Body in the Forbidden City


Peng LIU

PhD defended at: 

Curtin University Australia




This research offers an investigation into Chinese/Confucian bodies through exegetical writing using analytical discourse and creative practice in the form of painting. It reflects on diverse perspectives about the body in Chinese society during different historical periods. The space of the Forbidden City, Beijing, is an ideal site for analysing understandings of the Chinese body, as the space itself, such as its layout, designs and regulations, are all inscribed with Confucian values and cultural meanings.

The exegetical writing focuses on the interrelationship between bodies and the space, and analyses Confucian bodies in the Chinese context in terms of both physical entity and cultural embodiment as human beings are “simultaneously part of nature and part of culture” (Turner: 197). Ficto-Criticism is used to investigate the interaction between the space and a number of selected Confucian bodies. The resulting imagined scenarios, which interrogate these interrelationships restores an immediacy and aliveness to the body engaging with the space.

As a practicing artist, I translate my bodily experience into the language of painting. Thus, in this research I also take an artistic approach in examining the interrelationship between my body and the space of the Forbidden City. The interrelationship between the everyday actions of my body in the space has been re-thought and expanded in the studio. The process of translating is investigated via my bodily movement, as an embodied Confucian subject who has a relationship with the practice of painting. The resulting paintings, not only reflect how my body is acted upon by institutions as a culturally embodied being, but also how my body has the capacity to form new actions to express its individuality to the world.