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5,000 YEARS 



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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Library and Archives 






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front cover: 
Rearing dragon 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
cat. no. 59 

back cover: 

Shang Xi 

The Xuande Emperor on an Outing 

Ming dynasty (136S-1644) 

cat. no. 190 (detail) 


Qi Gong 

Exhibition of 5,000 Years of Chinese Art and Culture 


previous two pages: 

Mythical beast 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 

cat. no. 46 

© 1998 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, and 
Arc Exhibitions China, Beijing. All rights reserved. 

Guggenheim Museum Publications 

1071 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York 10128 

Hardcover editions distributed by 

Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 

100 Fifth Avenue 

New York, New York 10011 

ISBN 0-S109-6908-4 (hardcover) 
ISBN 0-89207-202-4 (softcover) 

Design hyTsang Seymour Design, Inc., New York 
Printed in Italy by Manogros 

Curated by Sherman Lee 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 
February 6— June 3, 1998 

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao 
Summer 1998 

China: 5,000 Years has been organized by the 
Guggenheim Museum in collaboration with the 
Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China 
and the National Administration for Cultural 
Heritage of the People's Republic of China, 
China International Exhibition Agency and 
Art Exhibitions China. 

Major sponsors of this exhibition are 

© Lufthansa 


6foKdj^P-r r f<fmfir/ 


tMc (^Gm&ffl/Hwp 

Significant additional support has been provided by 

The Starr Foundation 

The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation 


Mori Building Company Limited 

This exhibition has also been made possible in part 
by a major grant from the National Endowment for 
the Humanities, expanding America s understanding of 
who we were, who we are, and who we will be. 

This catalogue is supported by a grant from The Li-Ching 
Cultural and Educational Foundation. 


Naomi Richard consulting editor 
Sylvia Moss editor 


5,000 YEARS 

20 Zhang Wenbin 
23 Thomas Krens 
30 Sherman Lee 

36 Patricia Ebrey 

Some Elements in the Intellectual and 

Religious Context of Chinese Art 
49 Yu Weichao 

Five Thousand Years of Chinese 


55 Elizabeth Childs-Johnson 

Jade as Material and Epoch 

69 Ma Chengyuan 

Ritual Bronzes — Epitome of Ancient 

Chinese Civilization 
75 Jenny So 

Innovation in Ancient Chinese 


89 Michael Knight 

So Fine a Luster: 
Chinese Lacquerwares 

98 Zhao Feng 

Art of Silk and Art on Silk in China 

103 Wu Hung 

Realities of Life after Death: 
Constructing a Posthumous World in 
Funerary Art 

114 Wang Qingzheng 

The Development of Chinese 

Ceramics: A Brief Survey 
122 Regina Krahl 

Ceramics in China: Making Treasures 

from Earth 

132 Su Bai 

Origins and Trends in the Depiction of 

Human Figures in China of the Fifth 

and Sixth Centuries 
144 Helmut Brinker 

Transfiguring Divinities: Buddhist 

Sculpture in China 

159 Peter Sturman 

171 Liu Jiu'an 

Calligraphy and Painting — The Essence 

of a Civilization 

174 James Cahill 

Chinese Painting: Innovation After 
"Progress" Ends 




Of all cultures that have existed for thousands of years, China's is one of the oldest. Since the travels of 
Marco Polo, it has intrigued the Western imagination and has had an immense influence on European art 
and culture. This fascination with China has thrived right up until the present day, and a journey to "the 
Middle Kingdom" remains an extraordinarily rich and captivating experience. Since the earliest contacts 
between China and the West, transportation technology has made considerable contributions to cultural 
interchange, first through maritime trade and later, on a more extensive scale, through air traffic as well. 
Lufthansa, which has participated in the realization of this exhibition, undertook its first test flights to 
China during the 1920s, and in 1927 and 1928, the famous Asian expert Sven Hedin explored the Gobi 
desert and its climate with Lufthansa's assistance. 

These initial adventures developed into commerical flights, when, in 1930, Lufthansa and the Chinese 
Ministry of Transport signed an agreement for the operation of a European- Asian air-mail company, 
Eurasia. The company flew its Shanghai-Nanjing-Beijing-Manshuli route once a week, and, although this 
scheme soon had to be given up, its pioneering flights represented a further step in China's relationship 
with Europe and the rest of the world. 

Today, air connections to China are both comfortable and plentiful. As in the early days of aviation, 
however, Lufthansa's commitment in China is greater than the transportation of passengers and cargo. 
Together with Air China, Lufthansa operates a maintenance center for Chinese aviation, cooperates in the 
training of aviation personnel, and runs air-catering kitchens. 

China: 5,oooYears is an expression of the ties between the West and China as it reemerges as an economic 
and political superpower. We are pleased to offer our support for this exhibition as a Global Partner of the 
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, with the conviction that works of art build the longest-lasting 
bridges to mutual understanding. 

Frederick W. Reid 

President and Chief Operating Officer 

Lufthansa German Airlines 



As we begin our association with the Guggenheim Museum, Nokia is especially pleased to play a role in 
bringing this rich story of five thousand years of Chinese art and culture to people of the Western world. 
In our contemporary global society, where the written and spoken word may disjoin, art unifies. It projects 
the essence of a people, their values, and their inspiration. 

For Nokia, art embodies the principles of openness, creativity, and lasting value to which we as an institu- 
tion are committed. For that reason, we are proud not only to sponsor China: 5,000 Years but also to support 
the Finnish Museum for Modern Arts in Helsinki and the Chinese Year of Fine Arts 199S in Beijing. The 
thinking that underlies these sponsorships is reflected in our products, which are designed for aesthetic 
appeal as well as technological achievement. 

Because of this, our association with the Guggenheim is a natural step in the continuing evolution ot 
Nokia's corporate culture. We share a common vision of connecting people and enriching lives through 
technology, art, and design. From its original location in New York to the new museum in Bilbao, the 
Guggenheim is synonymous with the development and preservation of art, and thus with furthering 
knowledge and social achievement. 

China: 5, 000 Years is the culmination of the efforts of a distinguished international team of experts. As the 
largest exhibition of such art ever to be seen outside China, it presents an extremely broad and unprece- 
dented view of Chinese cultural development in which we all can find inspiration. We hope that you enjoy 
the exhibition and the great wealth it offers. 

Jorma Ollila 

President and Chief Executive Officer 



On behalf of the thousands of Ford Motor Company employees around the world, I am pleased to salute 
all of those involved in presenting China: 5,000 Years. Their unique collaboration offers the people of the 
United States and Spain this extraordinary exhibition, which demonstrates the full scope of Chinese artistic 
development over the last five thousand years. 

Our thanks go to the Guggenheim Museum; Qian Qichen,Vice Premier and Foreign Minister of the 
People's Republic of China; Li Daoyu, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United 
States; the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China; the National Administration for 
Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of China; China International Exhibition Agency; and Art 
Exhibitions China for organizing this major cultural exchange between the United States and the People's 
Republic of China. 

We at Ford Motor Company believe deeply in shared understanding between nations, and especially in 
strengthening the relationship between the governments, businesses, and people of the United States and 
China. We are particularly pleased to serve as a partner in bringing the rich cultural heritage of China to 
the people of the United States and Spain, and look forward to introducing the people of China to 
American art when the exchange exhibition America: 300 Years is presented in Beijing and Shanghai in late 
1998 and 1999. 

Alex Trotman 

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer 



China: },oooYears offers Americans the opportunity to appreciate the beauty created over five millennia by 
one of the world's oldest civilizations. From early Neolithic jade carvings to twentieth-century pieces, the 
exhibition allows the world its first view of many magnificent works. 

The Coca-Cola Company commends the Guggenheim Museum for bringing an extraordinary collection 
of Chinese artistic treasures to the United States, and for its leadership in fostering mutual understanding 
between cultures. We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to education through 
the arts, from the global exchange of ideas and information to the promotion of human understanding 
and diversity. 

As a partner of the Guggenheim Museum, we are pleased to help spotlight China s rich cultural heritage, 
and to encourage a deeper understanding of the profound achievements of generations ot Chinese artists. 

M. Douglas Ivester 

Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer 

ffic (M&& "< (sc-mpaa/f 





Mrs. Caroline Leonetti Ahmanson 
Professor and Mrs. A. Doak Barnett 

Senator Joseph R. Biden,Jr. 

Ambassador Julia Chung Bloch 

Dr. James Cahill 

Dr. and Mrs. David C. Chang 

Jeannette Chang 

Dr. Kwang-chih Chang 

Joan Chen 

Jerome A. and Joan Lebold Cohen 

Douglas Dillon 

Joseph Duffey 

Robert H. Ellsworth 

Dr. Wen and Constance T. Fong 

Mr. and Mrs. Victor Fung 

Leslie H. Gelb 

Maurice R. Greenberg 

Robert A. Hefner III 

David D. Ho, M.D. 

Mr.Waikam and Dr.Waiching Ho 

The Honorable Richard Holbrooke 
Eric Hotung 

Sir Joseph E. Hotung 

Ambassador Arthur Hummel 

Mr. and Mrs. David Henry Hwang 

Vice Chairman, National Committee on United States-China Relations 
Professor of Chinese Studies, School of International Studies, 

Johns Hopkins University 
Ranking Minority Member, United States Senate Committee on 

Foreign Relations 
President, United States/Japan Foundation 

Professor Emeritus, History of Art, University of California, Berkeley 
President, Polytechnic University 

Vice President and Publisher, Harper's Bazaar Magazine 
Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University 

Paul Weiss Rif kind Wharton and Garrison 
Former United States Secretary ot the Treasury; Former President and 

Chairman of the Board, The Metropolitan Museum ot Art 
Director, United States Information Agency 
Dealer in Chinese Art 
Consultative Chairman, Douglas Dillon; Curator of Chinese Painting and 

Calligraphy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 
Chairman, Li and Fung Ltd. 
President, Council on Foreign Relations 
Chairman, American International Group 
Chairman, GHK Companies 
Director, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center 
Former Curator, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Former Curator, 

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art 
Vice Chairman, Credit Suisse First Boston 
Hotung Institute for International Studies; 

Chairman, Hotung Group, Hong Kong 
Trustee, British Museum 

Former Ambassador of the United States to the People's Republic of China 


Dr. Simon X.Jiang 

Robert A. Kapp 

Dr. David N. Keightley 

Alice King 

Dr. Henry A. Kissinger 

Geraldine S. Kunstadter 

David M. Lampton 

Mon LingYu Landegger 

Dr. John D. Langlois 

Dr. Sherman Lee 

Dr. Chu-tsing andYao-wen Li 

Ambassador Li Daoyu 

Mee Seen Loong 

H. Christopher Luce 

Henry Luce III 

Cargill MacMillan 

Ambassador Donald F. McHenry 

Clare Tweedy McMorris 

Robert S. McNamara 

Minoru Mori 

Reverend Leo O'Donovan, S.J. 

Ronald O. Perelman 

The Honorable Nicholas Piatt 

The Honorable and Mrs. Leon Polsky 

Philip J. Purcell 

The Honorable Ambassador Qiu Shengyun 

Frederick W. Reid 

Ambassador John Ritch 

David Rockefeller 

Courtney Sale Ross 

Mrs. Arthur M. Sackler 

Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. 

Ambassador James R. Sasser 

The Honorable James R. Schlesinger 

General Brent Scowcroft 

Patrick T Siewert 

John F. Smith, Jr. 

David Tang 

Chang-Lin Tien 

Alex Trotman 

The Honorable Cyrus R.Vance 

John S. Wadsworth.Jr. 


Mr. and Mrs. Wan-go H. C.Weng 

Anne Wexler 

Andrew Whist 

Torrey L. Whitman 

Gary L.Wilson 

The Honorable Leonard Woodcock 

Dr. John Young 

Deputy Chief, United Nations Pension Fund Investments 

President, United States-China Business Council 

Department of History, University of California, Berkeley 

Alisan Fine Arts Limited 

Former United States Secretary of State 

Chair, Albert Kunstadter Family Foundation 

President, National Committee on United States— China Relations 

Vice President, Sotheby's International Real Estate 

Managing Director, J. P. Morgan and Company, Incorporated 

Director (retired), Cleveland Museum of Art 

J. H. Murphy Professor Emeritus, University of Kansas 

Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United States 

Fine Arts Consultant Specializing in Chinese Antiquities 

Director, Henry Luce Foundation 

Chairman and CEO, Henry Luce Foundation 

Board of Directors, Cargill Inc. 

Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, Georgetown University 

Chairman of the Board, The China Institute 

Former United States Secretary of Defense 

President, Mori Building Company Limited 

President, Georgetown University 

Chairman and CEO, MacAndrews & Forbes 

President, The Asia Society 

Board of Directors, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Chairman and CEO, Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Discover & Co. 

