The Chinese Iconography Thesaurus (CIT) is freely accessible and brings together sinology, art history and information studies to create the first alternative classification scheme, especially designed for the Chinese visual culture, with a complementary image archive. Traditionally iconography has been used to index and access images of European art. Because of the lack of alternative models, the contents of non-Western art objects have long been catalogued according to Eurocentric classifications. To fill this gap, a research group led by Hongxing Zhang, Senior Curator of Chinese collections at the V&A London, created the CIT.
The CIT website is built and hosted by Brill. The database can be consulted in both Chinese and English and is regularly updated; Currently, it contains 10,000 terms extracted primarily from pre-1900 sources and 2700 images of objects from the V&A, the MET, and the NPM Taipei.
Compared with prototypical universal quantifiers in other languages of the world, dou in Mandarin Chinese presents more complicated semantic behaviors. One of the most disputed issues is what are the relations between dou expressing “universal quantification” (uq) and dou expressing “scalar trigger” (sca). First-hand data that comes from 40 languages demonstrates that Mandarin Chinese is the only language that employs the same form for “universal quantification” and “scalar trigger”. The empirical evidence strongly suggests that uqdou and scadou are different, and the two functions uq and sca lack universal conceptual correlations. The special polysemous behavior of Mandarin dou, is proved to come from two language-specific reanalysis processes in dou’s diachronic development which also supports the two-dou claim. The study thus instantiates how a cross-linguistic perspective provides insights to explain long-standing language-particular issues. Besides, it is also argued that the cross-linguistic approach is promising in predicting if a future research is on a right track as it can steer us through overgeneralization and undergeneralization.