Early Chinese Art


Neolithic Chinese Art
 
 
Years Period China World
5,000-2,000 BCE Neolithic Beginning of agriculture: painted pottery

Yangshao (Painted Pottery) Culture 5000-4000

Banpo 4000

Banshan 2200

Longshan (Black Pottery)
Culture 2500-2000

Catal Huyuk
Ziggurats
Lyre of Puabi
Pyramids in Egypt
Pictographs and invention of Cuneiform
Sargon of Akkad
Stele of Naram-Sin
Tell Asmar
c1700-221 BCE Bronze Age
Warring States Period
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
Shang 1700-1100 BCE
and 
Zhou 1100-221 BCE dynasties; 
  • development of writing
  • bronze casting
  • Confucius c551-479 (Analects)
  • Developed philosophies leading to Taoism
  • Chuang Tzu (Chuang Chou) Butterfly
  • Lao Tzu (Codified Writings)
  • Iron Tools
Code of Hammurabi
Olmec in America
Golden Age of Perikles
Parthenon
Rome Begins
c221- 206 BCE Qin  (Chin) dynasty
  • Unification 
  • Centralized Bureaucracy
  • standardized money, written language, 
  • clay figures, 
  • Great Wall
  • Legalism introduced
  • Shan Yang c360 "Man is by nature evil"
  • Han Feizi c233 codified the system
Rome Begins
206 BCE - 220 CE  Han dynasty
  • Silk Road 
  • Taoism
  • Confucianism made state philosophy
  • Buddhism Introduced
Pantheon
Colosseum
Rise of Christianity
220 - 579 CE Six Dynasties
Sung, 
North, East and West Wei, 
Liang, 
Chen, 
Chi
Chou
Nomad Invasions,
Buddhism Grows
Rock Cut Caves
Monumental Buddhas
Birth of Mohammed
Edict of Milan
Hagia Sofia
Separation of Churches
568 - 617 CE Sui Reunification of China
618-907 Tang dynasty Repression of Buddhism
960-1279 CE Song (Sung) dynasty Neo Confucianism
Mongols
Landscape Painting Develops

Houses of the Banpo
Xi'an, China
Neolithic Period
Yangshao Culture
Neolithic Period:  5000 BCE - 2000 BCE
Context:  These are dwellings that have been reconstructed from Banpo.  Banpo was an agrarian based society that was based near the Yellow River.  In addition to the trade of farming the culture had fishermen, shamans, and tradesman.  The social groupings of Banpo were fairly complex and the division of the villages is organized three areas: they had living areas, pottery production areas, and grave sites. 

Form:  The houses of the Banpo came in many shapes: round, oblong, and square.  They were pit dwellings and had peaked roofs.  These houses are very similar too the dwellings constructed by the indigenous peoples of the US that we have already studied and were constructed of similar materials such as wood, thatch and adobe like materials.

Iconography:  The simple but effective shapes that these homes are constructed from are probably not iconic of anything in particular, however, the geometric forms that are used are also common to the decorations on the pottery.   For us, they are symbols of our heritage because they are  a product of the neolithic Yangshao Culture.

 


Bowl from Banpo
4000 BCE
Xi'an, China
Neolithic Period
Yangshao Culture
 
Form:  This is a painted pottery, made out of red earthenware and black slip  It was constructed using the coil method and then painted.  It has a naturalistic theme but  has been stylized in a geometric fashion.  It depicts fish and a man, possibly a shaman, with fish nibbling on his ears.

Iconography: If it was used as a fetish object then it would be a symbol of the channeling of someone's powers.  If the face depicted is a shaman then he is a symbol of magic and healing.  It may be that because the fish are surrounding him it s showing that he holds some control over them.  Much of the decoration found on Banpo pottery is based on the world that surrounded them therefore it is not surprising to see fish and other forms based on their experience of nature on vessels. 

Context:  The Yangshao Culture produced this bowl.  It was most likely used in some sort of ritual by a shaman.  Banpo was an agrarian based society that was based near the yellow river.  In addition to the trade of farming the culture had, hunters, fishermen, and specialists, such as shamans, and potters.  The social groupings of Banpo were fairly complex and the division of the villages is organized three areas: they had living areas, pottery production areas, and sites for graves.  The geometric stylization of the vessel indicates a high level of tradition and sophistication in their artistic style.
 


 


Jars from Banpo
2500 BCE
Xi'an, China
Neolithic Period
Yangshao Culture
Form:  These jars are made using the coil method.  The horror vacui of the top portions is not repeated in the bottom register (section).  The wave like designs probably represent cowry shells (sea shells) while the grid like patterns might be fields or fishing nets.

Iconography:  If it is cowry shells that are on the top jar they are a symbolic of or relating to their environment and the shells found in it.  The wave pattern (in a more Jungian interpretation: see the SW Art page) is symbolic of water, cycles, life, and renewal.  The vessels are luxury items and represent wealth and plenty because they were used to contain food and these in particular were probably buried in tombs.

Context:  Scholars suggest that the vessel was only decorated on the top because it was used for funerary purposes and if buried they would only be seen from the top.  Some of these jars have been found buried and sometimes in caches.

The Berkeley Museum has a good collection of these vessels.


 

Gu Beaker
2000 BCE
Shandong, China
Neolithic Period
Longshan Culture
Form:  These vessels are very thin and were made using dark clay on a slow turning potter's wheel.  The clay was smoothed and then fired.  They were carved, never painted.  These techniques allowed for a much finer and thinner product.

Iconography:  These vases are iconographic of the technology of the culture and their ability to keep such fragile things because they were not as mobile.  They are also iconographic of the class distinctions in the Longshan Culture.

Context:  The Longshan culture was very sedentary and their burial sites indicate that they had a separation of classes.  They were a more technologically advanced culture than the Yangshao.  These designs were later copied and made into bronzes in much later centuries.

Glossary
 
Coil method:     This method consists of making a long snake like form out of clay and spiraling it around a hollow core.  The coils were then smoothed out.  The pots were then fired, probably in a pit, and glazed with a thin coating of watered down clay called slip or engobe.

horror vacui:     A fear of empty spaces.  When something is completely covered with decoration.


Shang and Zhou Dynasties
 

Years Period China World
5,000-2,000 BCE Neolithic Beginning of agriculture: painted pottery

Yangshao (Painted Pottery) Culture 5000-4000

Banpo 4000

Banshan 2200

Longshan (Black Pottery)
Culture 2500-2000

Catal Huyuk
Ziggurats
Lyre of Puabi
Pyramids in Egypt
Pictographs and invention of Cuneiform
Sargon of Akkad
Stele of Naram-Sin
Tell Asmar
c1700-221 BCE Bronze Age
Warring States Period
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
Shang 1700-1100 BCE
and 
Zhou 1100-221 BCE dynasties; 
  • development of writing
  • bronze casting
  • Confucius c551-479 (Analects)
  • Developed philosophies leading to Taoism
  • Chuang Tzu (Chuang Chou) Butterfly
  • Lao Tzu (Codified Writings)
  • Iron Tools
Code of Hammurabi
Olmec in America
Golden Age of Perikles
Parthenon
Rome Begins
c221- 206 BCE Qin  (Chin) dynasty
  • Unification 
  • Centralized Bureaucracy
  • standardized money, written language, 
  • clay figures, 
  • Great Wall
  • Legalism introduced
  • Shan Yang c360 "Man is by nature evil"
  • Han Feizi c233 codified the system
Rome Begins
206 BCE-220CE  Han dynasty
  • Silk Road 
  • Taoism
  • Confucianism made state philosophy
  • Buddhism Introduced
Pantheon
Colosseum
Rise of Christianity
220 - 579 CE Six Dynasties
Sung, 
North, East and West Wei, 
Liang, 
Chen, 
Chi
Chou
Nomad Invasions,
Buddhism Grows
Rock Cut Caves
Monumental Buddhas
Birth of Mohammed
Edict of Milan
Hagia Sofia
Separation of Churches
568 - 617 CE Sui Reunification of China
618-907 Tang dynasty Repression of Buddhism
960-1279 CE Song (Sung) dynasty Neo Confucianism
Mongols
Landscape Painting Develops

 
Shang Dynasty    1700 BCE - 1100 BCE
Zhou Dynasty 1100 BCE - 221 BCE

 


Oracle Bones
14th to 12th C BCE
Bronze Age
Form:  This particular oracle bone is part of a turtle's shell.  However other bones have been found with writing on them from other animals.  The bone has early Chinese pictographs incised on it.  The bone is cracked and has scorch marks on it.

Iconography:  The bones represent both a question and an answer.  They were used as divinitory tools (for fortune telling.)  The characters or pictographs are each symbols that represent a concept that when strung together form a question. 

Context:  These bones contain some of the earliest forms of Chinese writing known.  The bones were tools that were used by shamans to answer questions. I have come across two versions of how they were used.

1)A question was carved upon the bone.  Then the bone was heated until it cracked.  The shamans read the crack and interpreted the answer. 

2) Then the bone was heated until it cracked.  The shamans read the crack and interpreted the answer. The writing was then incised on the bone as a record of the question and the answer.

