The Shimada Prize is awarded for distinguished scholarship in the history of East Asian art by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and by The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies in Kyoto, Japan. It was established in 1992 to honor Professor Shimada Shujiro, who received international recognition for his significant contributions to the research of Chinese and Japanese painting and calligraphy. The winner of the prize receives $10,000.

Past Recipients

2010: Patricia Ebrey

A professor of history at the University of Washington, Patricia Buckley Ebrey is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Cambridge Illustrated History of China and The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the Sung Period. She was awarded the 2010 Shimada Prize for her book Accumulating Culture: The Collections of Emperor Huizong (University of Washington Press, 2008). This text focuses on the profoundly influential cultural practices of the Chinese emperor Huizong (1082–1135). Starting in the late sixth century CE, China’s royal courts and educated elite collected works of art, particularly scrolls of calligraphy and paintings by known artists. By the time of Huizong’s reign, both scholars and the imperial court were collecting ancient bronzes and rubbings of ancient inscriptions, as well as cataloging their holdings. The surviving catalogs of Huizong’s painting, calligraphy, and antiquities collections list more than 9,000 items, and the tiny fraction of the listed items that survive today are among the masterpieces of early Chinese art.

Accumulating Culture has made “an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of Chinese art and cultural history,” said Robert E. Harrist Jr., the Jane and Leopold Swergold Professor of Chinese Art History at Columbia University and a member of the Shimada Prize Selection Committee. “Based on exacting and exhaustive sinological research, Ebrey’s study of Emperor Huizong’s collections illuminates the essential bond between the aesthetic and the political in imperial China.”

Ebrey received her doctorate from Columbia University in 1975, where she studied with Hans Bielenstein, David Johnson, and William Theodore De Bary. Among the honors she has received are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation. She also received the Humboldt Foundation’s Research Award, given to outstanding scholars at the peak of their careers.

2008: Patricia Berger

Dr. Patricia Berger received the 2008 Shimada Prize for her publication Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China, published by the University of Hawai’i Press (2003).

Dr. Berger was awarded the prize for her novel approach to the study of art and architecture produced during the Qianlong reign (1736–95) of China’s Qing dynasty. In her book, Berger analyzes Emperor Qianlong’s patronage of Buddhist art, which was subtly orchestrated as a means of projecting and harmonizing multiple facets of his reign, particularly his relations with his newly acquired domains in inner Asia. In her book she also discusses the religious practices and artistic styles drawn from Han Chinese, Manchu, Mongol, and Tibetan traditions.

Berger received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She joined the faculty of UC Berkeley in 1997 and now serves as the department chair and associate professor of Chinese art. Berger also held positions at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and professorships at Oberlin College and the University of Southern California.

2006: Andrew M. Watsky

The 2006 Shimada Prize was awarded to Andrew M. Watsky for his book Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan, published by the University of Washington Press (2004). This book represents one of the most significant monographs concerning the art of the Momoyama period (1568–1615) published to date in any language. Its carefully argued main thesis is that the sponsorship of sacred arts by the Toyotomi, one of the warrior-class houses of sixteenth–century Japan, served in various ways to define family identity after the death of the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598. The book provides a new framework within which to understand a wide range of cultural production during the latter half of the Momoyama period.

Watsky constructs his argument through a rigorous, textured study of the Tsukubusuma Shrine on the sacred island of Chikubushima, located in Shiga Prefecture, north of the ancient capital of Kyoto. Dedicated to the deity Benzaiten, this profusely decorated monument, as the author demonstrates, is in fact a composite made up of an outer structure dating to the 1560s and a central core that was formerly a Buddhist memorial to Sutemaru, the prematurely lost son of the warlord Hideyoshi. Eschewing conventions in Japanese art history that tend to treat media in isolation from one another, Watsky analyzes the architecture, painting, lacquerware, relief wood carving, metalwork, and architectural coloring in an integrated fashion to understand the true nature of this palimpsest-like structure.

