- STRIDING INFANTRYMAN, Qin Dynasty 221-210
B.C., The Great Bronze Age of China, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY,
|One of the most spectacular
archaeological finds, since the discovery in 1922 of
Tutankhamen's tomb, was made in 1974 when Chinese workmen,
drilling a well found a tunnel strewn with pottery figures of
soldiers and horses. Excavations soon revealed the existence
of a buried army consisting of more than six thousand
terra-cotta figures arrayed in battle formation. All are
approximately life size, all were created more than 2,000
years ago to guard the tomb of china's great unifier and first
emperor - Ch'in Shih
Huangdi, who reigned from 221-210 B.C. The emperor
apparently wanted a proper military escort for his journey to
the after-world. (In the Shang dynasty, immediately preceding,
the custom was to bury live soldiers with horses and chariots
in the emperor's tomb.)
|No two figures look
alike because each is a portrait of a real person. They were
modeled after the emperor's own warriors, servants and
footmen. Their sculpted hair is parted in the middle and
pulled back in different types of knots. All of them once
carried real swords, spears and crossbows. All were buried in
a standing position. The footmen have no armor, but wore
high-necked garments that fasten across the chest and reach
the knees over baggy knickers. Only a hint of the original
color painted on the pottery clothing remains. Their ankle
boots are also laced and tied in bows. They look as alive
today as they did when they were first created; some fierce,
others proud and confident. A few even seem to be on the verge
Most significant during this time was the
architectural feat of combining a number of existing
protective walls in Northern China into the Great Wall, a
massive fortification stretching some 1500 miles. It is 19 1/2
feet wide and 23 feet high. It was designed to keep out the
nomads of Mongolia and Manchuria.
SAKAMUNI BUDDHA, T'ang Dynasty (618-907
A.D.), China, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Exhibit Poster.
|The expansion which took place
under the Han dynasty brought the Buddhist regions of central
Asia into the Chinese Empire, and when the religion took root
in China itself, it gave sculptors and metalworkers new
subjects to portray. Buddhist shrines and temples dotted the
country and artists honored Buddha both in miniatures and in
The powerful and aggressive Tang built a
huge trade empire which penetrated deep into Central Asia.
Buddhism thrived along with the empire, and Buddhist pilgrims
traveled freely to and from Central Asia and India. The
building of cave temples continued on a grand scale and some
of the world's finest Buddhist art was created under the Tang.
EWER & BASIN, Koryō period
(918-1392 AD) Korea, Silver parcel gilt 14 15/16" high, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, MA Reproduction photograph.
|The scalloped body, the spout and
handle of the ewer all have shapes inspired by bamboo forms.
The cover consists of three conventionalized lotuses,
surmounted by a phoenix, a legendary bird seen only when land
is at peace. It stands for joy and warmth, rules over south
and influences summer. The ewer fits into a basin of similarly
scalloped shape; both vessels are engraved with a decoration
of floral sprays. Their shapes are very similar to those of
ceramic types from Korea as well as Northern Sung China.
COVERED VASE, Yuan period (1279-1368),
China, Porcelain decorated in underglaze blue, Clara Bertram Kimball
Collection, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, MA Reproduction
PUPPY CARRYING A PHEASANT FEATHER, Li
Dynasty (17th century) Korea, by Yi Am (1499-after 1545), Watercolour
on silk 12 1/8 x 17 1/8",
Museum of Art, PA Reproduction
|Although the Mongol or Yuan
dynasty overpowered the Sung, the mainstream of Chinese
culture was so strong that the reign of the Khans was marked
by support of the established culture rather than by any
attempt to impose Mongol values. It was during this era that
Marco Polo visited "Cathay" and returned to Venice
to write glowing reports of Chinese urban life. Perfecting the
technology of porcelain, potters produced high-fired pure
white ware, which was elegantly shaped and decorated. Bold
decorative floral motifs had developed under the Sung, and now
potters used imported Persian cobalt to create similar designs
in blue. Known as "blue and white", the objects were
made for the Imperial court.
|It was in painting, pottery and
handicrafts that the Koreans found expression. Korean
paintings now in existence with a few exceptions date from the
Yi period (1392-1910) and follow the tradition of the Chinese
Ming paintings, from which they are not easily distinguished.
A native Korean style is evident in some attractive studies of
domestic animals, especially cats, kittens and puppies, which
are painted with great verve and fidelity and also in
paintings of birds, flowers and insects. Color is used as
tints, applied thinly and flat in light washes or filling
outlined forms. the painter's skill with ink is the result of
the brushwork discipline of writing.
To grasp the full
meaning of Chinese painting, we must know something about the
philosophy of the Chinese painter which is, on the whole,
quite different from that of the European painter,. Chinese
painters had an immense love of nature. they felt very close
to it and identified with its many and varied forms. Buddhism
urged the painter to observe and to meditate, long and
thoughtfully; to seek the "essence" of a cloud,
mountain, stream, tree, animal etc. The painter trained his
eye and his mind to record only the eternal qualities, such as
massiveness, calmness, delicacy or vitality. Only the
"feeling" of his subject was important. Shadowless
painting is characteristic of all Chinese painting. The use of
indelible ink or water color on silk or paper is common.
EXAMPLES OF CHINESE CALLIGRAPHY, Seven
sheets, by Tang, Shue-Low.
|Left - earlier
pictograph, center - evolved character, Right - meaning.
In China, the vast and mysterious country of
the Far East, the calligrapher is considered as important an
artist as the painter. Chinese writing, based on what are
called ideographs, is composed of highly abstract and
beautifully designed symbols which can be placed in endless
combinations. Not only do the various combinations of their
extensive alphabet give infinite variety to the idea
expressed, but also the way the ink-laden brush of the writer
touches the paper or silk is significant. For example, the
Chinese symbol for "man" may be written so that uit
shows by the quality of the brush strokes whether the writer
is referring to a strong man, a weak man, a scholar or a lazy
man. the Chinese begin at the right and read down each column.
For many years the Chinese used ink made from soot and glue.
CHINA AS SEEN BY PHOTOS AND TRAVELERS, Steiglitz
Museum of art, PA Poster.
SILK EMBROIDERY WORK, material
PORTRAIT OF THE IMPERIAL BODYGUARD, 1760,
Quing Dynasty, unknown artist,
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 74
1/4 " x 37 7/16" Metropolitan
Museum, Reproduction photograph.
From a set of 100 portraits of officials and
warriors commissioned by the Manchu emporers.