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Visiting scholar Yuanyu Liao gives insight into Chinese culture through traditional poetry and calligraphy

Exhibition “Image External” features traditional Chinese calligraphy

Chrys Weedon | Entertainment Editor

In the U.S., the works of Shakespeare and Keats from hundreds of years ago are viewed as timeless classics that strongly affected the world of English poetry. According to, Chinese culture looks back even further — over one thousand years further — to their poetic Golden Age during the Tang dynasty. Visiting scholar Yuanyu Liao has brought traditional culture to Western’s campus with her painting and calligraphy in an exhibit on the third floor of Hamersly Library.

“My research is about Chinese art history. My focus is on traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy,” Dr. Yuanyu Liao explained. “I want to communicate with everyone about Chinese culture.” Poetry from the Tang dynasty and the dynasties beyond are extremely valued in Chinese culture today. Dr. Liao commented that from the time children start school in China, they start memorizing ancient poems.

Dr. Liao was born in Fengcheng, Jiangxi Province of China. Liao received her Master’s degree from Jiangxi Normal University in 2002, and continued on to study the painting history of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, graduating in 2012 with a PhD of art.

Liao has published multiple academic papers in journals such as Art Magazine and the Journal of the National Museum of China. Dr. Liao also published a book in 2017 titled “Relationship between Chen Hongshou Art, Identity and the Change of Dynasty.”

Currently, Dr. Liao is a master tutor and associate professor for the College of Fine Arts at her alma mater; she is also a member of the Jiangxi Female Painters Association.

In her exhibition titled “Image External,” Dr. Liao’s art reflects the core aspects of traditional Chinese poems and paintings.

“I think lines (are) very beautiful … when I (practice) calligraphy, I like the brush, ink and paper together,” commented Dr. Liao. “I think it’s very strong. I hope when people look (at) my work, they can understand (that strength).”

Dr. Liao has studied Chinese painting and calligraphy for 20 years.

“I like nature…” Dr. Liao explained, “the fresh asparagus smells of soil and rain, a blooming lotus is so beautiful; a sweet litchi is so delicious. The sun shines on the bamboo leaves, and the shadows on the walls sway in the wind … these touching feelings can be found in ancient Chinese poetry. I use the beautiful words and rhymes of these ancient poems to express my love for life.”

The “Image External” exhibit includes traditional poems from the Song, Ming, Tang and Qing dynasties, along with paintings of things from nature, such as pomegranates, shrimp, asparagus and different flowers.

While some paintings stand alone, some are coupled with ancient Chinese poems.

“Instead of a true imitation of nature, (ancient Chinese artists) use abstract, rhythmic lines to express an ethereal mood,” detailed Dr. Liao. The strong lines of the Chinese characters in the poems coupled with the delicate, minimalist paintings create a beautiful contrast.

“I hope if people come (to my exhibition), they can know ‘oh, Chinese culture (is) beautiful,’” Dr. Liao concluded.


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Photo by Ashlynn Norton