These bones give us our first view of the development of Chinese writing and are also an excellent record of some of the ideas, questions and concerns of early Chinese culture.

Writing represents spoken language. Spoken language consists of sounds, while writing is a string of symbols representing those sounds. In Chinese, each symbol stands for an entire word, unlike in alphabetic scripts where a sequence of individual letters signifies the word. This means that, more or less, every word in the Chinese language is written with a different symbol.

The earliest symbols in the development of Chinese writing were pictographic, that is they graphically depicted certain objects. The symbol for the word "dog" was a picture of a dog, the symbol for the word "tiger" was a picture of a tiger, etc. It is important to emphasize, however, that despite their graphic resemblance, these symbols were secondary to the sound value of words in spoken language. Later on, additional symbols were developed mainly on the basis of phonetic similarities between words.

As a curiosity, below are some characters from around VII-III centuries BCE written in a calligraphic style that emphasizes their origin. Below each symbol there is the modern form of the character which evolved from the original pictographic version.


(Left to right)
  1. Ji - chicken.
  2. Yang - sheep. A symbolic representation of a sheep head with horns.
  3. Fu - bat.
  4. Gui - turtoise.
  5. Yu - fish.


(Left to right)
  1. Zhi - to stop. A picture of two feet, one behind the other. The second foot is placed at a right angle indicating that the person has stopped. Compare with the next symbol showing a walking person.
  2. Bu - to walk. Two feet in succession indicating a person walking forward.
  3. Xiang - elephant.
  4. Hu - tiger.
  5. Shi - house. A house with a pointed roof and foundation.


(Left to right)
  1. Xi - rhino.
  2. Lu - deer.
  3. Ma - horse.
  4. Quan - dog.
  5. Qi - banner. A pole with strips in the wind.
The preceding was quoted from http://www.logoi.com/notes/symbols.html


Royal Tomb of Fu Hao
1460 BCE - 1050 BCE
Zhengzhou, China
Shang Dynasty
Bronze Age
13' x 18'
Aerial view
Form:  This site is thirteen feet by eighteen feet.  It contains the royal copse, sixteen humans, six dogs, bronzes, carved jade, carved stone, carved bone, and cowrie shells.

Iconography:  Cowrie shells are iconographic of money because they were the currency of the time.  The grave site is iconographic of an afterlife because of all the things this person has buried with her and all she hopes to take with her.

Context:  Some of these grave sites were sixty feet deep, so this one is not that large but compared to Chinese burials before the Shang dynasty it is very large.  It is the only royal Shang tomb that ha been found undisturbed.  We can assume from what was found in this limited space tomb what might have been found in some of the bigger tombs.

 


Ding 
1180 BCE 
Anyang, China 
Shang Dynasty
Bronze Age
Fu Hao's tomb
Style V
Bronze



Piece and Mold Technique

Context:  Vessels such as this one were found buried in tombs such as the Tomb of  Fu Hao from the Shang Dynasty.  The use and creation of these vessels continued on into the Zhou Dynasty however, they were not always used in burials.  The function for both vessels would have been to hold or cook food for a sacrifice.  The smoke rising off of the vessel would have been for the spirit of the diseased and then the cooked food would have been eaten by the living.

The creation of such vessels shows a complexity of design as well as technology in terms of bronze casting.

Process:  The artist would make a model of what he wanted the bronze to look like out of clay.  He would then let it dry until it was very hard.  Next, moist clay was placed over the dried model and allowed to harden.  This layer, when dry, was cut away into easily reassemble pieces, and fired.  The model, the first piece made, was then shaved down to serve as the core for the fired mold.  Then everything was reassembled, with bronze spacers holding up the core.  Then the entire thing was covered in clay and a hole was cut, into which the artist could pour the hot, liquid bronze.  Next, the bronze was poured and when it was cooled the cast was broken, revealing the bronze sculpture.

Internet Site of Interest:  http://www.marymount.k12.ny.us/marynet/TeacherResources/bronzesproject/html/art.htm
 

Form:  Some of these vessels weighed 200 to 300 pounds.  The ornamentation on them is fairly complex and stylized and uses compound imagery very similar to that of the art from the Kwakiutl and Tlingit cultures.  The relief images on the front are fairly geometricized.  They represent two stylized dragon or monster faces (called t'ao-t'ieh also spelled taotie) which are mirror images of each other. Half of the taotie has been outlined in red, the other design motifs, the leiwen thunder design in turquoise and kui dragon in yellow.

The manner in which it is


 

 
Iconography:  The iconography of the vessel itself is that it represents a form of wealth in the guise of conspicuous consumption.  The individual component of the taotie mask is less clear.  The kui dragon is often a symbol of good fortune and of royalty and the leiwen thunder design may relate to animist beliefs.

One of my best students ever, Sue Che comments,
 

Tao-tie in the ancient Chinese mythology is a monster who eats people. For certain reasons, people like to put its face/figure on the Ding, a cooking vessel such as the one we see here. One theory is that the ancient Chinese might think if they cook food inside the Ding with tao-tie's face symbolized that the monster is full of food so it won't eat people anymore. Even today, a person who likes gourmet food is called 'lao-tao'.
". . . .Most of the bronze objects of the Shang and Zhou were ritual vessels used in sacrificial ceremonies to make offerings to one’s ancestors, or were inscribed with records of military exploits and victories. It was also the custom in those days to slaughter prisoners of war for sacrificial purposes, and to kill and even eat one’s enemies. The creed then was: ‘He who is not of my own clan must be an enemy at heart.’ The man-eating taotie was therefore a supremely appropriate symbol of those times.

    "According to Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals: Prophecy, ‘The taotie on Zhou bronzes has a head but no body. When it eats people, it does not swallow them, but harms them.’* It is hard to explain what is implied in this, as so many myths concerning the taotie have been lost, but the indication that it eats people accords fully with its cruel, fearful countenance. To alien clans and tribes, it symbolized fear and force; to its own clan or tribe, it was a symbol of protection. This religious concept, this dual nature, was crystallized in its strange, hideous features. What appears so savage today had a historical, rational quality in its time. It is for precisely this reason that the savage old myths and legends, the tales of barbarism, and the crude, fierce, and terrifying works of art of ancient clans possessed a remarkable aesthetic appeal. As it was with Homer’s epic poems and African masks, so it was with the taotie, in whose hideous features was concentrated a deep-seated historic force. It is because of this irresistible historic force that the mystery and terror of the taotie became the beautiful—the exalted."

*footnote by Li Zehou: "Some scholars consider that the meaning of taotie is not ‘eating people’ but making a mysterious communication between people and Heaven (gods)."

This excerpt is from The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics by Li Zehou, translated by Gong Lizeng.New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. pages 30-31. The hard-bound copy has some of the most beautiful reproductions available. The text should be required reading for anyone interested in Chinese culture.

According to the Brittanica,
 
Pinyin LONG (Chinese: "dragon"), in Chinese mythology, a type of majestic beast that dwells in rivers, lakes, and oceans and roams the skies. Originally a rain divinity, the Chinese dragon, unlike its malevolent European counterpart (see dragon), is associated with heavenly beneficence and fecundity. Rain rituals as early as the 6th century BC involved a dragon image animated by a procession of dancers; similar dances are still practiced in traditional Chinese communities to secure good fortune.

Ancient Chinese cosmogonists defined four types of dragons: the Celestial Dragon (T'ien Lung), who guards the heavenly dwellings of the gods; the Dragon of Hidden Treasure (Fu Tsang Lung); the Earth Dragon (Ti Lung), who controls the waterways; and the Spiritual Dragon (Shen Lung), who controls the rain and winds. In popular belief, only the latter two were significant; they were transformed into the Dragon Kings (Lung Wang), gods who lived in the four oceans, delivered rain, and protected seafarers.

Generally depicted as a four-legged animal with a scaled, snakelike body, horns, claws, and large, demonic eyes, the lung was considered the king of animals, and his image was appropriated by Chinese emperors as a sacred symbol of imperial power.
Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


 

Fang Ding from Fu Hao's tomb
1180 BCE - 1168 BCE
Anyang, China
Shang Dynasty
Bronze Age
Bronze
Style V

Rubbing from the Fang Ding at left

One of my students explained to me that fu means woman and hao means good.  Therefore this pictogram and the tomb are the tomb of the "good woman."

Form: This is a typical bronze vessel from the Shang Dynasty and contains the  taotie, leiwen and kui dragon in yellow.  Inscribed on the vessel is an inscription that uses pictogram. The pictogram consists of a symmetrical design.  At the center of the design is the pictogram for a child.  Directly above the child pictograph is a broom and bracketing the child are two pictograms that represent woman.

Iconography: The pictogram represents the concept of the mother or "good wife."  It is interesting to note that the individual icons, a child, a woman and a broom, link the idea of child rearing and cleaning as part of the roles of women in Shang culture.

Context:  Beginning in the Shang Dynasty the ritualized vessel began to be inscribed with pictographs that described or dedicated the vessels.  By the Zhou Dynasty these inscriptions became quite verbose.  The vessel on the left made for Fu Hao, contains the inscription with her name "the good wife", which was symbolized by archaic characters composed of women flanking a child and framed by a broom above).


