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Blue Is Where the Message Is: Reading Chinese Painting through Azurite and Malachite

Thursday, July 29, 2021

This talk is part of the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium.

Event Time

July 29, 2021 | Thursday
8:00 am - 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time (EST)
July 29, 2021 | Thursday
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm China Standard Time (CST)

ParticipatiOn Format

Registration is required to obtain a ZOOM Conference access link, which will be sent to your registration email or phone shortly. Please enter the ZOOM room 15 minutes before the starting time. When the room is full, latecomers will not be able to access the ZOOM conference.


Participants within China can click “HERE” further below to register. Participants from outside of China can use the following link to register:

Please send an email to if there are any problems.



The language of the event will be English.

The Event

The discourse on color in Chinese painting has long been dominated by a focus on archaism, or the stylistic paradigms established by Song and Yuan masters, including the evolutions of these paradigms in subsequent periods. However, there are other ways of looking at Chinese painting colors beyond reflecting on this preeminent theme. Focusing on textual sources and three works by Zhao Mengfu, Wen Zhengming, and Tang Yin, Quincy Ngan, Assistant Professor in the History of Art at Yale University, explores the choice and positional significance of color within a composition in traditional Chinese painting.

For example, Zhao Mengfu, in his Self-Portrait, manipulated the locations of azurite and its connatural counterpart, malachite, in the composition to reinforce the messages connoted by other pictorial motifs. In his Tao Gu Presenting a Poem, Tang Yin uses azurite and the direction of a houseboy’s gaze and posture to draw viewers’ attention to the wine flask, reinforcing the significance of wine in Tao Gu’s fiasco. Wen Zhengming, likewise, uses malachite to guide viewers and connect different scenes in Heavy Snow in Mountain Passes. This talk argues that an artist’s choice of where in a composition a color is applied, or on which motif it is used, are potential clues for unpacking the meaning of color.


The Speaker


Quincy Ngan
Assistant Professor in Art History, Yale University
Research Fellow, MacMillan Center

Quincy Ngan is an Assistant Professor in the History of Art and Research Fellow at Yale University. He received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Chicago, respectively. Quincy’s research explores colour, pigments, and materiality in traditional Chinese painting, as well as representations of skin in Chinese art from the premodern era and thereafter. His articles appear in The Metropolitan Museum Journal, Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and Ming Qing Yanjiu.

Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. the Yale Center Beijing is pleased to host the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium, which will convene thought leaders from all sectors who, in the spirit of Mr. Greenberg, play pivotal roles in building bridges among China, the U.S., and the rest of the world.

Mr. Greenberg has been a member of Yale Center Beijing’s Executive Council and retired as the Chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG). In 2018, he was awarded the China Reform Friendship Medal.

Public Event