Consul General of the Peoples Republic of China in New York 

President and COO, Lufthansa German Airlines 

Ambassador of the United States to Austria 

Chairman Emeritus, Chase Manhattan Bank 


Board of Directors, The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery 


Ambassador of the United States to the People's Republic of China 

Lehman Brothers 

The Forum for International Policy 

Chairman and President, Greater China Region. Eastman Kodak 

President and CEO, General Motors 

President, Shanghai Tang 

Chancellor, University of California. Berkeley 

Chairman, President, and CEO, Ford Motor Company 

Former United States Secretary of State 

Morgan Stanley Asia Ltd. 

Painter; collector 

Author; colli Ctor 

I )epartment of Commerce 

Senior Vice President, Philip Morris Companies Inc. 

President. China Institute of America 

Chairman. Northwest Airline-. 

Former Ambassador of the United States to the People's Republic of China 

Executive Director, Committee ol I* 1 " 



Liu Zhongde 
Li Yuanchao 
Zhang Wenbin 
Ma Zishu 
Qi Gong 

Sun Weixue 

Lei Congyun 
Hao Zhan 
Yu Weichao 
Ma Chengyuan 
Tan Bin 
Su Bai 
Ren Jiyu 
Wang Wenqing 
Yang Huancheng 
Ma Jiayu 

Xu Huping 


Li Kunsheng 

Shu Zhimei 

Xia Lu 

Wang Mianhou 

Xiong Chuanxin 

Zhang Lizhu 

Ji Genzhang 

Bao XianJun 


Zhang Qingjie 
Wang Limei 

Meng Xianmin 
Zheng Guangrong 
Yang Yang 
Yin Jia 

Zhang Jianxin 
Qian Wei 

Minister, Ministry of Culture of P.R.C. 

Vice-Minister, Ministry of Culture of P.R.C. 

Director General, National Administration for Cultural Heritage, P.R.C. 

Vice-Director, National Administration for Cultural Heritage, P.R.C. 

Member, Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political 

Conference of P.R.C; Director, State Committee for Identifying 

Cultural Relics 
Director, Bureau for External Cultural Relations, 

Ministry of Culture of P.R.C. 
Director, Art Exhibitions China 
Director, China International Exhibition Agency 
Director, National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 
Director, Shanghai Museum 
Deputy Director, Palace Museum, Beijing 
Professor, Beijing University 
Director, Beijing Library 

Director, Shaanxi Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics 
Director, Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 
Director, Sichuan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, 

Director, Nanjing Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Deputy Director, Bureau ot Culture ot Tibetan Autonomous Region 
Director, Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 
Director, Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan 
Director, Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 
Director, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 
Director, Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 
Director, Hebei Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics 
Director, Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Culture 
Director, Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics 
Honorary Director, Museum of the Tomb of the Nanyue King of the 

Western Han Dynasty, Guangdong Province 
Director, Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 
Director, Foreign Affairs Office, National Administration for Cultural 

Heritage, P.R.C. 
Department Director, National Administration for Cultural Heritage, P.R.C. 
Department Director, National Administration for Cultural Heritage, P.R.C. 
Deputy Director, Art Exhibitions China 
Director, Exhibition Department, Art Exhibitions China 
Director, External Affairs Department, Art Exhibitions China 
Assistant Research Fellow, Exhibition Department, Art Exhibitions China 



Sherman Lee 
Helmut Brinker 
James Cahill 

Elizabeth Childs-Johnson 
Patricia Ebrey 
Michael Knight 
Regina Krahl 

Jenny So 

Peter Sturman 

Wu Hung 

Zhao Feng 

Director (retired), Cleveland Museum of Art 

Professor, University of Zurich 

Professor Emeritus, History of Art, University of California, Berkeley 

Visiting Scholar, New York University 

Professor, Department of History, University of Washington 

Curator of Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco 

Independent Scholar, Affiliated with the Royal Museums of Art and History, 

Curator of Ancient Chinese Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler 

Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 
Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, 

University of California, Santa Barbara 
Harrie A.Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art 

History, University of Chicago 
Professor, China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou 



Su Bai 
Qi Gong 

Huang Jinglue 

Xu Pingfang 

Yu Weichao 
Ma Chengyuan 
Zhang Zhongpei 
Wang Qingzheng 
Liu Jiu'an 

Professor, Beijing University 

Member, Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political 

Conference of P.R.C.; Director, State Committee for Identifying 

Cultural Relics 
Head, Expert Committee of the National Administration for Cultural 

Heritage, P.K.C 
Researcher, Former Director, China Social Science of Archaeology 

Institute, Beijing 
Director, National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 
Director, Shanghai Museum 
Researcher, Palace Museum, Beijing 
Deputy Director, Shanghai Museum 
Researcher, Palace Museum, Beijing 




Jane DeBevoise, Manon Slome, Xiaormng Zhang, 

Emily Wei, Nicole Lin, Shihong Aldin, 

Mary Jane Clark, Tracy Power, Adegboyega Adefope 

Exhibition Design Consultant: 
Arata Isozaki 



National Administration for Cultural Heritage: 
Wang Limei, Meng Xianmin, Zheng Guangrong 

Art Exhibitions China: 

Yang Yang, Yin Jia, Zhang Jianxin, QianWei, 

Chen Shujie 


National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 

Tianjin Municipal History Museum 

Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang 

Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics, Shijiazhuang 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, Zhengzhou 

Zhengzhou Municipal Museum, Henan Province 

Guanlin Museum of Stone Sculpture, Luoyang, Henan Province 

Luoyang Cultural Relics Work Team, Henan Province 

Luoyang Municipal Museum, Henan Province 

Nanyang Municipal Museum, Henan Province 

Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics, Anxiang County, Hunan Province 

Museum of the Tomb of the Nanyue King of the Western Han Dynasty, Guangdong Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 

Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuangdi, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Famen Temple Museum, Shaanxi Province 

Baoji Municipal Museum, Shaanxi Province 

Zhouyuan Museum, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 

Sichuan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Relics, Chengdu 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics, Xindu County, Sichuan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 

Administrative Office of Norbu Linka, Lhasa, Autonomous Region of Tibet 

Shanghai Museum 

Nanjing Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Suzhou Municipal Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Zhen jiang Municipal Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Yangzhou Municipal Museum, Jiangsu Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Hangzhou 

Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Hangzhou 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics, Wenling, Zhejiang Province 



Romanization. Chinese is here transcribed according to the pinyin system of romanization adopted by 
the People's Republic of China and now in general use. Sanskrit names and terms are transcribed using 
full upper diacriticals but no lower diacriticals. Parenthetic C: and S: stand for "Chinese" and "Sanskrit," 

Names. All Chinese names are cited in traditional Asian fashion, surname followed by given name. 

Dates. Following custom, Chinese emperors from antiquity to the beginning of the Ming dynasty are 
referred to by the name of their dynasty followed by their posthumous names (e.g., Song Huizong, whose 
personal name was Zhao Ji). Again following custom, emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties are 
referred to by the auspicious name chosen by themselves for each of their reigns (e.g., the Xuande 
["Far-Reaching Virtue"] emperor). Note that the reign-era (iiianliao) never exactly corresponded to the 
dates of the reign itself, usually being proclaimed some months after the enthronement and continuing in 
use until the successor, some time after his enthronement, proclaimed a new reign-era. 

Ceramics. Chinese place-names changed frequently, usually reflecting political changes. Most ceramics are 
conventionally called by the ancient names of the states, counties, or towns in or near which the principal 
kilns were located (Cizhou ware.Yue ware), or by the site names of the first characteristic finds (Yangshao 
ware). Names of other wares refer to their glaze color (e.g., qingbai, "bluish white," or sancai, "three- 
colored"). Note that the gray-green, blue-green, or olive-green wares formerly differentiated as Northern 
and Southern Celadons, Ru ware, and Guan ware are here all termed "green-glazed ware," as an indication 
that they are all branches of a single stylistic and technological "family." 



Zhang Wenbin 

Director General, 

National Administration for 

China: 5,oooYears, an exhibition nearly cultural Heritage, Beijing 

four years in preparation, is a major event 

in Sino-American cultural exchanges, one 

that will undoubtedly further mutual 

understanding between our two 

governments and friendship between our 

two peoples. On this occasion, both as 

Director General of the National 

Administration for Cultural Heritage and 

in my personal capacity, I am delighted to offer 
warm and heartfelt congratulations for the 
exhibitions opening at the world-renowned 
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and to 
anticipate its resounding success. 

The exhibition China: 5,000 Years is aptly named, 
for the more than two hundred Chinese cultural 
treasures here assembled range from extraordinary 
and inspired creations of our prehistoric forebears 
to objects of luxury and paintings dating from the 
reigns of the Yongzheng (r. 1723-1735) and 
Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) emperors of the Qing 
dynasty. Thirty-nine different cultural institutions 
throughout China have made these treasures 
available. Among the exhibits are a jade pig-dragon 
of the Hongshan culture in Liaoning Province 
(cat. 2), the extraordinary four-ram bronze zun of 
Shang date from Hunan Province (cat. 23), and a 
mwe-glazed octagonal bottle from the Famen 
Temple in Shaanxi Province (cat. 125), as well as 
stone carvings from a Song dynasty temple site in 
Shaanxi Province (cat. 177), and Song, Yuan, Ming, 
and Qing dynasty paintings from the collections of 
the Shanghai Museum and the Palace Museum in 
Beijing. Some of these national treasures of long- 
standing fame are being exhibited abroad for the 
first time. I may therefore say without exaggeration 
that, for quality, size, comprehensiveness, and 
diversity of sources, China: 5,oooYears sets new 
standards for overseas exhibitions of Chinese 
cultural relics. This is truly a magnificent show, and 
those who see it will have reason to rejoice. 

As Chinese and American experts agreed, this 
exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum will focus 
on the magnificent advances in the civilization of 
the Chinese people over five millennia, as reflected 
in culture and art. I strongly agree with this well- 
conceived approach, and fully support its 
implementation. Although the appearance and 
development of every art form are subject to the 
constraints of natural, social, and historical 
conditions, art, which expresses as well as nourishes 
the essence of the human spirit, often epitomizes 
the starting and end-points of human development. 
It transcends the limitations of era, country, and 
ethnicity, brings together all the dignity and pride 
of the human race, and demonstrates that most 
precious wisdom and capacity inherently possessed 
by people. Hence, works of art can reflect the 
continuity and variation of a cultural tradition, the 
internal meaning and outward manifestations of an 
era, and the internal character and spiritual qualities 
of a people. They do so in the profoundest and 
most diverse ways, from a wealth of perspectives, 
and through the freshest and liveliest forms. For this 
reason, works of art can also easily overcome the 
constraints of time and space to communicate 
knowledge and friendship between people of 

different ethnicities and cultural traditions, and 111 
so doing to build bridges of understanding and 
trust. Although the various artistic treasures 
displayed in China: 5,000 Years are but a tiny portion 
of China's ancient artistic heritage, they are among 
the most representative and most expressive 
specimens. My respected teacher, Professor Su Bai 
of Beijing University, and others have prepared 
excellent detailed comments and analyses. I am 
therefore fully confident that through an 
appreciation of these remarkable works of art, 
viewers will gain a clear and deep, albeit not 
comprehensive, impression of the Chinese people 
over five millennia, and of the breadth and depth of 
their history and culture. 

Among the world's great civilizations, that of China 
is unique in its continuity. The Mesopotamians or 
the Mayans have no modern heirs, but modern 
Chinese culture has demonstrably descended in an 
unbroken line from its ancient roots. Chinese 
culture is also remarkable in the degree to which 
cultural differences, born of time and vast distance, 
interpenetrated and catalyzed the development of a 
coherent and enduring Chinese culture. Like a 
mighty and luxuriant tree, China stands tall in the 
forest of the world's peoples, surviving and thriving 
through five thousand years of winds and rains, a 
remarkable history that may not be well known in 
the West. 

In this exhibition one can see about thirty bronzes 
from the Xia, Shang, and Zhou periods (21st- 
5th c. BCE).They come from the nine provinces of 
Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hubei, Hunan, 
Zhejiang, Sichuan, and Yunnan. The sites where 
they were unearthed span a distance roughly equal 
to that between the east and west coasts of the 
United States and a period of roughly fifteen 
hundred years. In design, ornamentation, stylization, 
and casting techniques these bronzes display 

dissimilarities ranging in degree from variations to 
pronounced differences. The resulting richness 
and diversity was occasioned not only by passage 
of time and change of dynasties but also by 
differences in region and ethnicity. This richness 
and diversity testifies to continuous progress in 
social productivity, social structure, and social 
consciousness in Bronze Age China. Diversity of 
form and technique, however, was subsumed in a 
commonality of function: the bronzes of this period 
all served as utensils for rituals and ceremonials 
(such as sacrifices and banquets) and as symbols of 
the social status of their users. 