 

Yo Vessel
1766 BCE - 1045 BCE
Shang Dynasty
Bronze Age
Form:  This is a zoomorphic piece, mainly in the form of a bear or tiger resting on its feet and tail.  There is a deer on its head and the handle is made out of serpents and a boar head.  There is a dragon on its side and more snakes on its legs.  It is also hugging, eating, or holding a man.  It is very highly decorated, wherever there is not an animal there swirls, blocks, and designs in low relief.    It was created using the piece and mold technique.

Iconography:  This vessel could be iconographic of man's animal side, the perils of the hunt, our interconnectedness with nature, or the constant changes in life.

Context:  This design is unprecedented in neolithic Chinese sculpture.  Normally, most of these vessels are an example of schema and correction.  But this piece with it's heavy decoration, it's zoomorphic form and it's depiction of a human is very unique.


 

Gong Vessel 
1300 BCE - 1100 BCE 
Anyang, China 
Shang Dynasty
Bronze Age
Form:  This vessel is also zoomorphic.  It has eyes of a tiger, horns of a ram, and a bird beak at its back end.  Less noticeable are rabbits, elephants, and fish.  It was made using the piece and mold technique.  It is heavily ornamented and has other smaller designs all over the piece.

Iconography:  It is iconographic of all of the animals it represents and the ritual it was used in.

Context:  It was used for a ceremonial purpose.  It would have probably held some sort of liquid.


Marquis Yi of Zeng Bells
433 BCE
Zhou Dynasty
Bronze Age
9' x 25'
No clappers 
Form:  The bells very in size from small to large.  The taotie is on front and back of each bell.  The bars that the bells are hung off of are decorated as well.  The bells were made with the lost wax process.  (See the diagram below this section.)

Iconography:  They are iconographic of the preferences of the society and the importance of music to the society.  In later Buddhist art the bell is one of the Buddhist symbols
and this could be an early form of this symbolism.  The bell in Buddhist art implies respect, veneration, signals, martial enthusiasm.  The sound disperses evil spirits.

Context:  Each of these bells has two tones one found in the middle and the other at the bottom of the bell.  It would have taken several musicians moving around the bells to play them.  Music rituals and the performance of them were important to the wealthy society.

In 1978, 124 musical instruments were unearthed from the fifth-century tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng in what is now Hubei Province in eastern China. Among them was a set of 65 bronze bells, which are considered to be among the finest relics of the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.). The central bell bears an inscription that indicates it was a gift to Marquis Yi from King Hui of Chu and cast in 433 B.C., the year the Marquis was buried. The bells are believed to have been played in court rituals to ensure the posterity of the imperial reign.

In 1977, excavators in Hubei Province found a remarkably rich and undisturbed tomb. Inscriptions on some of the bronzes indicated that it belonged to Yi, marquis of the State of Zeng (Zenghou Yi in Chinese) and dated to about 433 BC in the Warring States Period. The existence of the State of Zeng was unknown until 1977, and it remains somewhat enigmatic. The tomb is 21 meters from west to east and 16.5 meters from north to south, covering about 220 square meters. About 15,404 articles were unearthed, mainly including bronze ritual vessels, musical instruments, weapons, chariots, jade, lacquer wares, and bamboo articles, etc.

Originally sunk to a depth of 13 meters, the tomb was packed with charcoal, and the shaft filled with clay, stone slabs, and earth. The durability of these materials, and the fact that the tomb became waterlogged, left it in a remarkable state of preservation, enabling archaeologists to determine precisely how goods were distributed in the four chambers. These chambers mirrored the arrangement of the marquis' palace during his life.

The eastern chamber, representing his private quarters, contained his own lacquered double coffin, the coffins of eight young women (ages thirteen to twenty-four) who were probably concubines or musicians to entertain Yi in the afterlife, and a dog buried in its own coffin. The chamber also contained weapons, a chariot, and many personal items, including furniture, a zither, silk, and vessels -- though not bronze vessels. The central chamber seems to have corresponded to the ceremonial hall of Yi's palace. Inside, was a large set of bronze bells and other instruments, together with bronze ritual vessels. The northern chamber served as an armory and storeroom, the western chamber, where thirteen more young women were buried, as servants' quarters.

The marquis' tomb illustrates a transition from tomb traditions that replicated the ritual environment of ancestral temples to a new conception of the tomb as a recreation of the deceased's earthly existence.

Zeng Houyi Bells

It is the largest set of bronze bells excavated in the world. It comprises 65 bells in various sizes, with each bell producing two different tones when struck. There are three levels, with the smallest bells suspended on the highest level and the largest ones on the bottom section. The bells cover roughly 5 octaves and the middle 3 octaves produces 12 semitones each. There is an inscription on each bell that records events, musical theories and the sound the particular bell products. From historical records and other materials, it is concluded that there are probably five performers involved in the playing of the bells, with two standing in front of the set playing the larger bells with long poles and three behind playing the smaller bells with smaller sticks.

The bell right in the centre of the lowest level and not suspended at an oblique angle was a gift from king Hui of Chu to Yi, the Marquis of Zeng State, as recorded in the inscription on it. The inscription also states that the bell was cast in the 56th year of the reign of King Hui (433BC), the year of the burial of Marquis Yi. The State of Zeng was a vassal state of Chu and was under the same cultural sphere.

The bells were made with thecire perdue or lost wax process.   The process is referred to as lost wax not because we have lost the process, but because the figure is originally sculpted from wax which is lost in the process.  The original is encased in clay.  Two drainage holes are placed in the clay and when the clay is heated, the wax runs out of the hole leaving a cavity.  Bronze is then poured into the cavity and when the bronze cools the clay mold is broken open revealing the bronze sculpture.  Since the bronze is a fairly soft metal, details can be etched and molded while the bronze is cool.
 
 

For large hollow sculptures the process is different.  See this diagram.


 


Man Riding on a Dragon
3rd C BCE
Zhou Dynasty
Bronze Age
Form:  It is made out of silk and is monochromatic.  The image is very flat.  It is drawn in profile and has no sense of depth.  There is no shading and it is drawn using the "outline and color" method.  Outline and color are literally what they say.  The artist would outline the object/s and then paint in the color as in a coloring book.  The thickness and thinness of the lines does not vary very much.

Iconography:  This image is probably iconographic of a dead man riding into heaven.  The dragon on which he rides is a symbol of luck and the umbrella is a luxury item probably denoting his class.
 

Umbrella is a luxury item probably denoting his class.The Umbrella is a symbol of spiritual authority and charity.

Fish (Yu)
Fish in Chinese sounds like the word for "Abundance and Affluence" so the fish symbolizes wealth. Fish shown with a lotus blossom symbolize "Year after Year may you live in Affluence".

Heron (Lu)
Heron in Chinese sounds a lot like the word for "path or way". A painting of a heron and a lotus has the meaning of "May your path be always upward".

Dragon (Long)
One of the most complex and multi-tiered Chinese symbols. The dragon is a good natured and benign creature. A symbol of male vigor and fertility, the dragon is also a symbol of the Emperor, the Son of Heaven. Paintings often show two dragons playing in the clouds with a ball or large pearl.

source: http://www.chinesepaintings.com/index.htm


Context:  Calligraphy was a thriving art in China.  This paining on silk has some of the same qualities as calligraphy, with its flowing brush strokes and different thicknesses of lines but it does not yet have the beauty of calligraphy.


 

Bi Disk 
500 BCE - 400 BCE 
China 
Zhou Dynasty
Bronze Age
Jade 6.5"
Form:  It features stylized dragons and is made of jade.  It is circular and features piecework.

Iconography:  This disk may have been an icon for the circle of heaven.  It is an icon of patience, diligence, beauty, and hard work. The dragons are symbols of good fortune and a rulers ability to meditate and thus transcend between heaven and earth.

Context:  Jade is a semi-precious stone but if it's worked the labor that goes into it is what makes it precious. Jade was used to make various objects including axes (ceremonial pieces).  Rubbing a stone against jade was one way of polishing it.  To make this piece involves sawing, grinding, polishing, and drilling.  Jade is very hard and it is not possible to simply carve it a one would wood.

Confucius- (Con-fu-tzu)
(translation means: great thinker and teacher)

A disciple asked Confucius, saying, "Why, sir, does the superior man value jade much more highly than serpentine? Is it because jade is scarce and serpentine abundant?"

"It is not," replied Confucius; "but it is because of the superior men of olden days regarded it as a symbol of the virtues. Its gentle, smooth, glossy appearance suggests charity of the heart; its fine close texture and hardness suggests wisdom; it is firm and yet does not wound, suggesting duty to one's neighbor; it hangs down as though sinking, suggesting ceremony; struck, it gives a clear note, long drawn out, dying gradually away and suggesting music; its flaws do not hide its excellencies, nor do its excellencies hide its flaws, suggesting loyalty; it gains our confidence, suggesting truth; its spirituality is like the bright rainbow, suggesting the heavens above; its energy is manifested in hill and stream, suggesting the earth below; as articles of regalia it suggests the exemplification of that than there is nothing in the world of equal value, and thereby is-TAO itself.