Meticulously researched, elegantly structured, and beautifully written, Watsky’s book exemplifies the ideals upon which the Shimada Prize was founded. The translated documentation in the appendix and 150 reproductions (more than 60 in color) reflect the author’s commitment to his subject and discipline and ensure that this study will serve for years to come as a veritable textbook for the art and cultural history of one of the most dynamic eras in premodern Japan.

Watsky received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and his master’s degree and doctorate from Princeton University. His book Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan also was awarded the Association for Asian Studies’ John Whitney Hall Book Prize in 2006. Professor Watsky is associate professor of Japanese and Chinese art history at Vassar College.

2003: Stanley K. Abe

Stanley K. Abe, associate professor of art history at Duke University, was chosen from a group of twenty-seven international nominees to receive the 2003 Shimada Prize.

Abe is an expert in the field of early Chinese Buddhist sculpture and received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Abe received the prize for his pioneering study Ordinary Images, published by University of Chicago Press (2002). It examines the little-known world of Chinese Buddhist sculpture created for patrons of modest economic and social standing. In contrast to most scholarship to date, which focuses on sculptures created and tied to wealthier patrons, Abe presents four case studies concentrating on more modest provincial examples of Buddhist imagery. His analysis suggests a critical re-reading of mainstream views relating to Buddhist stylistic development. In addition, Abe confronts current scholarly views linking wealth and power with sculpture content and concludes that there is little correlation between a patron’s social class and the style and symbolism found in Chinese Buddhist works.

“Abe carries the field of Chinese Buddhist art studies to a new level of richness. He confounds our outdated and untested assumptions about early Chinese Buddhist art in China, and his treatment of the phenomenon of ‘sinicization’ will be essential reading for all scholars of medieval China,” says Robert E. Harrist, Jr., the Jane and Leopold Swergold Professor of Chinese Art History at Columbia University.

2001: Zou Heng

The 2001 Shimada Prize was awarded for the four-volume report of key archaeological discoveries made at Tianma-Qucun in Shanxi province, China. It was produced by Professor Zou Heng and his team from 1980–89 and published in 2000 as Tianma-Qucun 1980–89 by Science Press, Beijing. This report on the site, near the great bend in the Yellow River, documents work carried out by the Department of Archaeology at Peking University.

Tianma-Qucun is the site of a major cemetery of the Western Zhou period (ca. 1000 BCE to ca. 771 BCE). The cemetery holds the bodies of the dukes of Jin, their consorts, and members of their elite. Remarkable among the finds are jade and beaded decorations, including jade plaques and pendants used to cover the remains of the deceased. The site provides the most extensive information to date on the ascendancy of jade as a funerary material—an innovation of the early ninth century BCE. The Jin State tombs are particularly important in documenting the change as they provide an almost continuous sequence of burials over 300 years or more.

A renowned archaeologist, Zou Heng led the group of archaeologists working at Peking University, Beida. Zou has been instrumental in training many of the archaeologists in China over the last forty years. Not only does this publication provide full descriptive accounts of the tombs and their contents, with excellent drawings and notes on all aspects of the finds, but it also documents the influence Zou has had on the field of archaeology.

1999: Kihara Toshie

The 1999 Shimada Prize was awarded to Japanese art historian Dr. Kihara Toshie, an official of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Dr. Kihara’s two-volume treatise is written on the Japanese painter Kano Tan’yu (1602–74), regarded as the most significant painter of the early Edo period (1615–1716). Yubi no tankyu: Kano Tan’yu ron (The search for profound delicacy: the art of Kano Tan’yu), published by Osaka University Press in 1998, is the first critical scholarly work to interpret Tan’yu’s major contributions to the history of art in Japan.

In her writings, Kihara successfully demonstrates that Tan’yu used neutral zones of his ink paintings to discover ways to disrupt the expected visual order. He experimented with such methods as filling the untreated spaces with fog-like atmosphere and placing the areas in non-traditional spots throughout the painting, even in the foreground. Tan’yu thus pioneered redefining the painting surface as an opaque, flat plane. His inventive approach to composition deeply influenced the work of his contemporaries and those who followed, and his innovations became a defining element of Japanese painting in the Edo period (1615–1868).

