Architectures of Hiding

Vincent Yuxin Qiu

Image of the Inner Landscape: The Human Body Concealed in the Landscape’s Latent Flows

Different modes and meanings relating to the human body’s analogy with architecture are central to disciplinary discussions. Scholars such as Joseph Rykwert and George Hersey argued for the body’s continuing suggestive power for temple columns, churches, and cities. Nevertheless, similar analogies in the Sino-sphere largely elude attention. This paper fills the lacuna by studying the Image of the Inner Landscape (Neijing Tu 内景/经图, 1886), which depicts a human body with the landscape of mountains, rivers, forests, and shelters. As both a Taoist self-cultivation guide and a medical illustration, it evolves from several genealogical precedents and traces back to foundational Taoist and medical treatises. The study discusses this bodylandscape analogy with Western body-architecture analogies in three steps.

First, this image is juxtaposed with Vesalius’s body anatomy. In Vesaliu’s image, the body’s interior is a hidden site of wonder, and the architecture is part of the ritual setting required to penetrate the body’s interior. In the Image of the Inner Landscape, the body has a different mode of hiddenness: the interior reveals the presence of nature concealed within the body. It suggests the interconnection between humans’ well-being and landscape environments. Second, the image is compared to Cesare Cesariano’s Vitruvian man. The body in Cesariano’s image is a well-articulated whole comprised of clearly defined parts. It establishes an ideal image for architecture to imitate. The body in the Image of the Inner Landscape has only a primordial oval shape, and its components imply constant latent flows. It demonstrates a different ideal, a generative force lying within the natural world’s process of change. Third, in this image, the Cowherd, Weaving Girl, and children work on the key sites of natural movements, maintain their circulations, and disappear into the latent f|ows. It means that landscape interventions shall partake in the given context, spell out its orders, and eventually withdraw their self-presences.

Keywords: landscape, body image, health, equilibrium

VINCENT YUXIN QIU researched vernacular Chinese landscape in China at Tianjin University, extended into his graduate studies at the Architecture History and Theory Program of McGill University. His previous research stemmed from the intersection between phenomenology and architecture and developed into his current PhD dissertation project focusing on Chinese landscape representations, including painting, poetry, and calligraphy. He also researched picturesque gardens in the backdrop of eighteenth-century cultural exchanges and modern Chinese architecture in relation to Sino-American exchanges.