Glossary
 
Composite animals:     Are animals with different parts of other animals in them.  Ex:  In Disney's Pete's Dragon, the dragon, Elliot, has the head of a camel, the neck of a crocodile, the ears of a cow, and he is both a fish and a mammal.

Confucius (Con-fu-tzu):     (translation means: great thinker and teacher)  Confucius was a chinese philosopher from the Zhou (also spelled Chou) Dynasty.  Confucius described jade as a metaphor for a superior person: In jade “superior men in ancient times found the likeness of all excellent qualities.  It was soft, smooth, and glossy (when polished) like benevolence; fine, compact, and strong, like intelligence; angular, but not sharp and cutting, like righteousness; and (when struck), like music.  Like loyalty, its flaws did not conceal its beauty nor its beauty its flaws, and like virtue, it was conspicuous in the symbols of rank.”  (Gardner's pg. 496)

kaolin

ka.o.lin n [F kaolin, fr. Gaoling hill in China] (ca. 1741): a fine usu. white clay that is used in ceramics and refractories, as a filler or extender, and in medicine esp. as an adsorbent in the treatment of diarrhea 

 
according to the Brittanica, is also called China Clay, soft white clay that is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of china and porcelain and is widely used in the making of paper, rubber, paint, and many other products. Kaolin is named after the hill in China (Kao-ling) from which it was mined for centuries. Samples of kaolin were first sent to Europe by a French Jesuit missionary around 1700 as examples of the materials used by the Chinese in the manufacture of porcelain.

In its natural state kaolin is a white, soft powder consisting principally of the mineral kaolinite, which, under the electron microscope, is seen to consist of roughly hexagonal, platy crystals ranging in size from about 0.1 micrometre to 10 micrometres or even larger. These crystals may take vermicular and booklike forms, and occasionally macroscopic forms approaching millimetre size are found. Kaolin as found in nature usually contains varying amounts of other minerals such as muscovite, quartz, feldspar, and anatase. In addition, crude kaolin is frequently stained yellow by iron hydroxide pigments. It is often necessary to bleach the clay chemically to remove the iron pigment and to wash it with water to remove the other minerals in order to prepare kaolin for commercial use.

When kaolin is mixed with water in the range of 20 to 35 percent, it becomes plastic (i.e., it can be molded under pressure), and the shape is retained after the pressure is removed. With larger percentages of water, the kaolin forms a slurry, or watery suspension. The amount of water required to achieve plasticity and viscosity varies with the size of the kaolinite particles and also with certain chemicals that may be present in the kaolin. Kaolin has been mined in France, England, Saxony (Germany), Bohemia (Czech Republic), and in the United States, where the best-known deposits are in the southeastern states.

Approximately 40 percent of the kaolin produced is used in the filling and coating of paper. In filling, the kaolin is mixed with the cellulose fibre and forms an integral part of the paper sheet to give it body, colour, opacity, and printability. In coating, the kaolin is plated along with an adhesive on the paper's surface to give gloss, colour, high opacity, and greater printability. Kaolin used for coating is prepared so that most of the kaolinite particles are less than two micrometres in diameter.

Kaolin is used extensively in the ceramic industry, where its high fusion temperature and white burning characteristics makes it particularly suitable for the manufacture of whiteware (china), porcelain, and refractories. The absence of any iron, alkalies, or alkaline earths in the molecular structure of kaolinite confers upon it these desirable ceramic properties. In the manufacture of whiteware the kaolin is usually mixed with approximately equal amounts of silica and feldspar and a somewhat smaller amount of a plastic light-burning clay known as ball clay. These components are necessary to obtain the proper properties of plasticity, shrinkage, vitrification, etc., for forming and firing the ware. Kaolin is generally used alone in the manufacture of refractories.

Substantial tonnages of kaolin are used for filling rubber to improve its mechanical strength and resistance to abrasion. For this purpose, the clay used must be extremely pure kaolinite and exceedingly fine grained. Kaolin is also used as an extender and flattening agent in paints. It is frequently used in adhesives for paper to control the penetration into the paper. Kaolin is an important ingredient in ink, organic plastics, some cosmetics, and many other products where its very fine particle size, whiteness, chemical inertness, and absorption properties give it particular value.

Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


Laozi (Lao-tzu):     Laozi was another philosopher & poet from around the same period.  Developed Taoism (Taoism) (following the way).  He questions the nature of reality.  Laozi woke from a dream of being a butterfly and wondered if the butterfly was dreaming of being him.

Lost wax process:     See page on Roman Art and Architecture.

Monochromatic:     Meaning one color.  It can be varying shades of one color though.

por.ce.lain n [MF porcelaine cowrie shell, porcelain, fr. It porcellana, fr. porcello vulva, lit., little pig, fr. L porcellus, dim. of porcus pig, vulva; fr. the shape of the shell--more at farrow] (ca. 1530): a hard, fine-grained, sonorous, nonporous, and usu. translucent and white ceramic ware that consists essentially of kaolin, quartz, and feldspar and is fired at high temperatures -- por.ce.lain.like adj -- por.ce.la.ne.ous or por.cel.la.ne.ous adj 
porcelain enamel n (1883): a fired-on opaque glassy coating on metal (as steel) 

According to the Brittanica, porcelain is a,

vitrified pottery with a white, fine-grained body that is usually translucent, as distinguished from earthenware, which is porous, opaque, and coarser. The distinction between porcelain and stoneware, the other class of vitrified pottery material, is less clear. In China, porcelain is defined as pottery that is resonant when struck; in the West, it is a material that is translucent when held to the light. Neither definition is totally satisfactory; some heavily potted porcelains are opaque, while some thinly potted stonewares are somewhat translucent. The word porcelain is derived from porcellana, used by Marco Polo to describe the pottery he saw in China.


Outline and color:     Is outlining something and then coloring it in.  Similar to a coloring book.

Piecework:     Carving entirely through the piece of jade. 

Tao-tie (t'ao-t'ieh):     In modern Chinese it means "ogre mask".
according to the Brittanica,

Pinyin TAOTIE awesome monster mask commonly found on Chinese ritual bronze vessels and implements of the Shang (18th-12th century Bc) and early Chou (1111-c. 900 BC) dynasties. It characteristically consists of a zoomorphic mask in full face that simultaneously may be divided through the nose ridge of the centre to form profile views of two one-legged beasts (k'uei dragons) confronting each other. A ground pattern of squared spirals, the "thunder pattern" (lei-wen), often serves as a design filler between and around the larger features of the design.

Typical features of the mask include large, protuberant eyes; stylized depictions of eyebrows, horns, nose crest, ears, and two peripheral legs; and a line of a curled upper lip with exposed fangs and no lower jaw. Since it suggests an ever-devouring "glutton," it was probably this last feature that later (3rd century BC) inspired the name t'ao-t'ieh for the ancient monster motif. The function of the t'ao-t'ieh motif has been variously interpreted; it may be totemic, or protective, or an abstracted, symbolic representation of the forces of nature. After the early Chou period, the t'ao-t'ieh mask motif was supplanted by a monster that was similar but depicted more literally and with diminished power. 
Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


Zoomorphic:     Is having the form of an animal.  Is being a deity conceived of in animal form or with the attributes of an animal. 

This is a mirror copy of this page:
http://www.marymount.k12.ny.us/marynet/TeacherResources/bronzesproject/html/art.htm

Bronzes
F****8*
Form
Design
Inscriptions
Form
Design
Inscriptions
Bronzes
Bronzes
Bronzes -- Form, Surface Design and Inscriptions
Bronzes
What is bronze?

Bronze is a variable alloy of copper and tin, of which the major component is copper. To this alloy mix, the Chinese metalworkers added lead. The reason for the addition of lead is unclear, but it may have been to improve the pouring quality of the molten metal. This lead additive imparts a gray sheen to the finished vessel, a quality typical to most Chinese bronzes. The use of this unusual alloy seems to indicate a native understanding of smelting of metallic oxides. As all the ingredients of the alloy must be prepared separately and then combined, the separate metals would have to be found and then mixed. Since these metals were scattered in various areas of China, it is clear that they were found and acquired for the specific purpose of making bronze. Furthermore, the piece-mold method of forming the objects is distinctive. There is no evidence that metal was ever prepared by beating and, thus far, no copper vessels have been found. The Chinese either adopted or themselves arrived at the technique of casting from the start.

How were bronze objects made?

"What is better understood is the very complex casting process by which early bronzes were produced. This involved the working in clay of a negative model of the finished vessel, made in sections which then had to be fitted together with extreme care (even so, external 'seams' on the metal show where the sections were joined ). A clay core was then fitted into the mold, and the molten metal was poured into the space between this and the external sections to form the vessel. Finally, the external sections were dismantled, surplus metal was filed off and the object was complete." (Clunas 23)
 
 

 

Two molds used in the piece method of casting bronze
Pottery mold for casting a bronze li, early Shang, Nanguanwai, Zhengzhou, Henan Province
Stone mold implement for bronze casting in two parts, Dongxiafeng, Xia County, Shanxi Province
Diagram for the Piece Mold (Rawson 49)
What functions did bronze vessels serve; how did they look; what were they called?