So too with other types of artworks from other 
periods of Chinese history; interpenetration and 
continuity became a basic phenomenon of Chinese 
cultural development. Such cultural intermingling 
and merging demonstrate the influence and 



absorptive power of the orthodox culture, which 
was primarily that of the majority Han people 
(as well as of their predecessors, the Huaxia people). 
It reflects the stability of that culture, as well as the 
harmonious coexistence of cultural diversity and 
uniformity, which is its essential quality. To the 
best of my knowledge, this may be a mode of 
cultural progression unique to China. It germinated 
in prehistoric China, took shape in the pre-Qin 
period, and was continually reinforced in dynastic 
China. History has already shown that China's vast 
and wondrous soil affords a great stage for her 
many nationalities to exercise their native bents 
and abilities. 

A people must have a source of spiritual strength. 
The great wellspring of spiritual strength and 
survival for the Chinese people over several 
millennia has been their sense of dignity, love, 
confidence, and respect for themselves; their love of 
country and struggle tor unity; their perseverance, 
self-renewal, and ability to carry on against all 
adversity. It was precisely the tremendous creativity 
unleashed by this spirit that has enabled the 
Chinese people to flourish at an early period of 
human history, to maintain their place, unceasing 
and uninterrupted, among the peoples of the 
world, and in so doing to make an indelible 
contribution to human culture. A full recognition 
of this characteristic of Chinese culture will help 
deepen our understanding of its perseverance and 
also reinforce our confidence in its future. 

The treasures displayed in Cliina: 5,000 Years have 
existed for thousands of years and will continue to 
exist for uncounted years more, providing strong 
evidence of China's enormous potential. A 
dependable foundation for the full realization of 
this great potential, 5,000 years of cumulative 
cultural achievements augur well for China's swift 
ascent in the twenty-first century. 

May lggy, Honglou Simian, Beijing 



Introduction and 

China: 5, 000 Years explores innovation 
and transformation in Chinese art over a 
period of five millennia, from neolithic 
jades of the third millennium bce 
through the modern era. While the very 
length of this continuous cultural 
tradition may suggest a profound 
conservatism, China has in fact produced 
daring, transgressive, and stylistically 

Thomas Krens 

Director, The Solomon R. 
Guggenheim Foundation 

and technologically innovative art for a longer peri- 
od of time, and at a higher level of sophistication, 
than any other civilization in history. This exhibi- 
tion, which is designed to confirm that assertion, 
results from the timely convergence of two distinct 
factors: a wealth of newly excavated objects and 
artifacts of stunning beauty and significance, and an 
increased appreciation in China of cultural achieve- 
ments of the twentieth century. As a consequence, 
the juxtaposition of modern Chinese art with its 
traditional counterpart in an exhibition mounted 
by a major Western museum has been made possi- 
ble for the first time ever. 

The major exhibitions of art from Taiwan that have 
been staged in recent years have encouraged a pop- 
ular perception that works of comparable quality 
do not exist today in China. It is important to 
stress, first of all, that significant portions of the for- 
mer imperial collection never left China but 
remained in Beijing and elsewhere; the Palace 
Museum in Beijing, for example, still holds some 
ten thousand premodern paintings and pieces of 
calligraphy. Second, major collections remained in 
private hands, and many of these works subsequent- 
ly entered public collections in Shanghai (where 
approximately six thousand scrolls are located), 
Nanjing (about fifteen hundred scrolls), and other 
large and small museums throughout the country. 
Finally, large-scale artworks, such as stone sculpture, 
which could not be readily removed, remained in 
numerous religious and secular contexts. 

It has been noted that China's cultural legacy, 
unlike that of Greece or Rome, was preserved 
beneath rather than on the surface of the ground, 
due to the long-standing practice of burying art- 
works with the deceased. The clandestine opening 
of tombs began as early as the time of Confucius, in 
the fifth century bce, and bronzes and jades so 
gathered formed part of the imperial collection in 
later centuries. But formal archaeological excava- 
tions were virtually unknown in ('lima before the 
present century, and were not conducted continu- 

ously and systematically until after the founding of 
the People's Republic of China. During the nearly 
five decades since then, the pace of discovery has 
quickened from a trickle to a deluge of new finds, a 
logical outcome of the surging economic develop- 
ment that required the digging of foundations for 
new factories, houses, office buildings, roads, air- 
ports, and power facilities. China has now become 
the scene of more archaeological activity than any- 
where else in the world, and the discoveries have 
added immensely to our existing knowledge in 
some areas, while opening entirely new chapters in 
others. The discovery, conservation, and analysis of 
these objects and artifacts will, of course, continue, 
and a definitive cultural history remains to be writ- 
ten. But China: 5,oooYears, which draws heavily on 
these new resources and discusses them in a schol- 
arly context within this exhibition catalogue, has 
become an active participant in that process. 

The traditional section of China: 5,oooYears draws 
its material from the cultural treasures held in 
museums throughout the People's Republic of 
China, as well as the discoveries that haw come to 
light in the last fifty years, to present an expanded 
vision of Chinese culture. Professor Sherman Lee is 
the chief architect of this enterprise. 1 lis lifetime 
commitment to the art of China, his extraordinary 
professional career — which included twenty-six 
years as Director of the Cleveland Museum of Ait. 
where he built one of the great collections oi 
Chinese antiquities — and his reputation .is 
America's leading scholar oi Chinese culture have 
given him a singular platform from which to for- 
mulate an exquisite sensitivity toward and under- 
standing of Chinese art history. Professoi 1 ee's 
insights, which are reflected in his selection >'t 
objects for this exhibition, include the dynamic 
relationships that existed between the earl) Chinese 
and the spiritual, natural, and cosmological worlds 
in which the) lived, lie also emphasizes an aggres- 
sively innovative and transformative impulse — 
rather than a reliance on tradition — as the enduring 
achievemeni of Chinese art, and he gives an 



unprecedented primacy to three-dimensional work, 
particularly to Buddhist sculpture. 

These, then, are the great formative themes of 
China: 5,000 Years, which emerged as a result of 
Professor Lee's numerous trips to China over the 
past four years. During these visits, he traveled 
throughout the country to provincial museums and 
archaeological excavations, as well as to the great 
collections in Beijing and Shanghai. He searched 
through warehouses of recently excavated material 
and considered well-known objects currently on 
display. The selection of objects he made for this 
exhibition reflects his personal vision, and it has a 
freshness and a breathtaking elegance that will 
make scholars and laymen alike feel that they are 
seeing Chinese art for the first time. Professor Lee's 
vision has been supported by an impressive array of 
international scholars, who have provided assistance 
and consultation on every aspect of the project, 
including Helmut Brinker, James Cahill, Regina 
Krahl, Howard Rogers, and Jenny So, who rendered 
continuous support and advice on all aspects of the 
exhibition as it was being planned and on the 
structure and rhythm of the installation at the 
Guggenheim Museum. On the Chinese side, Zhang 
Wenbin, Director General of the National 
Administration for Cultural Heritage, and Wang 
Limei, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the 
National Administration for Cultural Heritage, 
structured the lengthy discussions and negotiations 
with the various museums and archaeological exca- 
vations that have lent objects to the exhibition. 
They also provided invaluable advice, as did the 
directors of the Palace Museum in Beijing and the 
Shanghai Museum, Yang Xin, Ma Chengyuan, and 
Wang Qingzheng, who not only made their collec- 
tions available, but often suggested improvements to 
the checklist that went beyond our expectations. In 
short, the traditional section of China: 5,oooYears is 
a visionary and collaborative enterprise of unprece- 
dented proportion between Chinese, American, and 
international scholars. 

The modern section of China: 5,000 Years has no 
less an engaging history. As China has modernized 
and gradually become more accessible to the 
Western world during the past 150 years, so too has 
its visual culture, but the country's most recent cul- 
tural production has been largely ignored by a 
Western sensibility dominated almost exclusively by 
a Modernist Western canon. The turbulent political 
and social context in which twentieth-century 
Chinese art has developed, however, is no reason to 
separate it from the larger history of Chinese art 
from which it derives much of its inspiration, or 
from the Western traditions that it also reflects. Its 
particular fascination will not be found in the 
degree to which it participated in the development 
of a Euro-American Modernism, but rather in the 

struggle that is reflected in its attempt to bridge tra- 
ditional Chinese attitudes with the inevitable con- 
sequences of contemporary politics and expanding 
contact with the West. 

The late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries 
brought a certain cultural cross-fertilization 
between China and Europe. Just as European artists 
were influenced by Asian block-printing tech- 
niques, perspectival flatness, and decorative tenden- 
cies, for example, Chinese artists were drawn to 
Western approaches, methodologies, and tech- 
niques, such as Impressionism, abstraction, realistic 
portraiture, and oil painting. The late nineteenth 
century in China saw innovations within the tradi- 
tional context, which developed under the patron- 
age of Shanghai's new economic elite. Highlights 
included elaborate works with bird and flower 
themes, and paintings based on fantastic narratives, 
which appealed to a new class of collectors in this 
vibrant industrial port city. Chinese art of the early 
part of the twentieth century reflected the growing 
cosmopolitan attitude of Chinese artists, many of 
whom studied abroad. The 1920s saw a re- 
emergence of the woodcut as a powerful artistic 
medium, as art became swept up in the social and 
political upheavals that were coursing through 
China. The inherently stark contrast and imminent 
reproducibility of woodcuts made this a natural 
medium for communicating the horrific realities of 
the Japanese invasion, and the numerous prints 
reflecting the horrors of war from this period recall 
the graphic work of Francisco de Goya in their 
shocking impact. Postwar communism brought a 
socialist-realist format that produced some of the 
most outstanding examples of realist painting ever 
seen. Although Chinese socialist realism was not 
considered by most Western critics, there is no 
doubt that painterly technique flourished in the 
Chinese academy at a level of extraordinary sophis- 
tication, and this laid the foundation for a rejuvena- 
tion of Chinese art during the past two decades 
through a blending of traditional, academic, and 
international influences. In short, the art of China 
in the twentieth century tells a compelling story, 
which demands to be considered in the context of 
the long train of Chinese art history, and in the 
context of an emerging global sensibility. 

The Guggenheim has been again fortunate in 
attracting a first-rate team of scholars to organize 
this narrative of modern Chinese art, under the 
leadership and direction of Professor Julia Andrews 
of The Ohio State University, one of the world's 
leading scholars of twentieth-century Chinese art. 
Professor Andrews has been ably assisted in her 
selection by contributions from Kuiyi Shen, 
Presidential Fellow, The Ohio State University; 
Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History, 
Yale University; Shan Guolin, Chief Curator of 



Painting and Calligraphy, Shanghai Museum; 
Christina Chu, Curator, Xubaizhai, The Hong 
Kong Museum of Art; Xue Yongnian, Professor 
of Art History, Central Academy of Fine Arts, 
Beijing; May-ching Kao, Professor of Fine Arts 
and Director, Art Museum, The Chinese 
University of Hong Kong; and Joan Lebold 
Cohen, critic and author. 

While one great achievement of China: 5,oooYears 
is to place the traditional and the modern into 
adjacent contexts, they remain two distinct 
stories — one a reexamination of classical, dynastic 
Chinese art in terms of its innovative and 
transgressive tendencies; the other an account of 
modern Chinese art as a reflection of political 
history and in terms of its attempt to sustain both 
classical and Western cultural vocabularies. Together 
they make a third story: five thousand years of con- 
tinuous cultural history in China that continues to 
the present day. 

The sheer scope of such an exhibition enterprise is, 
of course, ambitious, and it carries with it many 
challenges and contradictions. In its very title, 
China: 5,000 Years poses many questions: Can any 
single exhibition legitimately explore five 
thousand years of any culture, let alone one as rich 
as this? Does it make sense to link twentieth- 
century Chinese culture with forty-nine centuries 
of "traditional" culture? Is the Guggenheim 
Museum — with its collections and expertise firmly 
rooted in twentieth-century Western art — a legiti- 
mate organizer of such an event? How does the 
narrative thread of this exhibition relate to the his- 
tory of Chinese art as it is understood through the 
weight of scholarship on Chinese history and art to 
date, and through the Chinese objects exhibited 
and studied in museums in Taiwan, Europe, and 
America? The answers to these questions will 
inevitably be found in the exhibition itself. The 
importance of China: 5,000 Years will be a function 
of its ability to present a fresh, incredibly rich, and 
provocative new chapter to the study of the cultural 
history of China. 

The story of the genesis and development of 
China: $,oooYcars as an exhibition project is itself an 
extraordinary tale. That it is organized by, and 
shown in, the Guggenheim Museums in New York 
derives from a specific sequence of conditions and 
circumstances favorable to such an enterprise, and 
from the participation and commitment of a 
diverse and impressive group of individuals who are 
committed to China and to fostering international 
understanding through cultural communication. 
The initial impulse for the project — its primary 
motivation — derives from the simple fact that 
China is a country of deep traditions, extraordinary 
achievement, startling paradoxes, and enormous 

potential. At the close of the twentieth century. 
China is inhabited by 1.22 billion people, the 
largest population on earth; it occupies the fourth 
largest land mass of any country, and is the 
projected superpower of the twenty-first century. 
China is also in the midst of historic transitions — 
from a rural/agrarian- to an urban/manufacturmg- 
based society, and from a communist command 
economy to a capitalist market-based one. Its sheer 
size, potential, and history make it a force to be 
reckoned with. Yet it is also a country whose char- 
acter, culture, and traditions are still very much 
unfamiliar in the West. 

