Programme: History of Art - MPhil/PhD/MSc by Research

Start date: September 2020

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Herbs and Beauty: Cross-cultural Communication between Renaissance Italy and Ming China

Yidan Liu is currently a first-year Ph.D student in the History of Art from the University of Edinburgh. Her research to date has mainly been concerned with analysing the visual and material culture in Renaissance Italy and Ming China, especially costumes and skincare for women. Before her current research program, Yidan completed her MSc by Research History of Art in 2020 and her MSc in the History of Art, Theory and Display in 2019 at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, she earned her BA in Law from Nankai University. Her papers, Courtesan Culture in Tang Yin's Court Ladies in Shu Palace and The Material and Visual Culture in the Figure Painting of Tang Yin in the Ming Dynasty, have been spoken at seminars at The University of Edinburgh and Durham University. Her Chinese translation of Cherie Fehrman and Kenneth Fehrman's academic book Colour: The Secret Influence, is expected to be published by Zhe Jiang People's Publishing House in 2020.

Yidan Liu's current project uses herbs and Material Medica, which originated from China, as a tool for understanding the cross-cultural communication in perception and practice of women's beauty, such as skincare, make and body health, between Renaissance Italy and Ming China. Recent Scholarship has been a rise in interest in women's cosmetics and beauty in the early modern periods, using Materia Medica as primary resources. However, there has yet to be a full-length study exploring the role of herbs, as both commodities and knowledge, in cultural exchange between Renaissance Italy and Ming China. This project aims to fill that gap. Focusing on the period of the early seventeenth century, when missionary and merchants had brought both Ming Materia Medica and herbs back to Italy, this project reveals that Ming herbals were shaping the perception and practice of women's beauty in Renaissance Italy.