Bronze Vessels from the Shang and the Zhou Dynasties (Fong [1980] 4-5)

Bronzes
Form
Design
Inscriptions
Bronzes
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Bronzes
How were these vessels used? By whom? 

During both the Shang and the Western Zhou, vessels and weapons together point to the dual power base on which elite domination was established. The number of vessels and weapons that were made would need a lot of metal and manpower to produce them, illustrating the power of the elites who commissioned them. By claiming that their ancestors could only be contacted and properly honored when bronze vessels were used, the elites, who were the only people that had the wealth to afford them, could keep their power base separate from the masses. "The fact that the bronzes used were vessels to hold food and drink suggests that elite feasting had been upgraded with a major investment of resources, skills and labor in the adoption of bronzes over ceramics for ritualistic activities."

Both simple inscriptions in Shang vessels and more complicated ones in the Western Zhou, point to the fact that vessels were used in banquets at which food and wine were served and offered to the ancestors. These were essentially "family" rituals in which both the living and their dead ancestors took part. In this way the deceased remained an important part of the living community and showing them respect assured that the dead would help their descendants by interceding for them before the gods or spirits. Rawson sites a quote from The Book of Odes which speaks to ancestral gatherings:

"They manage the furnaces with attentive movements; there are food-stands that are very grand; some roast, some broil; the noble wives are reverently quiet; there are dou vessels that are very numerous; there are visitors, there are guests, they pledge each other in all directions; the rites and ceremonies are entirely according to rule; the laughter and talk are entirely to the point; the divine protectors arrive, they will requite us with increased felicity; by a longevity of a myriad (years) we are rewarded." (Rawson 59)

Later bronze vessels indicate a greater variety of forms and functions. These bronzes were used outside of ancestral rites. The personal adornment of Zhou nobles seems to have been suitably decorative: belt hooks, decorated dagger handles and small swords with gold inlays were also in vogue. Scabbards were often intricately cast and sometimes contained tiny inlays of stone.

Although vessels were made to be used by living family members in ancestral rituals, they were also made as tomb fittings so that the deceased could continue to offer sacrifices even when he himself was an ancestor. Sets of vessels which have been excavated from tombs give a clear indication as to the status of the 'owner'.

Form
Design
Inscriptions
(Rawson 348, 350)
Form
Design
Inscriptions
Ritual vessels of the Shang period excavated from tomb18 at Anyang in Henan province. This tomb belonged to a member of the Shang elite who must have lived about the time of Fu Hao, consort of the King Wu Ding,1250-1200 BCE. The vessel set shows that wine vessels, such as gu and jue, were more numerous and generally larger at this time than the food vessels ding and gui.

Row 1: four jue (one is missing); 2: five gu; 3: two jia; 4: two zun, one you, one lei; 5: three ding, one gui; 6: one pan (top and side views), a shovel and two yan. (Rawson 348)

Shang and

Western

Zhou

Ritual vessels and bells belonging to Wei Bo Xing found with a hoard of 103 bronzes belonging to one family, excavated at Shaanxi Fufeng Zhuangbai, late Western Zhou (880 BCE). Hoards such as this one were buried when the Zhou were forced to flee from Shaanxi in 771 BCE. Their owners hoped to return to collect the bronzes when the danger had passed, but they never did. This set of bronzes illustrates the changes that had taken place in the performance of ritual towards the end of the middle Western Zhou. The use of large numbers of highly decorated wine vessels had given way to substantial sets of rather plain food vessels. Ding are missing, but Wei Bo Xing would presumably have owned nine, the appropriate number to go with the eight surviving gui. His family may have taken the ding with them when they fled. Five li still remain from the sets of food vessels. Dramatic additions are large hu for wine and sets of bells. Three jue are the remnants of an earlier tradition.

Row 1: four gui cast on square bases, two xu; 2: four gui cast on square bases, and two pen; 3: five li, one fu (dou); 4: four hu, three jue; 5-6: fourteen bells.(Rawson 350)

What was the style of the surface decoration?

The form and style of bronze surface decoration had already appeared to some degree in earlier pottery vessels. On the lei vessel below there appears an early form of the "taotie" face.

Painted pottery lei jar

Early Bronze Age, Lower Xiajiadian Culture (c.2000 - 1500 BCE)

Dadianzi, Aohanqi, Inner Mongolia

Painted pottery li jar

Early Bronze Age, Lower Xiajiadian Culture (c.2000 - 1500 BCE)

Dadianzi, Aohanqi, Inner Mongolia

Painted pottery hu jar

Early Bronze Age, Lower Xiajiadian Culture (c.2000-1500 BCE)

Dadianzi, Aohanqi, Inner Mongolia

Bronze plaque inlaid with turquoise

Erlitou Culture

Gedangtou, Yanshi, Henan Province

Jia, Shang, 15th c. BCE (BMA)
Jue, Shang, 15th-14th c. BCE (BMA)
Bronzes
Form
Design
Inscriptions
Form
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Inscriptions
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Design
Early Shang bronzes show a simple form of thread and low relief decoration, laid in a horizontal band around the body of the piece. The use of thread relief gave way to a shallow relief, set off against a background itself covered all over with a squared whorl known as leiwen or 'thunder spiral'. Precision of line with a slight undercutting to achieve this end even in this background motif, is a characteristic feature of the 14th century BCE pieces.

The principal decorative motif during the Shang period was the taotie, (taow-tee-eh) "a face that resembles but never captures the likeness of an animal. It has the features of a creature: eyes, ears, mouth, horns and claws. But the forms of these horns or claws differ from example to example, and they do not seem to belong to a specific real animal. The motif has perplexed scholars for decades." (Rawson 58) Early taotie simply consisted of eyes with scroll patterns placed around them to make a symmetrical pattern. Over the centuries, patterns became more refined and interesting. Later patterns became more complicated and the face in relief was separated from the background decoration. What is especially ingenious about the taotie design is that it could be interpreted on any shape vessel and could be elongated or constricted according to space available on a particular object.

Jue, Shang, 15th-14th c. BCE (BMA)
Ding, late Shang to early Zhou, 12th-10th c. BCE (BMA)
According to Tregear, there are differing opinions about what the taotie mask might represent, i.e. something important in terms of the rituals, which were thought to be involved with blood sacrifices; or a symbol of gluttony or simply a terror mask. (28) On the other hand, since there is no written information from the Shang as to what the meaning of taotie might be, many historians feel that lack of evidence makes it impossible to conjecture about their meaning.
Ding, late Shang to early Western Zhou, 12th - 11th c. BCE (BMA)
Guang, Shang, 13th-11th c. BCE, (BMA)
Another form of decoration, even more difficult to interpret, are the small kui, loosely translated as 'dragons', small two-legged animals with a clearly visible snout, ears and a short curved tail. "Kui constitute the chief element in the main zone of decoration, sometimes forming a band running head to tail, or soon dismembered to create a continuous abstract design. Later the taotie mask itself may be built up of kui whole and dismembered. The lesser zones of decoration contain geometric or animal motifs such as that of the cicada, a creature full of significance throughout Chinese culture for its habit of burrowing away during part of its life-cycle to appear as a beautiful singing insect from out of the earth, a ready symbol of life after burial."(Tregear 28)
Guang, Shang, 16th-11th c. BCE, early Anyang, 13th c. BCE (MMA)
Close-up of "kui"
Close-up of a cicada design on a zun, late Shang, 13th-11th c. BCE (BMA)
Ding, with birds in profile, Shang, 13th -11th c. BCE (BMA)
In the Western Zhou, bird motifs were introduced and used on vessel forms with wider walls. These lent themselves to the motif of the bird with the upswept pheasant tail. The decoration became progressively secularized and the taotie, where it remained, changed its character to that of a horned monster mask. Exaggeration, a characteristic feature of the new style, is evident in the extension of the flanges on the vessels, which often became vicious looking, with hooked, upswept blades marking the profiles of the piece. Not least of the characteristics of the bronzes of this period is the much greater length of the inscriptions cast into the pieces. (source)
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What inscriptions are found in these vessels?

From the mid-Shang period onwards, it became customary for inscriptions to be cast into the vessel, often recording the occasion of the making of the vessel, for whom it was made and for what reason. The inscriptions are short, consisting of a few characters of a simple pictorial script.

The Early Zhou bronzes used in ancestral rituals were often inscribed with passages detailing for and by whom the sacrifice was given and in commemoration of what event. Sacrificial vessels were the tangible remnants of this practice of ancestor worship. (Barnes 136)

Later inscriptions consist of extended accounts of the occasion of the making and presentation of the vessel. They are carried out in a calligraphy closely related to modern Chinese script rather than the seal script of the Shang. The information contained in these inscriptions makes these bronzes literary sources for historical study. But these inscriptions are not merely historical documents. They give evidence of a new function: that of communicating the political and social achievements of their owners. The Zhou built the basis of their power in the thinking that they were successful in their conquests because they were righteous and were given a mandate "under Heaven". This thinking was to lay the foundation for the right to power for all future ruling houses.

