1 Module 3 Chapter 10: Chinese and Korean Art before 1279 Unit: two Bronze Age China (p.346-347) Chinese Bronze age timeline: 1700-221 BCE China entered its long Bronze Age in the second millennium BCE. Initially the scholars and specialists from the west believed the technology of Bronze casting to have come from outside through Central Asia. Today it has been revealed that it evolved in China independently. The method of bronze casting was called the piece-mold casting ? a technique that attained its highest level of excellence. Read about the technique of piece mold casting in your textbook. See the image below as well. The Chinese technique was a very complicated one. Based on the archaeological evidence the general method used by the Chinese has been discovered. 1 Technique ? piece mold bronze casting ? First a model or template was made ? Second damp clay was pressed on the model to create the mold. After the clay dried the mold was cut away from the model and was keyed for later reassembly and then fired. ? The original model was shaved down to serve as the core ? The pieces of the mold was reassembled around the core and held in place with bronze spacers ? The molten metal was poured into the space between the mold and the core - either by placing it upside down or through a special duct. When the metal had cooled down, the mold was broken apart to release the bronze vessel. 1 Image P.67 R. Thorp & R. Vinograd, Chinese Art & Culture, Prentice Hall, 2001 2 Shang Dynasty: (1700-1100BCE) According to traditional Chinese legends as well as history ? China has three Bronze Age dynasties ? the Xia, the Shang and the Zhou. As explained in the textbook - scholars tended to dismiss the first two dynasties as mythical, but recent archaeological evidence points to the existence of Shang dynasty. Shang kings ruled from a succession of capitals in the Yellow River Valley (see map below). The capital of the late Shang was at the city of Anyang, which was discovered in 1976. Map Early China - early archaeological sites Archaeologists have discovered Shang sites with foundations of walled cities, palaces and vast royal tombs used by the early Shang Kings. These palace complexes were large rectangular courtyards symmetrically arranged and used by the king to address large gatherings. Most of the early complexes were constructed by pounding earth, whereby loose soil was dumped on wooden frames and then made hard by using pounders 2 (a wooden paddle) until it became as hard as concrete. Because of this technique the foundation walls have survived up to modern times. Fig 10-5a Reconstruction drawing of early Zhou Chinese Courtyard complexes 2 P.58-59 ibid 3 A Shang king was involved in a number duties ? he was the link between the living and the dead ancestors; he was the chief commander leading his men to war. He was in charge of directing and organizing a labor force for producing the most precious of Shang artifact ? the bronze weapons and bronze ritual vessels. The text book has more information on the role of the kings - read about the Shang kings, their cities, their society and deities in your textbook as well as at the web link provided for this unit. Fig 10-5 b Oracle bones: Shang priests communicated with the supernatural world through oracle bones. Fig 10-5b Fragment of an oracle bone with incised inscription Read the textbook about the method of preparing the bones and the ancient Chinese divination. This example is a fragment of oracle bone with incised inscription from Anyang. The bones used were either turtle shell and Ox shoulder blade. Take special note of the inscriptions (p.348) since this is the ancestor to the Chinese system of writing used today. Calligraphy based originally on pictographs evolved into a major art form in China. There were other characters as well called the ideographs representing abstract concepts and ideas. Spoken Chinese has many dialects in different parts of the country. So writing was standardized early on - in fact as early as the 3 rd century BCE, during the Qin dynasty, so as to unify the country. (In Modern China standardized Mandarin is the official spoken language in China and pinyin is the written form ? both developed by the government) Ritual Bronzes: We started out this chapter with bronze casting technique in ancient China. The glory of Ancient China is reflected in the bronzes found inside the tombs. Read the textbook for information - about the ancient Chinese tombs as well as about the warrior culture; and about the power of the ruling class in the Shang Dynasty. Bronze Vessels are the most admired and studied of Shang artifacts. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin to which the Chinese added lead that created a grey sheen to the ancient Chinese bronzes 3 . Look at - how the Shang vessels were related to Shamanistic practices and burial? Focus also on the shapes ? as many as thirty shapes evolved (see image 3 P.21 Mary Tregear, Chinese Art, Revised edition, 1997,Thames & Hudson Ltd, London 4 below). Some of them were derived from pottery, wooden containers and some were purely sculptural taking the form of a composite animal forms. Shapes of Shang bronze vessels 5 Figure 10-5 Fang Ding: A distinctive four legged square vessel from the 12 th century BCE is one of the several hundreds recovered from the tombs at Anyang. It is from the Late Shang period. This example is unusual in that the traditional taotie mask does not appear, instead there is a deer motif occupying the center of the surface on all four sides, flanked by birds and dragons called the kui. Read the textbook for the rest of the details of the surface decoration and its significance. Fig 10-5 Fang Ding, from Tomb 1004, Anyang, Shang Dynasty, 12 th century BCE, ht 24 ½?, Academia Sinica at Taiwan Fantastic and composite forms were frequently cast in the Shang period. Fig 10-5c Yu bucket: An unsual form and decoration can be seen in the Yu bucket. It is a very complicated vessel in the form of a composite creature with open jaws holding a human. Fig 10-5c Yu bucket, wine vessel, bronze, ht 13 ¾ ?, Shang, 11 th century, Musee Cernuschi, Paris 6 The whole surface is writhing with decoration starting with the deer at the top. The serpentine forms for the handle ends in rams? head. Crisp square patterns fill the surface alternated with dragon forms and serpentine curves. The creature is shown squatting on its haunches and the tail is transformed into the third support. It is variously associated with the hunt and its perils. 4 The combination of stylistically rendered human and animals not only reveal the skill and extraordinary creativity of the Shang metal craftsmen but it is also consistent with many of the motifs 5 found in the Shang bronzes dealing with world of spirits and ancestor worship. Figure 10-5d Ivory beaker: The next example is not a bronze but a very unusual piece also dating from 1200BCE. It was discovered in the extraordinarily elaborate tomb of a royal lady called Fu Hao, wife of the Shang king Wu Ding (Look at the photograph of the tomb below). Lady Fu Hao?s tomb at Anyang was undisturbed and it was a very important discovery; read about it in the web link provided after this unit. The Shang tombs in general had a very deep pit with a superstructure above for sacrifices and to mark the location as a royal tomb. Lady Fu Hao?s tomb was filled with 200 bronze vessels, more than 700 jades both ornaments and ritual items and a unique beaker of ivory discussed below; the beaker was assumed to be precious because it was placed directly on top of the coffin. 6 Along with these items weapons were also discovered, which was unusual and reflects the powerful position Fu Hao held in the court. It is believed that she was a partner with the king in military campaigns. Skirmishes were a constant occurrence in the Shang period as the neighboring tribes battled each other often. 4 P 38, Sherman Lee, History of Far Eastern Art, Prentice Hall, 1994 5 Few of the symbols used in early Chinese bronzes include: Tiger: appeared in ancient bronzes; It was the lord of the land animals; symbolizes military prowess as well as courage and bravery. An ancient tripod is associated with a seated lion; its tail forming the third leg Stylized cicada: represents immortality and resurrection ? a burial motif Thunder pattern: squared spirals C scroll- Quill pattern Tao tie mask ?imaginary form; glutton a beast of greed; used to ward of evil created with a combination of thunder and C-scrolls Dragon ? lord of the aquatic creatures ? spring; clouds; rain and all things good This is adapted from: Lynn Mackenzie?s Non-Western Art a brief guide, Prentice Hall 2001 C.A.S Williams? Chinese symbolism and Art Motifs, Turtle publishing, third revised edition, 2004 6 P.21 Craig Clunas, Art in China, Oxford university press, 1997 7 Lady Fu Hao?s tomb at Anyang The only object in ivory from lady Fu Hao?s tomb was an elegant beaker with a handle. It is decorated with turquoise. The handle is in the form of a bird and the body of the vessel has the taotie masks inlaid in blue turquoise and spread