On both a political and an economic level, China's 
future demands a special relationship with the 
United States. The two countries are locked in an 
embrace that is everywhere in evidence. China 
sends 17 percent of its exports to the United 
States, and now holds over $130 billion in foreign- 
currency reserves in the form of U.S. Treasury 
bonds; American companies have more than 
$20 billion invested in China; an estimated 
fifty thousand Chinese study at American colleges 
and universities, constituting the single largest body 
of foreign students in the United States; more than 
half a million American tourists visited China in 
1996; and fifteen million Americans are of Chinese 
ancestry. His Excellency Jiang Zemin, President of 
the People's Republic of China, visited the United 
States last October, and the Honorable Bill Clinton, 
President of the United States, is planning a state 
visit to China later this year. The growing need for 
China and the United States to accommodate one 
another has created a simultaneous demand for 
cultural engagement, and this was the major pre- 
condition for the motivation, the will, and the 
opportunities on both sides required to conceive 
of and organize this exhibition. 

On a more local level, another major precondition 
for the exhibition was the nature of the evolving 
direction and focus of the Guggenheim Museum 
itself. During the past ten years, the Guggenheim 
has experienced a significant transformation. With 
the renovation of its original Frank 1 loyd Wright 
building, the construction of a new addition, and 
the establishment of the Guggenheim Museum 
S0H0 in 1992, the Guggenheim Foundation broad 
ened its physical and programming base and estab 
lished a strong position in New York City, or 
the greatest cultural capitals 111 the world. This local 
expansion was supplemented In continued 
improvements and a modest expansion .it the Pegg) 
Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and In the dra- 
matic completion and opening of the Guggenheim 
Museum Bilbao, a building designed by Frank 
Gehry that mam critics are saying will take its 
place alongside the Frank I loyd Wright designed 
Gueeenheim in New York as one ol the two 



greatest buildings of the twentieth century. The 
Bilbao opening was followed two weeks later by 
the opening of Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. 

The Guggenheim is becoming a truly international 
museum not only in terms of buildings and loca- 
tions, but also through an equally intense commit- 
ment to expanding its programming, reflected both 
in the growth of its permanent collection and in 
the breadth and depth of its special exhibitions. 
The original mission of the museum was to collect, 
preserve, and present the art of the Modern and 
contemporary periods. Nine superlative curators 
from three countries have dramatically expanded 
the scope of programming, with major 
monographic exhibitions devoted to, among 
others, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes 
Oldenburg, and Robert Rauschenberg; important 
historical exhibitions such as Tlie Great Utopia: 
The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde, igi5-igj2, The 
Italian Metamorphosis, ig43~ig68, Picasso and the Age 
of Iron, and Africa:The Art of a Continent; and 
smaller, focused exhibitions such as Max Beckmann 
in Exile, Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay's Series, and 
Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in 
Photography. In the process of developing these 
projects, the Guggenheim has become a major pro- 
ducer of exhibitions. A measure of its success is 
reflected in the fact that, during the past five years, 
Guggenheim-organized exhibitions have been pre- 
sented in more than eighty museums around the 
world, from Bilbao to Shanghai, from Los Angeles 
to Munich, and from Singapore to Vienna. 

A fundamental shift in attitude has complemented 
this extraordinary programmatic growth. The 
Guggenheim recognizes that culture in the twenti- 
eth and twenty-first centuries cannot be treated as a 
Western-oriented, Euro-American hegemony. 
Museums in particular cannot maintain a high 
regard for classical and antique cultures from 
around the world while remaining skeptical about 
the contemporary art of non-Western traditions. 
That a new postmodern, multifaceted, multilingual 
contemporary global culture is emerging in an 
increasingly interconnected and Internet-linked 
world is a fact that cannot be ignored. Africa, Asia, 
and South America all sustain vibrant contempo- 
rary cultures that a global museum must engage. 
The Guggenheim's aspirations as an international 
museum are viable only to the degree that a broad- 
based international program comes into place. The 
museum buildings — for all their architectural bril- 
liance and geographic diversity — are only a point of 

The Guggenheim's interest in non- Western cultures 
was heralded by Japanese Art After ig4}: Scream 
Against the Sky, an exhibition organized in con- 
junction with the Yokohama Museum of Art and 

presented to critical acclaim at the Guggenheim 
Museum SoHo in 1994. For American audiences, 
the material was fresh and sophisticated, related to 
European attitudes but not derivative. The art 
reflected Japanese culture and traditions, in a vocab- 
ulary that was simultaneously recognizable and 
original. Various commentaries on the exhibition 
noted the "Japaneseness" of the material, and 
pointed out that this was an art that had been 
consistently ignored or overlooked by Western 
museums. For the Guggenheim, the project was 
exhilarating. The task was to understand the 
narrative of postwar Japanese art not only as a 
reflection of its immediate sociohistorical context, 
but also in relation to the some three thousand 
years of cultural history that preceded it. 

By late 1994, the stars were almost in alignment for 
China: 5, 000 Years to become a reality. The skeletal 
framework of the global Guggenheim — and the 
exhibition-organizing engine — were largely in 
place. The concept of a far-reaching exhibition pro- 
gram that included, every few years, an exhibition 
challenging the conventional direction of the 
Guggenheim while taking advantage of its scholarly 
criteria and organizational capacities was approved 
by the Board of Trustees. All that remained was to 
connect the source of the vision for China: 3,000 
Years with the curatorial expertise to bring it to life. 
That connection was provided by Sherman Lee. 
More than twenty-five years ago, in 1969, as an 
undergraduate economics and political-science 
major at Williams College, I took my first art- 
history course — on Chinese landscape painting — 
with Professor Lee. When the opportunity for an 
exhibition of Chinese art at the Guggenheim arose, 
there was never any doubt in my mind that 
Professor Lee was the only person to provide the 
bold and unique vision to select it. Happily, several 
weeks after I presented the general thesis of an 
exhibition of five millennia of Chinese art drawn 
exclusively from material in China to him, 
Professor Lee agreed to head the curatorial team 
for the traditional section. 

The next step was to secure the participation and 
cooperation of the Chinese. In the autumn of 
1994, the Honorable Gianni De Michelis, former 
Foreign Minister of Italy and Guggenheim trustee, 
helped arrange a meeting with the Honorable 
Qian Qichen,Vice Premier and Foreign Minister 
of the People's Republic of China. Our mission 
was simple: to seek an unprecedented collaboration 
with the Chinese government by presenting the 
objectives of China: 3, 000 Years with reference to its 
political significance in the context of developing 
Sino- American relations. As a result of that 
meeting the following January, the Guggenheim 
was put in contact with representatives of the 
Ministry of Culture, National Administration 


for Cultural Heritage, China International 
Exhibition Agency, and Art Exhibitions China to 
begin planning. 

To implement this striking and ambitious vision, 
Sherman Lee, with the able support of Howard 
Rogers, assembled an outstanding team of advisors 
who not only wrote essays for this catalogue, but 
also provided consultation on every aspect of the 
exhibition, from issues of conservation to the 
installation plan and educational materials. This 
team includes the top specialists in their areas of 
expertise: Helmut Brinker, Professor, University of 
Zurich; James Cahill, Professor Emeritus, History of 
Art, University of California, Berkeley; Elizabeth 
Childs-Johnson, Visiting Scholar, New York 
University; Patricia Ebrey, Professor, Department of 
History, University ot Washington; Michael Knight, 
Curator of Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum of San 
Francisco; Regina Krahl, independent scholar, 
affiliated with the Royal Museums of Art and 
History, Brussels; Jenny So, Curator of Ancient 
Chinese Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. 
Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C.; Peter Sturman, Associate 
Professor, Department of the History of Art and 
Architecture, University of California, Santa 
Barbara; Wu Hung, Harrie A.Vanderstappen 
Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art 
History, University of Chicago; and Zhao Feng, 
Professor, China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou. 

In addition, the National Administration for 
Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of 
China, our partner in the organization of the 
traditional section of China: 5,000 Years, provided 
scholarly assistance at all levels of the planning and 
development of the exhibition. Zhang Wenbin 
assembled an impressive team of support for the 
project, including the following prominent scholars 
and high-level museum professionals who 
contributed essays to this catalogue: Su Bai, 
Professor, Beijing University; Yu Weichao, Director 
of the National Museum of Chinese History, 
Beijing; Ma Chengyuan, Director of the Shanghai 
Museum; Wang Qingzheng, Deputy Director of the 
Shanghai Museum; and Liu Jiu'an, Researcher, 
Palace Museum, Beijing. Yang Yang, Yin Jia, Zhang 
Jianxin, Qian Wei, and Chen Shujie of Art 
Exhibitions China; Lu Chenglong and Xu 
of the Palace Museum; Wang Changqi and 
Gao Man of the Institute for the Protection of 
Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Xi'an; Li Xuefang 
of the Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an; and Han 
Jianwu of the Shaan.xi History Museum, Xi'an. also 
provided important scholarly contributions and 
research for this exhibition. June Mei skillfully 
translated these essays. 

There are always many, many important people to 

thank for helping put together an exhibition of this 
complexity and scope. First of all, the task of 
assembling such a broad range of material from a 
wide range of sources demanded a unique 
organizational structure and support at the highest 
level. Our most sincere gratitude is extended to 
President Jiang Zemin; the Honorable Li Peng, 
Premier of the Peoples Republic of China; Vice 
Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen; and 
the Honorable Liu Zhongde, Minister of Culture 
of the People's Republic of China, without whose 
support this project would never have been 
realized. The Foreign Ministry- supported this 
exhibition through the good offices of the 
Honorable Li Daoyu, Ambassador of the People's 
Republic of China to the United States, who 
provided advice and consultation at important 
stages of the project. We would like to extend our 
most sincere thanks and gratitude to the Honorable 
Qiu Shengyun, Consul General of the People's 
Republic of China in New York. The complex task 
of organizing the specifics of the exhibition — in 
particular, arranging loans from the many lending 
institutions — fell to the Ministry of Culture of the 
People's Republic of China and, for the traditional 
section, the National Administration for Cultural 
Heritage. At the Ministry of Culture, I would like 
to extend my personal thanks to Li Yuanchao, 
Vice-Minister of Culture, and Ding Wei, Deputy 
Director of the General Bureau of External 
Cultural Relations, who were steadfast in their 
support for the project and instrumental in 
providing direction and focus. With particular 
respect and friendship, we would like to single out 
Zhang Wenbin and Wang Limei at the National 
Administration for Cultural Heritage, without 
whose professional and steadfast leadership, this 
complicated and far-reaching exhibition would 
never have come to fruition. This exhibition would 
also not be possible without the support ot 
Lei Congyun, Director of Art Exhibitions China, 
and Yang Yang, Deputy Director of Art 
Exhibitions China, who oversaw all the logistical 
and organizational details, in addition to research 
responsibilities. We are also indebted to the team 
of specialists who accompanied the artworks from 
China for their installation in New York; Shan 
Guolin of the Shanghai Museum: Feng Xiaoqi ot 
the Palace Museum. Beijing: and Chen Shujie ot 
Art Exhibitions China. Our very special thanks go 
to Hu Chui, photographer at the Palace Museum, 
who spent many days and even months traveling 
around China, applying Ins art 10 the task ol 
photographing the objects in the exhibition. 
The beautiful plates in this catalogue are testimony 
to his uncompromising eye for quality and detail. 
We will provide our extended thanks to the team 
at the China I \lubition Agency in 
our catalogue dedicated to the modern section of 
the exhibition, but 1 would like to take this 



opportunity to express my particular gratitude to 
Hao Zhan, Director, and Wan Jiyuan, Li Li, and 
You Shu. 

I would also like to express my gratitude to Gianni 
De Michelis for his inspiration and generosity, and 
for nurturing this project at its inception and 
remaining a strong supporter and advisor. Ji 
Chaozhu and Simon Jiang also must be thanked for 
their support. 

One of the astonishing aspects of this exhibition is 
the large number of lenders from all over China 
who recognized its historic importance and 
contributed to its success by allowing precious 
works from their collections to travel to the 
exhibition venues. A separate page is devoted to a 
list of our lenders — thirty-nine in total in the 
traditional section of China: 3,000 Years — but I 
would like to take this opportunity to offer them 
our deepest gratitude for their enormous generosity 
and cooperation, without which this exhibition 
would not have been possible. 