As a specialist serving the Cultural Properties Protection Department in the Fine Arts Division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Dr. Kihara’s current responsibilities include supervising conservation projects for designated cultural properties. She holds a doctorate from Osaka University (1994). Dr. Kihara was a Fulbright Scholar in the Fine Arts Department of Harvard University (1983–84) and a visiting lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University (1993).

1997: Su Bai; Li Zianting, Liang Ziming, Robert W. Bagley, and Jay Xu

In 1997 the Shimada Prize was shared by two publications providing valuable new information about early Chinese culture: Zhongguo shikusi yanjiu (Studies on the cave temples of China), by Professor Su Bai of Peking University, and Houma taofan yishu (The Art of the Houma Foundry), illustrated by Li Xiating and Liang Ziming with the Chinese archaeological report translated by Robert W. Bagley and Jay Xu.

Su’s study of Chinese Buddhist cave temples reassesses the theories of earlier scholars and proposes new interpretations regarding chronology and iconography. Su, a distinguished Chinese archaeologist, has been associated with the Department of Archaeology of Peking University for more than forty years. His book was published in 1996 by the Cultural Relics Publishing House in Beijing. The Art of the Houma Foundry is a pictorial survey of two centuries of Chinese bronze decoration as recorded in casting debris excavated from the largest-known ancient foundry site in the world. Featuring drawings by Li Xiating, photographs by Liang Ziming of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province, and translations of the archaeological report by Professor Robert W. Bagley of Princeton University and Jay Xu, associate curator of Chinese art at the Seattle Art Museum, this bilingual (Chinese and English) volume was published by Princeton University Press in 1996. This publication was selected as an admirable example of the benefits of joint East-West publishing projects.

1995: Hirata Yutaka

The recipient of the 1995 Shimada Prize was Professor Hirata Yutaka for his Japanese-language publication The Age of the Buddhist Master Painter. Published in 1994 by Chuokoron Bijitsu Press, this two-volume work is the first comprehensive history of Japanese Buddhist painting from the ninth through the fourteenth century.

Hirata’s book was selected as a seminal publication providing a solid, positive basis for understanding Buddhist paintings. This lucidly written book will serve as a standard source for future studies of Buddhist art. The importance of The Age of the Buddhist Master Painter will be especially appreciated by scholars and researchers of Buddhist devotional painting (one of the most powerful expressions of the Japanese sense of beauty) who are faced with the arduous task of placing these works into Japan’s social and cultural history.

Hirata, a professor at Kyushu University, has devoted his career to documenting Buddhist paintings and interpreting their significance. His publication also imparts information on the careers of artists and patrons whose profiles have never before been outlined in detail.

1993: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The first Shimada Prize was awarded to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City for The Century of Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (1555–1636), a comprehensive examination of the life and work of China’s great Ming dynasty painter. Editor for the 1,068-page, two-volume publication was Wai-kam Ho, the Laurence Sickman curator of Chinese art at Nelson-Atkins. Judith G. Smith was coordinating editor. Essays were written by Wai-kam Ho and Dawn Ho Delbanco, Wen C. Fong, James Cahill, Kohara Hironobu, Xu Bangda, Wang Qingzheng, Celia Carrington Riely, and Wang Shiqing.

Contributions to the catalog were made by Ai Zhigao, Richard M. Barnhart, Joseph Chang, Hui-liang J. Chu, Richard Edwards, Shi-yee Liu Fielder, Marilyn Wong Gleysteen, John Hay, Maxwell K. Hearn, Wai-kam Ho, Jason Kuo, Chu-tsing Li, Pan Shenliang, Celia Carrington Riely, David A. Sensabaugh, Shan Guolin, Richard Vinograd, Roderick Whitfield, and Yang Chenbin.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum published the book in 1992, in association with The University of Washington Press, to accompany an exhibition organized by the museum under the auspices of the China Cultural Relics Promotion Center and in collaboration with the Beijing Palace Museum and the Shanghai Museum of Art.