across the surface. Fig 10-5d Ivory beaker inlaid with turquoise, from the tomb of Lady Fu Hao, 1200BCE, Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 8 The later Chinese used the term taotie meaning a ?glutton?. Various interpretations have been given to this very expressive form, which reflects later times rather than that of the Ancient Chinese. The drawing above shows one type of a taotie mask. It generally has prominent eyes and jaws with horns and legs extending out to the sides. It has a resemblance to the masks found in the pre-historic period, but there is no evidence to show that it was an evolution from the earlier period. An abundance of these motifs have been found in several bronze ritual vessels from the tombs of the powerful. With fixed stare and its association with ancestor spirits the masks must have had a mesmerizing effect and held a special meaning for the Shang people. The bronzes were used for rituals and distinguish the power of the rulers - who could communicate with the spirits and had the technical know how to make grand bronzes from the common people 7 . Bronzes from other Cultures contemporaneous with Shang: Until recently all surveys in Chinese Art had assumed that the core or center of the early Chinese civilizations was from the Yellow River valley, but recent archaeological discoveries have proved that there were other cultures flourishing in various parts of China at the same time as the Shang period. An example discovered in the year 1986 was from sacrificial pits excavated in a place called Sanxingdui in Sichuan in southwest China, far away from Anyang. This was one of the spectacular finds in terms of the quantity. Several hundred combined pieces of ivory, bronze, gold and jades were found and along with that was found the only known human figure in bronze from the Chinese Bronze Age (see figure below) Figure 10-5e Standing Figure in bronze: The figure is frontally posed and is almost nine foot tall. It stands on a double plinth; the second plinth is a mask with four supports. Standing barefoot the elongated body of the long caped figure tapers upward. 7 P.79 R. Thorp & R. Vinograd, Chinese Art & Culture, Prentice Hall, 2001 9 Figure 10-5e Standing Figure in bronze, Sanxingdui, China, 1200-1050 BCE, 8?7?, Sichuan Institure of Cultural Relics and Archaeology The face is almost a mask with large ridged nose, wide mouth, large ears, square jaw and a squarish headgear. The focal point of this figure is the eyes, which seems to be concentrating intently on the unnaturally large and perfectly round hands, which at some point must have held an object, which is now missing. This sculpture has no relationship with bronze vessels from the north and since it was found in sacrificial pits and not a burial pit it was probably an offering to a deity or ancestral spirit or it took the place of human sacrifice, 8 which was prevalent in the north. Archaeological investigations are still ongoing in China. No texts have been found about this culture yet and there are no evidence of a relationship between the culture in the southwest of China and the Shang dynasty in the North. Lot of revisions about the traditional assumptions of this time frame in Chinese History is still being made. Study guide: Unit:2 Bronze Age China Chinese Bronze age timeline: 1700-221 BCE Piece mold casting technique Shang Dynasty: Fig 10-5a Reconstruction drawing of a ancient Chinese Courtyard complexes (image not in your book, refer to chapter outlines) Fig 10-5 b Oracle bones (image not in your book, refer to chapter outlines) 8 Bronze Age China, Exhibition brochure, National Gallery of Art, http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/chbro_bron.shtm 10 Shang bronzes: Look at - how the Shang vessels were related to Shamanistic practices and burial? Focus also on the shapes, surface decoration and significance. Figure 10-5 Fang Ding Fig 10-5c Yu bucket (not in your book, refer to chapter outlines) Figure 10-5d Ivory beaker (not in your book, refer to chapter outlines) Bronzes from other Cultures contemporaneous with Shang Figure 10-5e Standing Figure in bronze (not in your book, refer to chapter outlines) Look at what distinguishes this piece from the Shang Terms: Piece mold casting: a casting technique with a mold, several copies of the object can be made Pounded earth: A technique whereby loose soil was dumped on wooden frames and then made hard by using pounders Kui: Shang dragon motif Owner Microsoft Word - BRONZE AGE unit 2.doc
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