In the United States, there were also a large 
number of people without whom we would not 
have been able to bring this exhibition to fruition. 
It has been a privilege and an honor to work with 
Sherman Lee on this project. A deep debt of 
gratitude is owed to him, and also to his wife, 
Ruth, who accompanied Professor Lee on his many 
visits to China in preparation tor this exhibition. 
I would also like to thank Howard Rogers, who 
served as consulting curator and as general editor of 
this catalogue. Having worked closely with 
Professor Lee over a period of many years, he has a 
deep appreciation and sensitive understanding of 
Professor Lee's vision. His own formidable grasp of 
all aspects of Chinese art is the result of more than 
thirty years of involvement in the field, including 
eighteen years as a professor of Chinese art history 
at Sophia University, Tokyo. Howard Rogers's wife, 
Mary Ann, herself an expert in Chinese art, was 
also ever generous in her support. David 
Sensabaugh, Ann Wardwell, Pat Berger, and Jan 
Berris also provided important advice. 

At the Guggenheim, Jane DeBevoise, Director of 
the China Exhibition Project, assisted by Manon 
Slome, Project Assistant Curator, oversaw all aspects 
of the exhibition planning, coordination, and 
execution, from checklist and loan negotiation to 
installation planning and design, as well as catalogue 
development and execution. With considerable 
managerial expertise, indefatigable energy, true team 
leadership, and impressive facility with the Chinese 
language, Jane DeBevoise ably moved each stage of 
the project toward completion. Manon Slome 
coordinated the myriad details of the exhibition 
planning and design with intelligence and 

determination, and, together with Xiaoming 
Zhang, who impressively managed the 
English/Chinese dual-language database, and 
Emily Wei and Nicole Lin, who provided key 
research and organizational support, formed the 
hub of the exhibition, holding together the 
project's many varied spokes. Our thanks are due 
also to Frances Yuan, Eileen Hsu, and Andrew 
Leung, who provided research for the didactic 
material, and to our interns Patty Chang, Shihong 
Aldin, Jackie Chien, Simon Murphy, and Katherine 
Cheng for their tireless efforts and their valuable 
contribution to the complicated administration of 
this multifaceted project. Suzanne Quigley, Head 
Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions; Mary 
Jane Clark, Project Registrar; and Joan Hendricks, 
Associate Registrar, professionally handled the 
logistics of the international transportation of the 
objects. A highly skilled staft of conservators, 
including Project Conservator Tracy Power of the 
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; Gillian 
McMillan, Senior Conservator (Collections); 
Carol Stringari, Senior Conservator (Exhibitions); 
Eleanora Nagy, Assistant Conservator; and Ellen 
Pratt, Project Conservator, oversaw the care and 
condition of the precious objects in the exhibition 
at every stage of the project. The exhibition design 
is the work of Arata Isozaki and Adegboyega 
Adetope. The Art Services and Preparations 
department lent their considerable expertise to the 
installation of the exhibition. In particular, I wish to 
thank Karen Meyerhoft, Director of Exhibition and 
Collection Management and Design; Scott Wixon, 
Manager of Art Services and Preparations; Peter 
Read, Manager of Exhibition Fabrication and 
Design; Jocelyn Brayshaw, Acting Chief Preparator; 
Liz Jaff, Assistant Paper Preparator; Joseph Adams, 
Senior Museum Technician; Richard Gombar. 
Museum Technician; Mary Ann Hoag, Lighting 
Designer; and Jocelyn Groom, Exhibition Design 
Coordinator. David Horak also provided invaluable 
assistance with the installation. Len Steinbach, 
Director of Information Technology, provided 
constant support for the many sophisticated 
technical requirements of a dual-language database. 
I would also like to thank Marilyn Goodman, 
Director of Education, and Diane Maas, Education 
Program Manager, who developed an outstanding 
education program; Rosemarie Garipoli, Deputy 
Director for External Affairs, and George McNeely, 
Director of Institutional Development; Ruth Taylor, 
Director of Budget and Planning; and Jay A. 
Levenson, former Deputy Director for Program 
Administration, who steered the project at its early 
stages. Patrick Seymour of Tsang Seymour Design, 
together with Marcia Fardella, Graphic Designer, 
Susan Lee, Assistant Graphic Designer, and Jessica 
Ludwig at the Guggenheim, produced the 
exhibition's many graphic-design elements with 
sensitivity and expertise. 



This catalogue, published by the Guggenheim's 
Publications Department under the direction of 
Anthony Calnek, Director of Publications, and 
designed by Patrick Seymour, has in itself been an 
impressive project. Coordinated by Howard Rogers, 
with the perceptive and sensitive editorial support 
of Naomi Richard and Sylvia Moss, the catalogue 
reflects an extensive international collaboration 
between some of the most distinguished scholars 
in the field and will hopefully be a valuable 
reference for years to come. We are particularly 
impressed that great scholars from both China and 
the West embraced this historic occasion to develop 
their ideas and communicate their scholarship. We 
firmly believe that the diversity of material and 
commentary is one of the great strengths of this 
project as a whole, and we have made no attempt 
to bring into conformity the opinions expressed by 
the authors. The production of this catalogue was 
handled with great skill by Elizabeth Levy, 
Managing Editor/Manager of Foreign Editions, and 
Melissa Secondino, Production Assistant. Along 
with related exhibition materials, it was also made 
possible with the assistance of Edward Weisberger, 
Editor; Jennifer Knox White, Associate Editor; 
Carol Fitzgerald, Assistant Editor; and Domenick 
Ammirati, Editorial Assistant, as well as Keith 
Mayerson and Nicole Columbus. 

An exhibition of this scale could never take place 
without the generous support of our sponsors. 
First, I would like to thank Lufthansa for the 
ongoing commitment and leadership support it has 
shown to the Guggenheim as a Global Partner. 
In particular, I would like to thank Frederick W. 
Reid, Lufthansa German Airlines's President and 
Chief Operating Officer, and Josef Grendel. 
Lufthansa's Vice President Corporate 
Communications, for their enlightened generosity. 
We are also very fortunate to have had the 
opportunity to work with Nokia. Their 
international vision and their skill at connecting 
people and cultures are deeply impressive. For their 
support, I am particularly indebted to Jorma Ollila. 
President and Chief Executive Officer; Lauri 
Kivinen, Senior Vice President Corporate 
Communications; Jim Bowman, Vice President 
Corporate Communications, Nokia Americas; and 
Micaela Tucker-Kinney, Manager. Corporate 
Communications, Nokia Americas. We are also 
most grateful to Alex Trotman, Chairman and Chiel 
Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company, lor his 
leadership and commitment to this project. At 
Ford, we also wish to thank Wayne M. Booker, Vice 
Chairman; Peter J. Pestillo, Executive Vice 
President, Corporate Relations; Gary L. Nielsen, 
Vice President, Ford Motor Company Fund; and 
Mabel H. Cabot, Director, Corporate 
Programming, for their creativity and their 
dedication to tins landmark exhibition. Finally, we 

would like to thank M. Douglas Ivester. Chairman 
of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of 
The Coca-Cola Company, for his leadership in 
supporting this important project. The collaboration 
of Douglas N. Daft, President, Middle and Far East 
Group at The Coca-Cola Company, was also vital 
to its realization. 

Significant additional support for this exhibition 
was provided at an early stage by The Starr 
Foundation and The W. L. S. Spencer Foundation. 
Their generous help allowed us to move the project 
forward during the critical processes of research and 
development. Mori Building Company Limited has 
also assisted substantially in the realization of the 
exhibition. I would like to thank Minoru Mori, 
President, for his inspired support. The exhibition 
has also been made possible in part by a major 
grant from the National Endowment of the 
Humanities, who provided us with important earlv 
endorsement and encouragement. The generous 
support ofThe Li-Cheng Cultural and Educational 
Foundation has assisted in the publication of the 
two-volume catalogue accompanying the 

As I complete these remarks in a Tokyo hotel 
room, I look at the scroll of calligraphy that hangs 
in the tokunoma alcove ot my room. A Japanese 
friend tells me that it was created by a nineteenth- 
century Japanese artist whose style was based on 
that of a seventeenth-century calligrapher named 
Dong Qichang, whose work is included in China: 
5, ooo Years. The text, "Peach Blossom Spring." by 
the fourth-century Chinese poet Tao Yuanniing. 
speaks of the peace and contentment that become 
possible on removal from the temporal world, just 
as the author himself achieved lasting renown by 
giving up secular ambition in order to cultivate his 
soul. My friend then comments that the writing 
itself seems lacking the confidence expressed In the 
verbal content, winch leads to this final observa- 
tion: the boundaries between Easl and West, 
between past and present, are truly falling. Artists 
and poets today are no different from their prede- 
cessors in their willingness to appropriate or reject 
what they need — from their own history, from then 
contemporary context, from outside influences — to 
formulate a response to their dilemma. China: 5,000 
Years will appeal to experts and scholars. But by far 
the Ingest number of people to see the exhibition 
will be those with only a limited understanding ot' 
the culture of this extraordinary country, ["hey are 
lice to approach this art from their own pels;- 
rives, to hung themselves into the encounter and 
challenge their preconceptions. The process will 
challenge them to learn and grow, and the two 

countries will move a little closer as a result. It is in 

this potential thai < hina: $,oooYcars finds us ulti- 
mate jusrjfii arion. 



YANGSHAO CULTURE (north central China) 
HONGSHAN CULTURE (northeastern China) 
LIANGZHU CULTURE (southeastern China) 
LONGSHAN CULTURE (eastern China) 

(CA. 5000-CA. 3OOO BCE} 
{CA. 3600-CA. 2000 BCE} 
{CA. 360O-CA. 2000 BCE} 
(CA. 3000-CA. 1700 BCE} 

XI A PERIOD (protohistoric) 


Western Zhou 
Eastern Zhou 

Spring and Autumn period 
Warring States period 



Western Han 

Xin (Wang Mang usurpation) 
Eastern Han 

{CA. 2I00-CA. 1600 BCE} 

{CA. l600-CA. 1100 BCE} 

{CA. IIOO-256 BCE} 
770-256 BCE 
770-476 BCE 
475—221 BCE 

{221-207 bce} 

{206 BCE-220 CE} 

206 BCE-8 CE 



Three Kingdoms 




Shu Han 




Western Jm 



dynasties (Six 


Wu (southernmost qfTIiree K 



Eastern Jin 


Liu Song 


Southern Qi 








Sixteen Kingdoms 


Northern Wei 


Eastern Wei 


Western Wei 


Northern Qi 


Northern Zhoi 







SUI DYNASTY {589-618} 

TANG DYNASTY {618-907} 


LIAO DYNASTY {916-1125} 

SONG DYNASTY {960-1279} 

Northern Song 960—1127 

Southern Song 1127-1279 

JIN DYNASTY {1115-1234} 

YUAN DYNASTY {1279-1368} 

MING DYNASTY {1368-1644} 

Hongwu 136S-1398 

Jianwen 1399-1402 

Yongle 1403-1424 

Hongxi 1425 

Xuande 1426-1435 

Zhengtong 1436-1449 

Jingtai 1450-1456 

Tianshun 1457— 1464 

Chenghua 1465-1487 

Hongzhi 1488-1505 

Zhengde 1506-1521 

Jiajing 1522-1566 

Longqing 1567-1572 

Wanli 1573-1620 

Taichang 1620 

Tianqi 1621-1627 

Chongzhen 1628-1644 

QING DYNASTY 11044-1911; 

Shunzhi 1644-1661 

Kangxi 1662-1722 

Yongzheng 1723—1735 

Qianlong 1736—1795 

Jiaqing 1796-1820 

Daoguang [82: [850 

Xianfeng [851-186] 

Tongzhi [862-1874 

Gangxu [875 [90J 

Xuantong 1909-19I] 

: 'Note:Sui dynasty declared in 581; unified the realm by conquesl in 589. 



Vast generalities of time and space are 
unavoidable when discussing traditional 
Chinese art, for only with their aid 
do the main achievements of that long- 
lived culture become clearly apparent. 
This easier access comes at a cost, 

however, since significant regional 

diversity is obscured and homogenized 
into an undifferentiated whole, and 

Sherman Lee 

Director (retired), 
Cleveland Museum of Art 


varying periods of creativity and stagnation are 
averaged into a neat and continuous timeline, all of 
which contributes to the popular image of China 
as a monolithic country, fixed in its boundaries and 
evolving only slowly over time. 

This exhibition seeks to deconstruct that invariant 
image, to demonstrate artistic diversity rather than 
unity and to identify periods of heightened activity 
and creativity in the arts. These pieces, which will 
delight their audience by aesthetic merit, were 
carefully chosen to emphasize the themes of 
innovation and transformation: the conceptual 
innovations that led artists to shift focus from the 
supernatural to the human world, then to the 
natural world, and thereafter to adopt elements 
from all these worlds as vehicles of self-expression; 
and the technological inventions and discoveries 
that occurred as artists sought the most appropriate 
medium in which to give form to their 


Early Chinese art manifests in form and decoration 
a fascinating world of imaginary beasts, demons, 
chimeras, and grotesques. These may have 
originated in real creatures, whose forms were then 
abstracted, commingled, and otherwise transformed 
into complex animal images. These images are not 
merely decorative; the major elements must have 
embodied meanings, whether as totems, clan 
insignia, or other consequential signifiers.This early, 
animistic art is essentially static; the designs 
covering the bronze ritual vessels imply no 
potential for movement. 

