1st Edition

Design and Science in Modern China

By Lisa Claypool Copyright 2025
    276 Pages 19 Color & 50 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    What is design in modern China? And what are the ecological stakes in understanding how modern Chinese design encourages us to see? This book takes up these questions though exploration into the work of three famous designers who were actively engaged with the natural sciences in early twentieth-century Shanghai, Canton, and Beijing.

    The designed objects asking for heightened vision into interior and exterior worlds make their way across temporal and cultural boundaries. This book, then, is also about that movement, and the emotions of the eye which support it. Porcelain dishes, textiles, magazine covers, and paintings moved the people who lived with them a century ago in China to an awareness of their edges, rims, borders as boundary lines, and to see things through those in-between forms from a new point of view; to share pleasure in color and pattern, perhaps, but also to connect to other deeply transformative feelings at the boundary.

    The book will be of interest to scholars working in design history, art history, and Chinese studies.

    Part One. The Revolutionary Boundary-Form

    Chapter 1. Insect and Design Sciences

    Chapter 2. Aesthetics of the Assassin: Gao Jianfu’s Porcelain Designs

    Coda: Timidity


    Part Two. The Enchanted Boundary-Form

    Chapter 3. Industrial Age Plants and Chen Zhifo’s Textile Designs

    Chapter 4. Chen Zhifo’s Design Fictions

    Coda: Commitments


    Part Three. Sadness and Joy at the Boundaries

    Chapter 5. Yu Fei’an’s Colours

    Chapter 6. Birds’ Eye Views: Yu Fei’an’s Pigeon Paintings


    Coda: Ineffability


    Epilogue: Reconciliation?


    Appendix A Names and Dates


    Appendix B Chinese and Japanese Terms





    Lisa Claypool is Associate Professor of the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture at The University of Alberta.