in the 18th Century

How to Read It: The Title

The Title:

Before trying to read an image produced in China, a common inclination would be to first look for any words that might comprise the title. The title might not only indicate something of the content but also suggest the theme. Sometimes, a title is considered to be so important that it may occupy a large part of the picture. It could be written by a famous artist, some other celebrity, a high official, or even the emperor himself. Being asked to write the title was considered an honor and added distinction to the image. In this engraving, the title might be located below the image and centered if completely done in the European style. However, we can see that the title accommodates both European and Chinese expectations. For example, notice that the title was originally written with a brush rather than with thin lines of a pen, like the drawing. It was also placed in the upper right of the picture because people in China at that time usually read from right to left and from top to bottom. This inscription was also written horizontally. At this time in China, it was more typical to write vertically, but it was also common to write titles horizontally when only a few characters were used. For example, a title over a doorway indicating the name of a building would most likely be written horizontally on a plaque of wood and mounted above the door. Here, the title states, “Western Face of the Hall of the Calm Seas, No. 10.” It tells us that this is a view of the western side of the building (there is also another engraving of the eastern side, which had a different architectural design) and that this is the tenth in the series of twenty engravings.

Now have a look at the next part: HALL OF THE CALM SEAS
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