Qi-ju design knowledge : an historical and methodological exploration of classical Chinese texts on everyday objects

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

Qi-ju design knowledge : an historical and methodological exploration of classical Chinese texts on everyday objects

 

Author: Tang, Weichen
Title: Qi-ju design knowledge : an historical and methodological exploration of classical Chinese texts on everyday objects
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2013
Subject: Implements, utensils, etc. -- China.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Design
Pages: xiv, 370 leaves ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2653053
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7258
Abstract: This thesis responds to the repeated calls in the Chinese design field for the creation of modern Chinese-style products and for the establishment of a distinctly indigenous system for the theoretical and methodological study of ancient Chinese products. The thesis contributes to this task by presenting the original knowledge system of Chinese qi-ju (everyday tools and utensils) design and by developing a methodology for conducting research on Chinese qi-ju design. The thesis provides a research context for the study of Chinese qi-ju design. The researcher presents an historical picture of qi-ju in the early stage of modern Chinese design (1920-1940), and defines the key terms such as she-ji (design), tu-an (pattern) oryi-jiang (idea and craftsmanship) which emerged at this early modern design stage. The thesis evaluates contemporary studies of Chinese traditional qi-ju by using the "Western paradigm" concepts of gong-yimei-shu (craft art), from the 1950s to the 1980s, zao-wuyi-shu (creation of object art), from the 1980s, and she-jiyi-shu (design and art), since the 1990s. This thesis adopts an historical and comparative approach to investigate Chinese qi-ju design, rather than using an approach of craft art history. By applying constructivism and hermeneutics to the historical study of Chinese ancient classical texts on qi-ju design, the thesis adopts a qualitative research method and uses an "interpretative analysis" approach for analyzing texts. In so doing, this research responds to a long-standing issue concerning the lack of methods to help students approach these ancient texts, such as how to read and interpret them. The thesise examines classical texts of Chinese design history to identify the original design terms, concepts, philosophies and practices of ancient Chinese design. The underlining rationale is that these ancient texts provide important evidence concerning the formation of traditional Chinese design, culture and knowledge. The thesis reviews a series of landmark studies on qi-ju design from three dynastic periods (pre-Qin, Song and Ming), including the Kao Gong Ji (Book of Diverse Crafts), the various theories discussed during the Hundred Schools era, Shenkuo's Meng-xi-bi-tan (Sketchbook of Dream Brook), Wen Zhengheng's Chang-wu-zhi (Treatise on Superfluous Things), and Song Yingxing's Tian-gong-kai-wu (Heaven's Craft in the Creation of Things).
Based on a textual analysis of above texts, the thesis presents the "original Chinese qi-ju design knowledge" and offers four kinds of research findings: (1) the genealogy of the Chinese terms qi (utensils), ju (tools), and wu (objects), and the basic design concepts of qi (utensils), xiang (image or signs), and fa (method, or principle); (2) the original state and features of qi-ju tradition; (3) the philosophical approach to qi-ju design; and (4) the features of knowledge involved in Chinese qi-ju design. The researcher contributes to the field by exploring the distinguishing features of Chinese qi-ju design and analyzing this tradition as (1) an ancient practice that has been greatly respected in the design and manufacture of basic tools and utensils; (2) as an approach to design that lays a simple and clear-cut emphasis on functionality; (3) as a craft tradition that has relied on the craftsmen's experiential knowledge and their perceptions of the environment, nature, geography, seasons and materials; (4) as a style of design in which ji-yi (technique) and jing-yan (experience) are intertwined as important elements. The researcher especially argues that the tacit knowledge feature of qi-ju design is unique to the Chinese craft tradition. The thesis further provides research applications, offering a study of Western product design research. This analysis serves as a methodological reference for contemporary Chinese design. Next, the thesis proposes a theoretical framework based on "reality, knowledge, and interpretation" to inform future studies of traditional everyday tools in China.The proposed framework addresses the lack of a methodological approach in current design history studies, and answers the research question of how we can we approach this design knowledge system.

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