The word authorities in the title of Ping Foong's book The Efficacious Landscape: On the Authorities of Painting at the Northern Song Court is a critical term in several ways. It is a reaffirmation of the importance of “pictorial turn”—a reorientation toward visual materials in the humanities—that began several decades ago. Foong has demonstrated that in the Northern Song (960–1127) culture, especially visual culture, was central to the understanding of political and social histories of the time. Summarizing this argument in the book, she sees that “ink-monochrome landscape acquired new meanings during the Northern Song as an integral part of court ritual, culture, and politics” (233). The genre has become “a medium of negotiated relations” (233) between the various members of the court and the state, including emperors and ministers, court academy painters and literati scholars, reformers and antireformers, each deploying the...

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