Princeton University

Remembering Shanghai’s New York book launch just happened to coincide with my 35th Princeton reunion. During the course of researching and writing the book, I discovered an unexpected link between my grandfather Diedie’s classical Chinese art collection and my Princeton senior thesis, written seven decades later – so it was especially meaningful to give this talk at my reunion, alongside a display of the very paintings that I studied for my senior thesis! 

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Until my mother and I began researching this book, no one in our family had had the heart to investigate what had happened to my grandfather’s art collection. When we discovered a painting Diedie had owned on an auction website, selling for a princely sum, it brought up a host of emotions. But, as I recounted in Remembering Shanghai, in my surprise, “I had glossed over a critical fact that I now saw clearly the name of the artist, Wang Hui. I had once known it well: I’d devoted a year to writing my senior thesis about this very painter at Princeton University three decades earlier… I don’t have a rational explanation for why Wang Hui’s paintings touched me so; I suspect the same qualities that had charmed Diedie so many years before captivated me too.” 

This exquisite ink-and-color landscape, “Sailing from Jiaomen in the Morning, in the Style of Wang Shen,” is among the Wang Hui album leaves discussed in my thesis. It is one of eight leaves in the album “Landscapes after Song and Yuan Masters, 1712” by Wang Hui (1632-1717), a gift of Mrs. Edward L. Elliott in the Princeton University Art Museum. The museum kindly displayed a number of leaves from the album and hosted my presentation. 

artmuseum.princeton.edu (accessed Aug 1, 2018).

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Claire Chao