The text from a Zhou vessel, the'gui for the Duke of Zhou', is translated in the book Reading The Past Chinese by Oliver Moore. The characters are placed inside the gui so that the ancestor could see the inscription when the food is offered. The characters are placed in rows and read left to right.

 
 

'gui for the duke of Zhou'

Translation: Precisely in the third month the king issued his decree to Rong and the Inner Court Scribe, announcing: 'Assist the Marquis of Xing in his (ritual) observances! I give you three kinds of servants: Zhou people, Dong people and Yong people.' We (Rong and the Inner court Scribe) cross our hands and lower our heads to praise the son of heaven for effecting this favour and blessing, which are able to reach and to mingle (among the spirits) above and below. May Di, the High Ancestor, not end the mandate for the existence of the Zhou. We will honour our deceased ancestors and in response (to this decree) will not dare to fail (in our mission). We will carry on our fortunate pledge and long serve the son of heaven. Using a record of the king's decree we made this vessel for the Duke of Zhou. (Moore 41)
How were the texts inscribed on to the vessels?

Techniques varied at the various foundries, but most inscriptions were prepared in a clay mold and cast from this on to the metal surface of an object. Most inscriptions are countersunk and positive which means that they are not in relief and not written in the negative.

"In order to obtain a positive inscription, the surface of the mold had to be prepared with the text in a negative form. To do this, the text was written with a stylus on a surface of wet clay. When hardened, this positive version could be pressed into a new supply of wet clay to provide a negative relief. Next, the hardened clay of the second version in negative could be trimmed and fitted as a block into an excavation on the mold core of the whole vessel. The mold and this fitting were then ready to receive the molten metal, which would re-form the inscription back into a positive appearance. This method comprises the fewest transfer operations needed to cast a countersunk, positive inscription and allows for the text to be written out freehand in the same form that it will assume in metal." (Moore 36)

Later writers on ritual noted the usefulness of bronze inscriptions:

The Ding-cauldrons had inscriptions on them.... The inscriber discourses about and extols the virtues and goodness of his ancestors, their merits and their zeal, their services and their toils, the congratulations and rewards (given to them),their fame recognized by all under Heaven; and in the discussion of these things on his spiritual vessels he makes himself famous; and thus he sacrifices to his ancestors. In the celebration of his ancestors he exalts his filial piety. That he himself appears after them is natural. And in the clear showing of all this to future generations, he is giving instruction. Liji, The Sacred Books of the East: The Texts of Confucianism, Part IV, Oxford, 1885, p.251 as quoted by Rawson

"Thus, for the Shang, decoration expressed the rank and prestige of the owner, while for the Zhou the inscription fulfilled this role. Whereas the vessels of the Shang were bearers of decoration, those of the Zhou were bearers of inscriptions." (Rawson 63)

Da Yu ding

Cooking vessel of the Western Zhou

Mei County, Shaanxi Province

Inscription: King Kang of Zhou enfeoffed an aristocrat Yu in the ninth month of the 23rd year of his reign.
Bronzes
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Top


Qin Dynasty
 
 

Years Period China World
5,000-2,000 BCE Neolithic Beginning of agriculture: painted pottery Catal Huyuk
Ziggurats
Lyre of Puabi
Pyramids in Egypt
Pictographs and invention of Cuneiform
Sargon of Akkad
Stele of Naram-Sin
Tell Asmar
c1700-221 BCE Bronze Age
Warring States Period
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
Shang dynasty; 
  • Chou (Zhou) dynasty
  • development of writing
  • bronze casting
  • Confucius c551-479 (Analects)
  • Developed philosophies leading to Taoism
  • Chuang Tzu (Chuang Chou) Butterfly
  • Lao Tzu (Codified Writings)
  • Iron Tools
Code of Hammurabi
Olmec in America
Golden Age of Perikles
Parthenon
Rome Begins
c221- 206 BCE Qin  (Chin) dynasty
  • Unification 
  • Centralized Bureaucracy
  • standardized money, written language, 
  • clay figures, 
  • Great Wall
  • Legalism introduced
  • Shan Yang c360 "Man is by nature evil"
  • Han Feizi c233 codified the system
Rome Begins
206 BCE - 220 CE  Han dynasty
  • Silk Road 
  • Taoism
  • Confucianism made state philosophy
  • Buddhism Introduced
Pantheon
Colosseum
Rise of Christianity
220 - 579 CE Six Dynasties
Sung,
North, East and West Wei, 
Liang, 
Chen, 
Chi
Chou
Nomad Invasions,
Buddhism Grows
Rock Cut Caves
Monumental Buddhas
Birth of Mohammed
Edict of Milan
Hagia Sofia
Separation of Churches
568 - 617 CE Sui Reunification of China
618-907 Tang dynasty Repression of Buddhism
960-1279 CE Song (Sung) dynasty Neo Confucianism
Mongols
Landscape Painting Develops

 
Qin Dynasty     221 BCE - 206 BCE




Form:  There are three pits: the first consists of foot soldiers, the second of calvary and the third of officers.  The officers pit in decorated like a tent.  The tombs face east towards the states the Qin's were fighting.  The individuals range in height from 5' 8" to 6'.  The heads and hands were made separately and there are five to ten facial types but they are not modeled after individuals.  There is a great variety of clothes, hair and poses.  There are at least seven thousand clay figures and wooden or gilt bronze chariots.  The clay figures would have originally been polychromed.  All of the figures are highly detailed and realistic.

The statues of the infantry soldiers range between 5 foot 8 inches and 6 foot 2 inches; the commanders are 6 and half feet tall. The lower half of the kiln-fired ceramic bodies were made of solid terracotta clay, the upper half hollow. It is evident that the statues were vividly painted including a color called Chinese purple; although most of that paint has flown, traces of it may be seen on some of the statues.

The following is quoted from:
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/sculpture.htm

Materials

Hand-in-sleeves pottery sculpture, terra cotta warriors
Hand-in-sleeves
Pottery Sculpture
Experts have confirmed that the material used to mould the terracotta warriors and horses is a "yellow earth" sourced from around the mausoleum. The yellow earth is easy to obtain, and is proved to be an appropriate material due to its adhesive quality and plasticity. The earth underwent screening and grinding to remove impurities and to ensure it was fine and pure. Moreover, a certain amount of white grit which contained quartz sand, mica and feldspar was added. Adding grit to the earth strengthened its mechanical properties which allowed the large terracotta warriors and horses to be easily shaped.

Figure Creation

Experts have reconstructed the techniques for making the warriors by repeatedly observing, comparing and researching the figures during their sorting out and preparatory work.

The Making of Terracotta Warrior's Head: the shaping of the terracotta warrior's head is generally acknowledged to be the most difficult, and the procedure was very complicated. First, artisans molded an inner core roughly in head shape, and then applied several layers of mud to get different facial shapes. Finally by kneading, carving, scraping and pasting, artisans successively drew eyebrows, eyes, noses, mouths, ears, hair buns and hat decorations for the heads of terracotta warriors. They drew each figure with a distinctive face, and experts have confirmed that these facial features were reproductions of individual Qin warriors.

The Making of Terracotta Warrior's Body: Artisans used mud to make a rough cast which was molded from bottom to top in sections. First they made the foot plate which was molded in a square pattern;
A statue of a general, terra cotta warriors
A Statue of a General
the feet were the next and above which were connected the two legs and short pants. In order to represent muscles and bones to make the legs more lifelike, artisans would do some detailed repair. The way to make short pants was to carve a circle with a cord pattern above which were pasted prefabricated pieces of mud to mould as pant leg. Next was the hollow torso. It was made by winding strips of clay upwards. In order to make the clay strips tight and strong, artisans would put sackcloth inside as underlay and this was pounded from outside until they got a satisfactory shape and size. After the torso had been dried in the shade, artisans attached the hollow arms. The straight arm was built by adopting the clay-strip forming technique. Divided by the elbow, the bent arm was made in separate pieces and then glued together. The warrior's hand was inserted and pasted onto the arm.

Firing

The figures of the terracotta warriors and horses were fired in kilns. In order to be well ventilated, the Qin artisans left holes in the figures in appropriate position. For example, in the terracotta horse's belly, there were two holes through which flames could evenly enter the horse's body cavity. During the firing, artisans paid special attention to the degree of heating which was maintained around 1,000 C (1,830 F). Moreover, experts did many experiments and found that the figures were put head over heels during firing. This was because the upper part of the figure was heavier than the lower part. It was comparatively more stable to put the figures upside down, which shows that Chinese workers had mastered the centre-of-gravity rule as early as two thousand years ago.

Glazing and Coloring

The terra cotta warriors have different faces and expressions.
They have different faces.
The Qin terracotta warriors we see today are steel grey without fresh colors. But archaeological investigations have found that this was not the original color of the mighty force. In the April of 1999, there were astonishingly unearthed six kneeling armored warriors whose bodies retained large sections of colorful painting, which demonstrated that the Qin's artisans had elaborately painted the terracotta warriors and horses after firing, to make this majestic army more lifelike.

