Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Robin Greeley, Dr. Victor Zatsepine, Dr. Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Field of Study

Art History


Master of Arts

Open Access

Campus Access


This thesis focuses on Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky (1987-1991), discussing its visual language, historical role, and cross-cultural receptions in China and in the United States from 1988 to the 2000s. Framing Xu Bing and Book from the Sky in the context of the global art world, I argue that Book’s worldwide recognition stems from the work’s “hybrid” international language that makes this work visible in the international art arena. Using Richard Wilk’s notion of a “structure of common difference,”[1] I contend that even though the cross-cultural receptions of Book in two separate countries seem distinct in certain ways, they in fact use the same structure, the same mode of study. This is in part because historically, research on contemporary Chinese art history in China has lacked an independent and distinct methodology —a result of Chinese social and cultural history in the 20th century and the dominant influence of Western art, ideas, and art institutions since the 1980s.

[1] Richard Wilk, “Learning to Be Local in Belize: Global System of Common Difference,” in Worlds Apart: Modernity Through the Prism of the Local, edited by Daniel Miller, volume of ASA Decennial Series: The Uses of Knowledge: Global and Local Relations (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 118.

Major Advisor

Dr. Margo L. Machida