By the end of the Zhou dynasty several striking 
innovations are apparent, foremost among them the 
appearance of the human world and of potential 
movement. Recognizable animals are placed in 
comparatively realistic environments. The animals 
and landscape are still not interconnected as a 
scene, but the animals now appear capable ot switt 
and light movement while wind is suggested in the 
mountains — what had been bound and static before 
is freed. On lacquers and incised bronze tubes of 
the late Zhou-Han period even the mountain 
peaks, cliffs, foliage, and "cloud patterns" pulsate 
with life. We see here the first signs of an interest in 
representing real landscape in the arts. 

The Qin-Han era, however, is predominantly the 
world of humankind. Beginning with the lite-size 
and startlingly lifelike Qin military figures, human 
scale and a human point of view come to dominate 
much subsequent art. Given the epochal 
importance of this shift, it seems appropriate that 
the English name "China" derives from the name 
of the first of the imperial dynasties, the Qin. And 
just as the frontiers of the empire .ire gradually 

extended, and border regions pacified, so too is 
nature tamed and contained in urban hunting 
parks, which figure significantly in the poetry of 
the period as well as in the art. Animals continue to 
be important but now within a context defined bv 
purely human concerns. 

Among these human concerns are ideas about 
religion, expressed in Buddhist and Daoist thought 
and imagery that comes to dominate art in the Six 
Dynasties-Tang era. As the foreign styles associated 
with Buddhism are gradually assimilated and 
Sinihed, the human figure continues to dominate 
its pictorial environment. The fantastical creatures 
of the past survive as decorative forms rather than 
as embodiments of awesome powers. At the same 
time a growing interest in landscape for its own 
sake becomes apparent alongside the dominant 
figural tradition. 

The landscape art created by the Chinese during 
the late Tang-Five Dynasties-Song period is one of 
the great glories of human achievement. Its 
technical evolution can be traced from the linearitv 
of early incised, inlaid, and painted designs to the 
more complex spatial representations of the later 
Tang era; conceptually it is the final stage and 
beneficiary of the supernatural- and human- 
centered worlds described above. In this aesthetic 
culmination, which occurred in China centuries 
earlier than elsewhere in the world, natural forces 
which had earlier been describable only as 
delimited and isolated forms, are fully encompassed 
by the human mind and described in integrated 
landscapes that are monumental in scale and 
freighted with symbolic meanings. 


Another way of approaching the art and culture of 
early China is by considering the continuous series 
of technical innovations occurring in the various 
mediums used by early artists. It was William 
Willetts, in his Chinese Art of [958, who first 
brought to bear the findings of Joseph Needham's 
Science and Civilization in China in his brilliant stud) 
of Chinese art. Willetts 's focus on technology 
created .1 particularly useful framework for the 
study of such "decorative" or "useful" or "minor" 
arts as jades, bronzes, lacquers, textiles, and ceramics 
,is well as sculpture and painting. 

Worked jades fust appear in the Liangzhu and 
I [ongshan Neolithic cultures, demonstrating at that 
early period already advanced techniques for 
shaping this most recalcitrant material. I he lorms 
and designs of the earliest jades — the pig-dragons 
and in.isks — doubtless held potent meanings foi 
theii contemporaries, notwithstanding our inability 
to interpret them. Eventually these formal and 
hieratic patterns give wa) 10 ever more intricate 

designs, and many centuries later jade working 
became and remained a purely decorative art. 

Bronze casting, which begins during the Xia and 
Shang dynasties and flourishes into the Han, 
follows a similar sequence, in which great early 
invention and ingenuity in support of meaningful 
iconography are gradually superseded by technical 
mediocrity and decorative repetition. The use of 
ceramic piece-molds, which permit shape and 
surface decoration to be created simultaneously, is 
the distinguishing feature of Chinese bronze 
technology, and had reached a stage of enormous 
complexity and brilliant virtuosity by the Anyang 
phase of the Shang dynasty. The vessels cast in these 
piece-molds testify to the early Chinese interest in 
and aptitude for representing a world of imaginary 
and transmogrified creatures, demons, and 
grotesques. Many of the early Zhou dynasty bronze 
vessels bear inscriptions that constitute important 
historical documents, and by the end of the Zhou 
these same forms were embellished with the 
precious metals and gemstones that enhanced their 
new function as visual markers of social and 
economic status. 

Lacquer as a protective and decorative coating is in 
origin Chinese and is known to have been used 
very early on, although the first extensive remains 
date from the Warring States era of the late Zhou 
dynasty. Painted and incised lacquer designs of that 
period relate stylistically to contemporaneous 
textile and bronze designs. In later centuries 
lacquer-working techniques became more 
complex; forms and designs were molded using a 
variety of techniques, then carved and/or inlaid 
with various precious materials. These manifold 
techniques as well as cultivation of the lac tree itself 
spread to Korea, Japan, and Okinawa, and those 
cultures continue to benefit from this Chinese 

Silk manufacture too was an early Chinese 
invention, one that had an even more complex 
development and greater impact on the larger 
world, spreading to the West during Hellenistic and 
early Christian times. Paper and printing, appearing 
in this exhibition in the form of early paintings and 
block-printed books, are even more famous 
examples of Chinese inventions that were 
instrumental in shaping Asian and European 

Sculptures is represented in the exhibition in clay, 
metal, and stone. The first of these mediums 
comprises mainly tomb figurines, which manifest 
simultaneous concern with this life and with the 
afterlife. Proper burials not only served the afterlife 
needs of the deceased but testified to the moral 
virtues, social responsibility, and pecuniary 

substance of their living relations. Upper-class 
tombs were abundantly furnished with realistic 
effigies of all the familiar objects, animals, and 
humans that constituted the material world — 
perhaps idealized — of the living. These lively and 
closely observed tomb figurines, created to 
accompany and serve the dead, represent the broad 
and complex world of the living and are material 
evidence of society over a significant period ol 
time. The burial furniture and figurines manifest 
artistic creativity, but at the same time their vast 
numbers attest to virtual mass production, with 
great technical skill and high standards of quality. 
The alert and natural figures of animals and humans 
provide us with a visual image of their world far 
more vivid than the descriptions by historians of 
the day. 

The coming of Buddhism to China in the mid-first 
century CE and its enthusiastic acceptance in the 
succeeding centuries brought with it a great figural 
style of image making as it had developed in India 
and had been transformed as it moved eastward. 
The Chinese adapted it rapidly and creatively in all 
three mediums, especially in the north; works 
produced in this development are remarkably 
varied in nature, with strong provincial styles being 
created during the fifth and sixth centuries in 
Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, Yunnan, and Sichuan. 
By the beginning of the seventh century, in the Sui 
and early Tang dynasty, a national Chinese style was 
emerging. Ultimately this became a truly 
international style, prevalent throughout East Asia. 

In general, the Chinese intellectual and cultural 
elite placed little aesthetic value on the sculptor's 
art, especially that in stone. But the protean artisan 
image-makers have left a large body of work that 
begins in the early Six Dynasties with images 
imbued with great energy and movement and 
develops by the Tang dynasty into figures ot 
worldly and splendid elegance. The sensuous and 
rounded volumes of Tang sculptures correspond to 
the fashions of female court beauties as revealed in 
the early scroll paintings, seen in this exhibition in 
photographic reproductions of contemporaneous 
wall murals. This is the first exhibition from China 
to feature stone Buddhist sculptures in significant 

Among Chinese contributions to world culture, it 
is perhaps porcelain that was most devoutly 
admired and fervently sought after in the West. The 
course of development ot Chinese ceramics, from 
the early high-fired stonewares through various 
types of later white- and green-glazed wares to the 
pinnacle represented by porcelain, is well 
represented in this exhibition. The selection was 
based on the quality ot individual pieces as well as 
on features that would reveal the intrieuine 


development of various types of body and glaze 
and styles of decoration, each reflecting the 
technology and the ethos of its time and its 
particular patrons. 

An almost equally long-lived and practical art is 
calligraphy, which in China had a double nature. Its 
practical uses are readily apparent in the West. But 
in China calligraphy was not simply a tool for 
recording; it was the premier art, the badge of 
rulers and officials, landowners and literati. In 
China, unlike the Near Eastern and European 
empires and kingdoms, writing — calligraphy — was a 
key or pass to greatness and station. The proper 
manipulation of ink with brush was the most 
respected of accomplishments, held to reveal the 
moral character of the writer. Calligraphy was also 
a fully aesthetic practice, one with its own tradition, 
discipline, and criteria of excellence, evolved during 
four thousand years of continuous development. 
Even without access to the literary meanings, 
philosophical assumptions and implications, and 
long stylistic history, we in the West may still sense 
the kinesthetic accomplishment of the brush 
moving across paper or silk. 

The use of brush and ink defined the literati class. 
It underlay both calligraphy and painting, the twin 
insignia of the civil and civilized life as distinct 
from its correlative opposite, the military or 
physical life. It is noteworthy too that, in a society 
that generally prized group solidarity over solitary 
genius, individualism in art, the creation of an 
individual style, came to be held the highest, most 
admirable achievement. The paintings in this 
exhibition thus manifest a wide range of individual 
styles and approaches; they also fall naturally into 
two groups, the earlier presenting a more 
descriptive, objective view of nature, the later, from 
the fourteenth century onward, a more expressive, 
subjective approach. From the tenth to the 
thirteenth century artists investigated a wide range 
of phenomena in the macrocosm of nature. Most it 
not all of these phenomena were understood as 
embodiments of qualities that existed in the 
microcosm of the human world — such things as 
mountains, water, bamboo, blossoming plums, 
chrysanthemums, and orchids functioned as 
emblems for qualities associated with the ideal 
scholar-gentleman — but reality, although pervaded 
with moral and metaphysical and auspicious 
meanings, was still granted an objective existence 
outside the mind that sought to apprehend it and 
that endowed it with those meanings. 

the past, painters created new pictorial structures 
united by innovative grammars. At its best, this 
intensely art-historical later painting drew ever- 
renewing vitality from the singular vision of each 
of its practitioners. But as printed books in the 
exhibition demonstrate, complex styles could be 
analyzed, broken down into their constituent parts; 
these in turn were often made the hill substance of 
later paintings. Such a concentration on details and 
on technical features like brushwork ultimately had 
an adverse affect on the pictorial tradition. A similar 
emphasis on technology rather than creativity- 
overtook later Qing dynasty jades, lacquers, 
porcelains, and textiles, and this tendency 
constitutes one of the greatest challenges 
bequeathed by late dynastic artists to their 
twentieth-century successors. 

The reader will by now be aware that this is an 
exhibition which stresses the art of an ancient 
culture with particular relation to innovation and 
creativity. It is not meant to emphasize the 
historical, sociological, ethnographical, or literary 
aspects of Chinese culture. But so compelling are 
the achievements ot these artists and artisans that 
their creations illumine the civilization in which 
they were produced — its material options and 
constraints, its social obligations and expectations, 
its moral compulsions and freedoms, its aesthetic 
preferences and boundaries. These works appear 
before us as tangible witnesses to China's cultural 

During the Yuan and later dynasties artists tended 
to move away from direct engagement with outer 
reality — even that defined in idealistic terms — and 
to create more subjective works. Often using a 
stylistic and technical syllabary derived fiom art oi 



1/ w 


"•"•ft*'"*-* ': 


Some Elements in the 
Intellectual and 
Religious Context of 
Chinese Art 

As with the art of any other great 

civilization, that of China has been 

intimately linked to ideas generally 
classified under the rubric religion and 
philosophy — ideas about life and death, 
human nature and human society, the 
natural world of mountains and streams, 
plants and animals, and the invisible 
world of gods, ghosts, spirits, and demons. 

Patricia Ebrey 

Professor, Department of History, 
University of Washington 


Some of the most important of these ideas 
appeared early and persisted for centuries; most 
were altered in major ways over time; some died 
out or were supplanted; others coexisted with 
opposing but equally entrenched ideas. 