Experts have found that the ways used to paint these six warriors were different. For some, one or two layers of raw lacquer were applied on certain parts, and for the others, they first painted a layer of raw lacquer, and added one or two layers of pigment above the raw lacquer. The figures were gaily colored. The hair buns were reddish brown, faces were pink, hands were dark red or white, legs were pinkish green or dark red and they wore pinkish green robes and reddish brown shoes.


Iconography:  The immense army is a symbol of the Qin Shihuangdi power.  The army serves as a guardian to his tomb but may also have represented his actual living army.  In a way, the army and figures are representations of the emperor's power on the earth and his attempt to take this power with him into the next world.   Accounts of the tomb they guard (the tomb itself is still unexcavated) describe a facsimile world complete with buildings, rivers and stars placed in the heavens.  This world would be the also be a representation of the actual topography of the Qin kingdom.

The opulence and expense of making such highly detailed soldiers and the use of such grand materials in the  tomb is a form of conspicuous consumption.  This kind of consumption of wealth for its own sake might be viewed be viewed as iconic of the wealth and power of the emperor.

Context:  Under King Chung, the Qin were able to unify a large part of China.  King Chung proclaimed himself the first emperor of China.  As king, he created a modern central capitol, Xiang, with city planing and public works.  He standardized the language, weight system and money.  King Chung centralized the government and unified and linked together all of the northern walls to form the Great Wall of China.  He was against Confucianism and persecuted he scholars and burned the texts.  He created many palaces and patronized the arts.  His empire crumbled four years after his death.  His tomb has yet to be excavated, the Chinese are waiting until they have enough money to do it properly.  King Chung's tomb was begun before his rise to power.  It took thirty eight years to create.  It contains a palace and a fake map.  There are constellations made of pearls on the ceiling and mercury rivers.  The hill that originally covered the burial sites was over six hundred feet tall.  Well diggers discovered the site when they stumbled across pits one and three.  It is thought that surrounding the already discovered areas may lie a funerary palace like the one the emperor lived in while he was alive.

The army guards the actual tomb of Qin Shihuangdi.  Written and legendary accounts of the tomb (the tomb itself is still unexcavated) describe a realistic landscape complete with buildings, rivers and stars placed in the heavens. The rivers are supposed to flow with liquid mercury and the stars in the heavens (the ceiling of the tomb) are pearls.
 

 




Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi
211 BCE - 207 BCE
Shaanxi Province, China
Qin Dynasty

Glossary
 
Polychrome:     Literally means many colors.


Han Dynasty
 
 

Years Period China World
c1700-221 BCE Bronze Age
Warring States Period
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
development of writing
bronze casting
Confucius
Lao Tzu,
Mozi
Iron Tools
Code of Hammurabi
Olmec in America
Golden Age of Perikles
Parthenon
Rome Begins
c221- 206 BCE Qin  (Chin) dynasty Unification 
Centralized Bureaucracy
standardized money, written language, 
Clay figures, 
Great Wall
Rome Begins
206 BCE - 220 CE  Han dynasty Jade Suit
Silk Road 
Daoism
Confuciunism made state philosophy
Buddhism Introduced
Pantheon
Colosseum
Rise of Christianity
220 - 579 CE Six Dynasties
Sung, 
North, East and West Wei, 
Liang, 
Chen, 
Chi
Chou
Nomad Invasions,
Buddhism Grows
Rock Cut Caves
Monumental Buddhas
Birth of Muhammad
Edict of Milan
Hagia Sofia
Separation of Churches
568 - 617 CE Sui Reunification of China
618-907 Tang dynasty Repression of Buddhism

 
Han Dynasty     206 BCE - 220 CE

 


Four Coffins (fourth not shown)


Tomb of the Marquis of Dai (Lady Dai)
180 BCE
Han Dynasty
Form:  There are four coffins but the ones pictured were nested, one inside of the other.  The coffins were then surrounded by clay and charcoal.  The coffins were very detailed and intricately painted.

Iconography:  The tomb is iconographic of how important it is for the Chinese of this time to stay well preserved and to be able to bring their things with them to the afterlife.  It is also iconographic of how important things are to the culture.  The creation of tombs such as these relates directly to ancestor worship.  The development of such tombs relates to the development of Confucian ethics and somewhat to Taoism. 

Context:  When they took the body out they found that she was so well preserved her hair was still black and her joints moved.  They performed an autopsy, bottom picture on the left, and found that she died of heart failure.  In her tomb they found musical instrument, lacquered objects, pots, fabrics, cosmetics, cooking utensils, food, and seeds. Confucianism was restored during the Han Dynasty and this is evidenced in the findings of this tomb.

The creation of such a luxurious tomb in some ways relates to some of the ideas expressed by Confucian ethics.  One of my best students, Sue Che writes,
 

Confucius said: “ Prepare funeral with great respect and remember the ancestors, than the people will live in a society of high moral.” Confucius said, “ While living, treat with proper courtesy; while dead, bury with courtesy, mourn with courtesy.” Confucius also said,” (The form of) Courtesy, modest is better than lavish; funeral, showing sadness is better than trivial formalities. (*Note: these are my own translations.) Confucius taught us that everyone in this world has his own place and everyone should behave and be treated accordingly. Thus, the relationship between king and his people, father and son teacher and student and so forth will be very simple and clear. One of Confucius’ most admired but most poor student Yen-Huei died, his fellow students wanted to bury him with a luxurious funeral. Confucius disagreed. He thought Huei should be buried with the
proper funeral that suits his status as a student. Based on these teachings, we can imagine that the Marquis of Dai was probably buried with the proper etiquette that she deserved. Though we can not be sure if that is the case.


 


 


Funeral Banner
From the Tomb of Lady Dai
168 BCE
Mawangdui, China
Han Dynasty
Form:  The banner is made of silk and is fairy symmetrical.  It has been painted in ink and colored.  It is divided into three sections.  The top section features Lady Dai wearing this banner with her entourage and subjects, messengers, or the souls of her descendants.  The middle section has people sitting beneath a great chime, surrounded by bronze vessels, with Lady Dai's coffin in the center.  The Lower section has snakes, aquatic scenes, and a man holding up an entablature.

Iconography:  It might represent the journey of Lady Dai into the afterlife.  The top section is symbolic of heaven.  Because Lady Dai is shown in heaven it is a symbol that she is going there after she has died.  Symbols of the forces of nature sit between the realm of heaven and earth.  The dragons are symbols of water and the bi disk that they are entwined in is a symbol of the sun.  In the top right of the banner is a raven which is a symbol of the sun.  In the top left of the banner is a toad, a rabbit, and the moon, this is symbolic of a story about the rabbit that sits on the moon grinding the elixir of immortality and the toad who was a beautiful princess who tried to steal the elixir and was turned into a toad.  In between these two images is a lady surrounded by a snake, she could be a symbol for the fire god or she could be a symbol of Lady Dai.  The middle section is symbolic of our world.  It has two human headed birds which may be symbolic of earth spirits or gods.  There is a chime resting above where lady Dai sits, this may be iconographic of her wealth or a symbol of the importance of music to the community.  This scene is probably symbolic of Lady Dai's funeral.  The bottom section is symbolic of the nether world. 

Context:  This is a silk banner that was found over the inner most tomb.  The inventory records found in the tomb refer to it as a "flying garment".


(Fig B)

Fig C


(D)The Top

The Coffins 
Four Coffins (fourth not shown)
THE TOMB OF LADY DAI

K. Linduff, "The Tomb of Lady Dai," in Encyclopedia of Humankind, Sydney, 1993.

Four kilometers east of the city of Changsha, a major city in the central Yangtze Valley, lies a small hill known as Mawangdui. Excavation work at the site began in 1972 when construction of a hospital on the adjacent land made a thorough investigation necessary. This burial ground held some of the most spectacular finds recovered by archaeologists in recent years in the People's Republic of China.

The first tomb opened, now known as Han Tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui, contained the well preserved remains of a noble woman who died sometime after the mid-second century BCE during the Western Han Dynasty (221-9 BCE) In addition to the corpse, the tomb chamber contained a thousand objects including a large funerary banner of silk with polychromed paintings on its surface, clothing, food, a large amount of lacquerware retaining its original brilliant coloring, three unusually decorated inner coffins an d more than one hundred wooden tomb figures. The identity of the woman is still somewhat uncertain, but she is probably the wife of Li Cang known as Xin or Xinzhiou, the first Marquis of Dai. Sima Qian, the great historian of the Han Dynasty, placed the death of Li Cang at 186 B.C. Lady Dai's tomb is later than his, placing her death at about 150 B.C. Two other tombs have been excavated at the same mound, those of her husband (Tomb No. 2) and son (Tomb No. 3). All were richly furnished with goods appropriate to a family of noble rank.

