In 1634 Zhang Taijie (b. 1588) published a woodblock edition of Baohuilu (A Record of Treasured Paintings), an extensive catalog of a massive painting collection he claimed to have built. This work would seem to be a useful resource for historians of Chinese art since it provides accounts of paintings by artists whose works are no longer extant. But there is one major problem: the book is a forgery. What is more, Zhang also forged paintings to match the documentation he created, so he could also profit from trading in them. Interestingly, the book also echoes unfounded claims registered in art-historical writings of the time, wherein leading critics and connoisseurs, including Dong Qichang (1555–1636), propounded completely contrived arguments by which they tried to establish legitimate lineages in Chinese art. Such propositions represent, borrowing from Eric Hobsbawm's insight, a kind of “invented tradition,” a fictional history of practice and artifact that runs as some thought it ought to have, rather than as it did. By looking into all the three major components of forgeries in early modern China that are referenced throughout Zhang Taijie's catalog—(1) fabricated texts, (2) forged paintings, and (3) fake histories/theories—this paper aims to explain how Baohuilu facilitated Zhang's candid desire for fame and profit in the booming art market of the time, while unveiling certain cultural, social, and genealogical anxieties and tensions negotiated in the form of art-historical theories.

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