The relationship between art and these diverse 
ideas is just as complex. Religious and philosophical 
traditions provided the occasions for creating many 
objects later treasured as art. The finest examples of 
jade, bronze, silk, and ceramics were frequently 
made to be used in religious rituals. These traditions 
also provided a significant share of the imagery of 
Chinese art: phoenixes, dragons, cicadas, birds, and 
other creatures of cosmological significance are 
common decorative motifs; sages, filial sons, 
Buddhas, bodhisattvas, immortals, demons, and gods 
are frequent subjects of figure painting and 
sculpture. Chinese discourses on aesthetics, personal 
refinement, and the value of the past all influenced 
which objects would be treasured and preserved. 
Placing higher value on a sample ot handwriting 
than on a finely crafted chair, for instance, owes 
much to Confucian and Daoist ideas about self- 
cultivation. But certainly it is not always the case 
that the ideas are prior and the art an expression or 
reflection of them; meanings can be created and 
conveyed through objects independently of words 
and texts. Sometimes it is the textual version that is 
the reflection or rationalization of meanings created 
by the deployment or decoration of objects. For 
example, most Chinese explanations of the meaning 
of objects buried with the dead probably should be 
interpreted as after-the-fact rationalizations or 

It is common practice for art historians to relate the 
objects they study to elements in Chinese 
intellectual and religious culture. In this volume, for 
instance, Elizabeth Childs-Johnson relates the 
decoration of early jades and bronzes to shamanism, 
Wu Hung relates Warring States and Han tomb 
furnishings to ideas about post-mortem existence, 
and Helmut Brinker places Buddhist sculpture in 

the context of Buddhist teachings. In this chapter I 
shall take a broader view and try to relate the larger 
contours of the history of Chinese art to the larger 
contours of Chinese religious and intellectual 
history. I will do this by examining four complexes 
of ideas that have particular bearing on Chinese 
art — ideas about rulers, mountains, writing, and 
icons. I selected these four not because they make a 
nice Chinese-sounding set of "The Four Sacred 
Things," but because they let me get at some key 
tensions and contradictions in the layered traditions 
of Chinese religious and intellectual thought. Other 
ideas, ones associated for instance with the sage, 
vital force, the cosmos, paradise, flowers, fate, 
emotions, and so on, could have been added or 
substituted. But the four discussed here are diverse 
enough to show something of the dynamics of a 
cultural framework in which inconsistent, even 
contradictory, ideas interacted in fruitful ways. ' In 
ordinary social life, the coexistence of ideas in some 
way opposed to each other gives people room to 
think for themselves and to maneuver against 
others for personal advantage; in the sphere of art it 
gives artists and patrons the freedom to pick and 
choose elements that suit their moods or purposes 
as well as to refashion them into something new. 
When their work is most creative, it provokes the 
rethinking of basic notions, thus altering the 
intellectual traditions from which they drew. 
Although we may feel strongly the urge to look for 
key principles that bring clarity to the apparent 
untidiness of Chinese culture, in my view we 
actually gain a deeper understanding it we resist 
that urge and strive instead to comprehend a 
dynamic situation in which opposing ideas, 
practices, and symbols run up against each other 
and people feel strongly the truth or beauty ot 
ideas and things not entirely consistent with each 


Chinese ideas about kingship cannot be ignored by 
the student of Chinese art. Much of Chinese art 
was either made for kingly use or influenced by 



standards of taste set at court. In this exhibition the 
exquisite objects from the tombs of the royal 
consort Fu Hao, the marquis ofYi, the king of 
Zhongshan, and the First Emperor of Qin are the 
most obvious examples of this. Even art not from 
royal tombs owes much to the technical advances 
made by artists and artisans in the employ of rulers 
who demanded objects of the highest possible 
quality and who could provide the material 
resources required. That rulers had resources at their 
disposal is probably best explained in terms of 
political and economic history. But the way they 
chose to use those resources has much to do with 
conceptions of kingship. 

The notion that properly there is only one supreme 
ruler goes very far back in Chinese history. In the 
late Shang known from the excavations at Anyang 
(ca. 1200— I too bce), the king referred to himself as 
'"The One Man" or "The Unique One," and seems 
to have operated on the assumption that he could 
command the obedience of everyone in the realm. 
Above him, however, were powerful spirits, 
especially his own ancestors. He was the 
intermediary between humankind and these 
celestial powers, whom he served through sacrifices 
of animals and even human beings. In the most 
important cults the king acted as the head priest, 
making the sacrifices and pronouncing the prayers. 
He expended much of the wealth at his disposal on 
the performance of these rites, and the 
concentration of material resources in his hands was 
justified on the basis of his priestly powers. That is, 
he was the one best able to communicate with his 
powerful ancestors through divination and 
influence them through sacrifices, and these 
ancestors were the best able to communicate with 
the high god Di, and so for the welfare of the 
entire society it was essential that he have the 
material resources to perform the rites in the most 
efficacious possible manner. 

Sacrifices to ancestors and other divinities remained 
central to kingship into the Zhou period 
(ca. 1100-256 bce), but the most important divinity 
of the early Zhou was Heaven. Heaven, perhaps 
originating in a sky divinity, had by this time come 
to be conceived as something like the sacred moral 
power of the cosmos. Just as there was only one 
Heaven, there could be only one true universal 
king, the "Son of Heaven," uniquely qualified and 
obliged to offer sacrifices to Heaven. The early 
classic Shujing ("Book of Documents") portrays 
Heaven as taking a direct interest in the 
performance of the king. If he neglected his sacred 
duties and acted tyrannically, Heaven would display 
its disfavor by sending down ominous portents and 
natural disasters. If the king failed to heed such 
warnings, political and social disorder would ensue, 
signaling that Heaven had withdrawn its mandate. 

Thus, the Shujing portrays the final Shang ruler as 
a dissolute, sadistic king who had lost Heaven's 
favor and the Zhou conquerors as just and noble 
warriors who had gained it. Kingly tendencies 
toward ostentation were judged harshly. The charges 
against the last king of the Shang included spending 
too much on his personal enjoyment, taking 
resources from the people to build "palaces, towers, 
pavilions, embankments, ponds, and all other 
extravagances"; 2 kings were not, however, criticized 
for commissioning lavishly decorated bronze vessels 
for use in sacrifices or for burial in graves, since 
that was done for the ancestors. 

To the contrary, bronze sacrificial vessels remained 
an important symbol of lordship. Many early Zhou 
vessels bear inscriptions showing they were 
presented by the king to a lord to accompany the 
granting of a fief. A myth grew up about the 
"nine tripods" created by the founders of the Xia 
dynasty. These tripods symbolically united the 
realm, as they were made of metal from the various 
regions and decorated with images of animals 
from all over. They also were attuned to Heaven. 
When the ruler's virtue was commendable and 
brilliant, the tripods would be heavy though small, 
but when the ruler lacked virtue, they would be 
light even though large. When the Xia dynasty 
ended, it was believed, the tripods passed like royal 
regalia to the Shang rulers, then centuries later to 
the Zhou rulers. 3 

Conceptions of the ruler as the pivotal figure in the 
cosmos may well draw from very ancient ideas of 
shaman-priests who intercede with celestial powers, 
but by mid-Zhou times they were evolving in a 
text-centered tradition, fashioned by literate court 
specialists to suit the needs of rulers, nobles, and the 
ruling class more generally. From the eighth 
century on the Zhou kings progressively lost actual 
power and regional lords grew stronger, but these 
new circumstances did not lead to a new 
cosmology that eliminated the need for a universal 
king. Rather it led to a profusion of ideas on how 
best to recover or recreate a central monarchical 
institution capable of bringing unity to a politically 
divided world. 

To Confucius (traditional dates 551—479 bce), the 
solution lay in getting rulers to act like true kings. 
He held up as examples Yao and Shun, the sage- 
kings of antiquity, as well as the more recent 
founders of the Zhou dynasty, King Wen and King 
Wu. These true kings were antitheses of the selfish, 
aggressive, heavy-handed, vainglorious rulers of the 
states of his day. The true king would honor the 
ancient ways and rule through ritual (//) and moral 
force (rfe). He would not overburden his people to 
satisfy his own greedy desires for ostentatious 
display or incessant conquest. "If a ruler himself is 



upright, all will go well even though he does not 
issue orders. But if he himself is not upright, even 
though he gives orders, they will not be obeyed" 
(Analects, 13.6). "Were a true king to appear, within 
a generation goodness would prevail" (Analects, 

The true king would rule through ritual, but 
Confucius did not conceive of him as a priest-king. 
Nor did Confucius ever imply that the gods or 
ancestors would cause harm to those who failed to 
perform the sacrifices to them properly; he himself 
is said to have performed sacrifices "as though" the 
spirits were present. Later followers like Xunzi 
(ca. 310-ca. 220 bce) explicitly denied any link 
between the performance of rites and the action of 
spirits or gods. Xunzi argued that Heaven is 
impartial and human affairs result from human 
efforts. Praying to Heaven or to gods does not get 
them to intervene. 

Both Confucius' and Xunzi's love of ritual was 
based at least in part on aesthetic attraction: they 
responded to the beauty of well-choreographed 
ceremonies combining instrumental music, song, 
and dance. But their intellectual argument, 
addressed to rulers, concerned the nearly magical 
way in which ritual can create social and political 
harmony. Confucius told his disciple Yan Hui that 
"the whole world would respond to the true 
goodness of one who could for one day restrain 
himself and return to ritual" (Analects, 12. 1). Ritual, 
to Confucius, was not restricted to dealings with 
ancestors or deities: it was also an aspect of the way 
the ruler dealt with his subjects. "Lead the people 
by means of government policies and regulate them 
through punishments, and they will be evasive and 
have no sense of shame. Lead them by means of 
virtue and regulate them through rituals and they 
will have a sense of shame and moreover have 
standards" (Analects, 2.3). 

Xunzi went much further than Confucius in 
emphasizing the connection between ritual and 
distinctions of rank. The funerals of rulers had to be 
on a scale corresponding to their rank in every 
detail — the numbers of inner and outer coffins, the 
quality and quantity of burial clothes and food 
offerings, the length of the interval between death 
and burial. In ancestral rites, the highest ruler, 
presiding over the entire realm, had to offer 
numerous types of food and wine to seven 
generations of ancestors, but a ruler of a single state 
should make fewer offerings to only five 
generations, and so on. Rulers must perform these 
rituals correctly, not because they need the aid or 
fear the wrath of the dead, but in order to 
demonstrate their filial gratitude and respect for 
tradition, and to show that they accept their place 
in the political hierarchy. 

Confucius and his followers elevated the ruler by 
placing him firmly at the top of a moral hierarchy 
in which all — rulers and subjects, nobles and 
commoners, parents and children — wholeheartedly 
devote themselves to fulfilling the parts assigned to 
them; in this ideal world superiors and inferiors 
look after each other and everything gets done 
without conflict or the use of force. This view of 
the ruler exalts him but also burdens him, for when 
the world is not in perfect harmony the fault is 
mostly his. Mencius (ca. 370— ca. 300 bce) once told 
a king that if a ruler were to appear who was not 
inclined toward killing people, "The people would 
flow toward him the way water flows down. No 
one would be able to stop them" (1A.6). On 
another occasion he told a king that if he treated 
his people well by reducing taxes and lightening 
punishments, they would be so eager to fight for 
him that even if armed only with sharpened sticks 
they could defeat the well-equipped soldiers of the 
powerful states of Qin and Chu, which had been 
encroaching on the king's territory. 

As texts recording the teachings of Confucius and 
his followers began to circulate in the late Zhou, 
they helped freeze the Confucian position and also 
invited counter-arguments. A few thinkers — 
generally ones labeled Daoist — went further than 
the Confucians in urging rulers to do less. The 
Laozi said, "The sage manages affairs by doing 
nothing and spreads the teachings that are not put 
in words." The more a ruler does, the worse the 
result: the more laws and regulations, the more 
thieves and robbers. The sage ruler "ensures that the 
people know nothing and desire nothing." 4 

More common than calls for nonaction, however, 
were calls for action. Mozi (ca. 490-ca. 403 bce) 
proposed strengthening the ability of rulers to 
command obedience. He argued that unless one 
man was elevated above all others, there would be 
no final authority and everyone would have Ins 
own opinion, making any sort of cooperation or 
social organization impossible. The solution was for 
everyone to agree with those above — including the 
ruler, who must conform to Heaven: "What the 
superior thinks right, all shall think right."The text 
attributed to Guanzi (traditional dates 683-642 BCE) 
agreed that the peace and stability of the state 
depend on elevating the ruler. But Guanzi drew 
attention to the need for coercion. What secured 
the ruler's control was his power "to grant life, to 
kill, to enrich, to impoverish, to ennoble, to debase" 
Even if the ruler's personal conduct was not 
superior, given these powers, all would accept his 
leadership and "not dare to indulge 111 opinions 
about the quality of his conduct." 

Ihe leading Legalist thinkers would largely have 
agreed with these sentiments. In the book ascribed 



to him, Lord Shang (ShangYang, or Gongsun Yang; 
d. 338 bce) urged the ruler not to hesitate to 
institute changes in his efforts to strengthen his 
state. The founders of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou 
had not been afraid to make changes, because "wise 
people create laws while ignorant ones are 
controlled by them; the worthy alter the rites while 
the unworthy are held fast by them." Law to him 
was the sovereigns will, carefully codified and 
impartially applied. 