Tomb Construction

Tomb No. 1 has an oblong pit measuring 19.5 m. north to south and 17.5 m. east to west. The tomb extends for 20 m. from the top of the covering mound to the bottom of the shaft. Access to the crypt was made by means of a series of four steps, then a slanted wall which led to the tomb chamber itself. The tomb was oriented towards the north and arranged so that the corpse would lie with its head to the north. 

The crypt contained a tomb-chamber constructed of large cypress planks, the largest of which measure five meters in length and almost 1,500 kgm. in weight. Mortise and tenon construction was used throughout the chamber. Inside this constructed room lay four coffins, snugly fit one inside the other. The compartments between the tomb-chamber and the casket enclosure are divided into four sections and contain most the tomb furnishings. The large northern section was draped with silk cloth and contained a large number of wooden figures, including several fully attired in ceremonial dress. This section also contained platters of food. This area was found at the time of the opening filled with a liquid containing mercury and various acidic and organic compounds. The purpose of these materials is not clear.

The western compartment contained plaited bamboo boxes and basket containing food, all kinds of herbs, clothing and bolts of silk and cotton, and two models of musical instruments. The eastern chamber contained more figurines and a complete inventory of the tomb contents written on bamboo strips. The other chambers were filled with lacquer vessels and implements of all sorts. Some were copied from utilitarian shapes used for serving food and drink, others were copied from official ritual vessel shapes, well known in the previous periods in cast bronze models which were dedicated to ancestors or to officials in commemoration of deeds well done. In accordance with the practices laid out by Emperor Wen (179-156 BCE), the tomb contained no precious metals, jade or jewelry.

A layer of charcoal 1.4 to 1.5 m. thick was placed outside the tomb-chamber and the space between that and the crypt wall was filled with at least a meter of fine white clay. The marvelous preservation of the tomb and its contents can be attributed t o this combination which kept out moisture and oxygen. The practice of using white clay and charcoal to surround a burial-chamber is associated with the local Chu culture. In other parts of China during the Han Dynasty, tomb-construction followed different practices. The tombs at Mawangdui reveal clearly the continuation of the strong cultural tradition of the Chu state which had ceased to be a political entity in 223 B.C. The early Western Han was clearly a period when there were wide swings in accep ted practice in various matters, including burial regulations. 

Funerary Banner

The large silk banner found in Tomb No. 1 (another comparable example was found in Tomb No. 3) is described as a "flying garment" (feiyi) and its placement in the Tomb correspond to the prescribed location for funerary banners (ming-ching) displayed during funeral ceremonies and carried in the funeral procession.

The banner from Tomb No. 1 has a painted red field on which an elaborate design was painted in heavy colors which are still rather well preserved. The cross arm of the T-shape of the banner is 0.92 m. long, the overall height is 2.05 m., and the width at the bottom is 0.48 m. Tassels extend from the four lower corners. 

Numerous scholars have tried to decipher the iconography of the scenes depicted on the feiyi. (A. Bulling, 1974) The overall theme generally agreed upon is that the scenes represent the conducting of the souls of the dead to the realm of the immortals. The search for immortality was of utmost concern during the Han and this is the first extant example which illustrated visually, and quite literally, the route of the soul (or souls).

The painting is divided into three parts. The lower section represents the subterranean region;(fig D) the middle section, the largest (Fig B), is the habitat of human beings on earth; and the upper, represents the land of the immortals with the sun and moon bound ing its description. The guiding principles for understanding the painting seem to come from a genuine piece of Chu literature called the Chuji, or the Songs of the South. (Hawks, 1959)--which says that the voyage of the souls after death leads in all di rections, including to the four quarters of the universe as well as above and below. The banner charts that voyage.

At the bottom is the land of the netherworld (fig C), of water creatures, darkness, and the place below the surface of the earth where souls undergo their first metamorphosis. This is the place that the Taoists call the cosmic womb, where the yin symbol of female creation dwells. It is a place of eternal darkness with water at its deepest section. Above the watery realm two scenes are depicted which take place on earth; both describe mortals acting out their parts in mourning rites. The lower scene depicts a shaman, or holy person, to the left and a group of attendees seated behind ritual vessels used at sacrifices dedicated to reverence to ancestors. Many wooden, lacquered hu and ting (copies of official vessels cast in bronze in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties) were found in the side chambers of the tomb. The duty of this shaman was to contact the soul from "below." The upper scene describes another mourning rite, that of welcoming home the soul. The large figure standing in profile in the center is thought to be a portrait of the deceased and she is shown as if crossing to the "other" world. The two terrestrial scenes represent appropriate ritual activities performed after death. Below and above, the deceased proceeds toward immortality.

The horizontal section (fig D) at the top of the banner represents the land of the immortals and is inhabited by legendary subjects. The gate keepers and the bell (whose sound is thought to penetrate without bounds) are transitional images, standing between earth and heaven. Above and to the left is the crescent moon, the toad, the symbol of its waxing, and the hare which anticipates the full moon. The female figure is probably that of Chang Ngo, who stole the pill of immortality from Hou Yi, the archer, and flew off to the moon and caused its waning. Upon the return of the pill, the moon waxed. The center of this section is found the figure of Fu Xi, an ancient clan god thought of as the first in the line of legendary rulers; he was the progenitor of the race and the embodiment of everything under heaven. He was thought to be the point from which yin and yang, the sun and moon, and heaven and earth emerged. The path represented, then, proceeds from death and the separation of the souls in the underworld, through the rites provided in the earthly realm, to return to the first ancestor of the race, and to immortality. The charting of space in the banner is an extension of a carefully structured iconography. The registers are arranged to correspond to the structure of the cosmos. Upon death the path of the souls echoes the birth, life and rebirth as embodied in the nature of ancestor worship already well established in the Han period.

One of my students wrote this about the banner:
 

This is the art work that the meaning had change quite a bit over the years, originally people consider it was to send the spirit away or to give a guild toward the afterlife. Though recently study had shown that this was not to send the spirit away as more toward enhancing the chance of calling back the spirit to stay in the body, as since Lady Dai’s body was so well preserve that it hardly rotten at all. The symbols of the flying banner are most likely base off the book of myth in the Chinese culture “Shan Hai Jing” or “Collection of the Mountains and Seas”. The top half of the flying banner is the heaven, or the mythical side of Sun and Moon, as telling the tail base off the story of Archer Yi, as well as his wife. In Chinese culture, the Yin and Yan are represent through Sun and Moon a lot of time, as the sun is the male side while the woman side is by the moon. The raven among the sun represents the soul of the sun, as in legend among the mythology of China, that the suns contain a soul of the form of the raven in gold with 3 claws. The mulberry branch the sun was how the old Chinese people view about the sun, as the sun raised above the eastern horizon sea as if was lifted by the mulberry tree. Mulberry also had the symbol of life among the meaning. In this flying banner the mulberry branch would suppress the 9 other moon under its branches as the 1 sun would rise above. On the left side of the flying banner, there is the moon, as it was a represent of the story of Chang’er. Chang’er was Archer Yi’s wife from the heaven as Archer Yi was send down to the human land to shoot down the playful sun that decided to all rise above the land. (Reference text about Chang’er ‘s story) She was always symbol as a toad as above the new moon with her dear servant as the rabbit while under it was the man chopping wood all time in the moon. The dragon on the flying banner was a symbol of state among the society in China the Emperor uses it to represent its own power. The Jiao under the bottom of the banner are creature of the river that had been trying to leap into heaven or to had the symbol of “Losing water” or lose life. Jade/ Bi Disk in the middle of the flying banner might been use to divide up the space among the banner but also it means to contain or take in Qi around, as Jade was often view as to in take a person’s Qi and changes its own form over time. Jade was also a symbol how a person should be like in their life as jade have another meaning of Yin and Yan balance along with Confusions meaning behind it.

 

 


 



Tomb of Han prince Liu Sheng
Before 113 BCE
Mancheng, China
Form:  This is a jade burial suit sewn together with gold thread.  His head lays upon a gilt bronze headrest inlayed with jade.

Iconography:  Jade is a semiprecious stone that when "worked" becomes precious.  Confucius described the qualities jade exhibits as a metaphor for the ideal man. According to Taoist and mystical thought, jade was also thought to be invested with supernatural power that could preserve bodies and alter the "chi" of the individual who wears it.  The use of such precious materials such as gold thread, bronze, and jade in this tomb and to protect the body found inside is symbolic of the power of such an individual.

Context:  The tomb was built into the side of a cave.  It had several chambers.  The chamber where the prince was found was in the rear most portion and had collapsed.  The body was covered in a jade suit in hopes that it would be protected from decay and evil spirits.  Also, the nine orifices were plugged with jade to keep the body from decaying.


 

Tomb of Liu Sui
200 BCE
Han Dynasty
Jade suit
Form:  This is a burial suit made of jade that has been sewn together with gold thread.

Iconography:  Jade is an icon of protection.  The different color threads are icons of the class divisions.

Context:  The suits were sewn with different threads to show importance.  Only emperors could wear the suits with gold thread, lesser individuals could were suits with silver or bronze thread.  The practice of covering a body with jade may have evolved from the practice of attaching jade pieces to cloth and draping the cloth over the body.