Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Past Event

Virtual Saturday University: Fire and Renewal in Edo Period Japan

Feb 5 2021

Asian Art Museum


5:30 PM – 6:45 PM

How has art and creative activity contributed to confronting crises in Asia? While we face the current pandemic, along with deep social, political, and economic challenges, perhaps we can take heart in artists’ creative responses to violent conflict, environmental change, and panic. Five talks look into understanding, recovery, and reform in Japan, China, Armenia, Bangladesh, and Java, Indonesia.

This program is currently offered as a $5 suggested donation, to keep it accessible for all. Normally, tickets are $7 for SAM members, $12 for public. Donate today to support museum programming.

Fires and Renewal in Edo Period Japan
Timon Screech, University of London

Japanese architecture is traditionally built from wood, as this volcanic archipelago has no stone suitable for building. Besides, masonry construction was not safe in this earthquake-prone environment anyway, as falling stones would be fatal to anyone inside. Its wooden architecture falls in such a way that survival can be possible. Some very old buildings built with extremely durable timber still exist, with sections replaced in their original forms when necessary. But the great enemy is fire: when earthquakes overturn stoves and braziers, fires follow and at times destroyed entire cities.

The calamity of fires in Japan's early-modern Edo Period (1603-1868) led to large-scale rebuilding afterwards. This talk will present examples of artworks intended to retard fire, survivors of fires, or items made after conflagrations, as well as looking at fire prevention in urban planning. Obliteration and rebirth were horrendous, but they became cycles in Japanese culture and consciousness.

About the Presenter

Timon Screech is Professor of the History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He completed his PH.D in Art History at Harvard University, and has been at SOAS since graduation. His major study of the arts of the early-modern period, Obtaining Images, Art, Production and Display in Edo Japan, was published in 2012. His book Tokyo before Tokyo: Power and Magic in the Shogun’s City of Edo was published in 2020.



Fire and Renewal in Edo Period Japan


Big Writing and the End of the Law


The Missing Pages, from Genocide to Justice


Jomin o Joban, a Tale of the Land


Exploring Resilience in Dance in Java, Indonesia


This program is currently offered on a pay-as-you-will basis, to keep it accessible for all. Normally, tickets are $7 for SAM members, $12 for others. Any amount you donate will help the museum continue its programming. (if it is your first time to use the system, you will be asked to create a password—but it won’t take long!)
Scenes before and after fire in Edo (detail), 1868-1872, Utagawa Kunitoshi, Japan, (1798-1861), painting, pair of handscrolls, ink and color on silk, 14 1/2 x 37 ins., c. Trustees of the British Museum, Creative Commons License.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.