Han Feizi (d. 233 bce), author of the fullest 
exposition of Legalist thought, argued that the 
Confucian notion of ruling through virtue rather 
than force was based on a faulty analogy with the 
family. "A mother loves her son twice as much as a 
father does, but a fathers orders are ten times more 
effective than a mother's." Moreover, the common 
people have about as much understanding of what 
is good for them as infants who scream when their 
loving mothers lance their boils. The ruler who 
taxes the people to fill granaries against times of 
famine or war should ignore their protests the way 
the mother ignores the baby's wails. Rulers should 
even be wary of the advice of their top ministers. 
Given subordinates' propensities to pursue then- 
own selfish interests, the ruler cannot afford to be 
candid or warm toward any of them. Rather he 
should keep them in awed ignorance of his 
intentions and control them by manipulating 
competition among them. "When the ruler trusts 
someone, he falls under that person's control."'' 

By Han Feizi's time ideas about the ruler were also 
colored by myths about the Yellow Emperor 
(Huangdi), first of the sage-kings of high antiquity. 
Han Feizi at one point referred to the Yellow 
Emperor summoning the ghosts and spirits to the 
top of Mount Tai, travelling there on a chariot 
pulled by dragons, with tigers and wolves leading 
the way, ghosts and spirits following, lizards and 
snakes below, a phoenix above. In the version of the 
myth current in Han Feizi's day, the Yellow 
Emperor was notable above all for his military 
might. He had overcome the Divine Husbandman 
(Shennong), who had introduced farming but shied 
away from the use of arms. By teaching the bears, 
leopards, and tigers to fight for him, the Yellow 
Emperor had been able to conquer all those who 
opposed him. In addition, the Yellow Emperor had 
associations with rain and with dragons; some texts 
say he had the face of a dragon and that dragons 
appeared when he received Heaven's mandate. 7 The 
later chapters of the Daoist text Zhuangzi present 
the Yellow Emperor sometimes as an arrogant 
conqueror, dangerous in the excess of his zeal for 
bringing order to the world, sometimes as a 
devoted disciple of the master Zhuangzi, listening 
to teachings on longevity. Often he was identified 
with the Daoist Sage, a being of immense powers, 

physically and mentally free, able to wander freely 
to the four corners of the universe and to live in 
perfect unity with everything in the cosmos. 8 

During the fourth and third centuries, as the 
smaller states (such as Zhongshan, prominent in the 
exhibition) were eliminated by their larger 
neighbors, the competition between the surviving 
states became even more intense. The state of Qin 
systematically eliminated the hereditary lords of the 
states it conquered, a policy that led to 
unprecedented concentration of resources in the 
hands of a single ruler, the king of Qin. Legalist 
ideology insists on rationality and efficiency as the 
means to achieve and exercise authority; there is no 
implication in the writings of Lord Shang or Han 
Feizi that the ruler would be wise to spend freely 
on luxuries in order to impress his subjects with his 
power. But Legalist ideology does not explicitly 
urge austerity on the ruler, or indeed set limits of 
any sort on his actions, and the man to oversee the 
unification of China by Legalist means, the First 
Emperor of Qin (Qin Shihuangdi, r. 246—210 bce) 
(see cats. 88-92) did not set many limits on himself. 
Drawing together the resources of All-Under- 
Heaven made possible enormous construction 
projects. Although he already had several hundred 
palaces and scenic towers, in 212 the emperor 
conscripted seven hundred thousand subjects to 
build his tomb and a huge new palace complex, 
large enough to seat ten thousand people. Many of 
his palaces were connected by elevated walkways 
and walled roads so that the emperor could move 
between them undetected. 

Although he was rigorous in enforcing such 
Legalist policies as strict rewards and punishments, 
the First Emperor of Qin was personally open to 
non-Legalist ideas as well, including the more 
grandiose conceptions of rulership conveyed by the 
myth of the Yellow Emperor and cosmological 
schemes that proved to him that the Qin ruled 
through the power ofWater and thus was destined 
to succeed the Zhou, which had ruled through 
Fire. This cosmological strain of thought drew on 
very old ideas about the production of the myriad 
things through the workings of Yin and Yang. Yang, 
identified with the sun, Heaven, light, the male, the 
assertive, and the changing, contrasts with Yin, 
identified with the moon, earth, darkness, female, 
dampness, receptivity, and continuity. The 
movement from Yin to Yang and back again 
corresponds to such phenomena as the daily 
changes in the position of the sun and moon and 
the yearly succession of the seasons. The theory of 
the Five Phases (earth, wood, metal, fire, water) is a 
much more complex system, which divides and 
classifies the cosmos in both time and space on the 
basis of equivalencies, resonances, and influences 
connecting cosmic principles, astral events, and 



earthly phenomena, especially government. These 
theories provided the basis for medicine, divination, 
and the interpretation of dreams and portents. 
Moreover, because they required searching for both 
anomalies and regularities in the skies, the weather, 
flora, and fauna, they fostered advances in 
astronomical and calendrical calculation and in 
natural history. 

ancient times. 9 In their place he relied on men who 
were experts in the lore of the Yellow Emperor, the 
god Great Unity, and routes to immortality. In later 
periods as well, Confucian scholars tended to 
advocate austere textually-based "ancient" rituals 
while experts in the occult or later Daoist priests 
choreographed elaborate ritual pageants more 
satisfying to many emperors. 

The collapse of the Qin within a few years of the 
death of the First Emperor led to the discrediting 
of Legalism but not of other ideas on which Qin 
had drawn, such as the Five Phases cosmology or 
the myth of the Yellow Emperor, all of which in 
Han times were drawn together into an ideological 
justification of imperial rule. Dong Zhongshu 
(ca. 179— ca. 104 bce) wrote at length on the 
interconnections among Heaven, earth, and 
humanity. Among human beings, the ruler was 
unique in his capacity to link the three. Moreover, 
using terms that echo Daoist and Legalist 
conceptions, Dong described him as ruling through 
nonaction — abstaining from administration — to 
maintain his exalted status. The Record oj Ritual, 
dating from the early Han, draws on earlier texts 
like the Liishi clumqiu to depict the ideal ruler as 
one who coordinates the activities of his state with 
the forces of nature, analyzed in terms ofYin and 
Yang and the Five Phases. His movements had to 
be in tune with ritually demarked times and places. 
In the first month of the year, for instance, the Son 
of Heaven lives in the apartments on the left side of 
the Green Bright Hall, rides in a chariot with 
green pennants drawn by dark green dragon horses, 
wears green robes and pendants of green jade. Also 
in that month no trees may be cut down and no 
people may be summoned for any service, nor may 
arms be taken up. 

Although Confucian scholars claimed to be experts 
in the traditional texts on ritual, they were not the 
only ones designing the rituals that would keep the 
ruler in harmony with the Five Phases. Rituals 
designed on the basis of ancient texts by Confucian 
scholars who held secular views of ritual were 
always in danger of becoming mere social 
ceremonies, useful for creating and confirming 
social distinctions, but unable to touch people in 
powerful ways. As a consequence, Confucian 
scholars were not able to monopolize the design of 
court rituals, and many rulers were receptive to 
men who claimed alternative ways to tap into 
cosmic powers. In 110 bce, when Emperor Wu of 
the Han dynasty journeyed to Mount Tai to 
perform thefeng and shan sacrifices, he dismissed 
the Confucian scholars because they "insisted on 
confining themselves to what was written in the 
Odes and Documents and other old books" and 
objected to sacrificial vessels the emperor had made 
because they were not the same as the ones used in 

To sum up, throughout the imperial period, the 
production of luxury goods to be used in imperial 
palaces, temples, and tombs took place in a cultural 
context in which rulers were given all sorts of 
advice. They were told to demonstrate their rank in 
everything they did but not to burden the people 
through excessive extraction; they were told to 
model themselves on sage-kings whose attributes 
ranged from the mild and temperate Yao to the all- 
conquering Yellow Emperor; they were likened to 
gods but also told to perform highly scripted roles 
that left them little in the way of personal 
discretion. Art produced for the court would have 
resonated with these ideas in various ways. 
Moreover, art produced for other sites often was 
shaped by these discourses indirectly. In later 
centuries Buddhist and Daoist temples were often 
modeled on palaces, and their deities on kings and 
queens. Thus, ways ot decorating temples and 
depicting deities participated in the discourse on 
rulership. Art that was distinctly nonimpenal also, of 
course, drew from this discourse. Scholars who 
identified with the Confucian critique of imperial 
extravagance had to choose a more austere style for 
their own homes and gardens. 


Depictions of mountains were very common in 
Chinese art from the late Warring States period on, 
and there are many examples in the exhibition 
(cats. 50, 51 [reverse], 153, 186, 189, 192-95, 200, 
204—9, 212). I0 Mountains share some of the aura of 
kings. Kings sacrifice to mountains. The sage-king 
Shun, the Book of Documents reports, regularly 
sacrificed to the mountains from afar, and once 
every five years made a journey to each region of 
the empire, making burnt offerings to Heaven at 
the sacred mountains Tai in the east, Heng in the 
south, Hua in the west, Heng in the north, and 
Songgao in the center. Mountains were also like 
rulers, rich in Ymg power, lowering above the 
ordinary, linking the lowly to the heavens. The 
death of .1 ruler was euphemistically called the 
collapse of a mountain. "Great and lofty 1-- the 
mountain/ With its might reaching 10 I leaven," 
read the first two lines in a poem in the Classii el 
Poetry (poem 259). 

Many ideas about mountains undoubtedly derived 
from folk traditions about particular local 
mountains and the deities or ere. nines thai 


inhabited them. Han Feizi recorded the story of 
King Zhao (r. 306-251 bce) of the state of Qin 
who climbed to the top of Mount Hua and left an 
inscription there saying, "King Zhao once played a 
game of bo with a heavenly deity here." Mountains 
were also wild places where fantastic and dangerous 
creatures lived. The late Zhou and Han Shanhai jing 
("Classic of Mountains and Seas") describes 
mountains inhabited by animals like the human- 
devouring zhuhai, with horns like a bull, human 
eyes, and hog's ears. The deities residing in the 
mountains are also often hybrid, combining human, 
bird, snake, sheep, or dragon parts. 

In late Zhou local cults of immortality were 
gaining strength and spreading, and in these cults 
immortals were often associated with mountains. 
Magicians advised the First Emperor of Qin that 
immortals dwelled in exquisite palaces of gold and 
silver in the mountains of an island in the Eastern 
Sea, and he sent out teams of young people to 
search for them. In Han times Emperor Wu was 
told that the Yellow Emperor had attained 
immortality by visiting these islands. The 
Huainanzi, a Daoist-tinged compilation sponsored 
by a Han prince during the mid-second century 
bce, describes the magic realm of the Kunlun 
Mountains in the far west, where immortality could 
be attained. Sometimes this mythical mountain was 
associated with the cult of a goddess called the 
Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu). In her 
paradise trees of deathlessness grew and rivers of 
deathlessness flowed. Mythical birds and beasts kept 
her company, including the three-legged crow, 
dancing toad, nine-tailed fox, and elixir-producing 

Mountains also have a special significance in the 
"science" of earth forms, or geomancy, which dates 
back at least to Han times and flourished in 
subsequent centuries. The earth is viewed as an 
organism with energy flowing through its veins, 
much the way blood flows through the body. 
Mountains are full of such energy in their "dragon 
veins," and studying the configuration of a 
mountain or mountain range to determine where 
these channels of energy are located makes it 
possible for one skilled in geomancy to site a house 
or grave to best advantage. 

By the end of the Six Dynasties (220—589) the 
earlier image of the mountain as a wild realm of 
fearsome powers coexisted with a more benign 
image of the mountain as the favored dwelling 
place of immortals, who lived in palatial luxury in 
brightly painted halls set among gardens and 
populated by elegantly dressed "jade maidens." The 
connection between rulers and mountains survives, 
but in a tamer, more civilized form that emphasizes 
material comfort and leisure rather than awesome 

power. In time private gardens, and probably also 
imperial gardens, came to be designed as 
embodiments of the paradises of the immortals in 
the remote mountains. 

In the late Han individual seekers after immortality 
started to visit mountains to search for herbs, to 
receive divine revelations, or to acquire magical 
powers. Ge Hong (ca. 280— ca. 343) proposed that 
those seeking immortality should go to mountains, 
where they could pursue their quest without 
distraction. But he urged them to choose "big 
mountains" ruled by gods, rather than little 
mountains infested by demons or minor spirits of 
trees or stones." The tradition of seeking insight in 
mountains would continue through the rest of 
Chinese history, simultaneously promoting and 
being reinforced by the practice of establishing 
Buddhist and Daoist monasteries in remote 
mountain locations. In the Shangqing (also called 
Maoshan) school of Daoism of the fourth century 
and later, adepts could also visit mountains without 
leaving home by visualizing their visits to the 
abodes of the immortals. Because of the assumed 
correspondences between the macrocosm and the 
microcosm, the exploration of a mountain or even 
a single rock could lead to an understanding of the 
entire cosmos. 

The holy aura of mountains also attracted 
"mountain men," men who wished to withdraw 
from society even if they were not seeking 
immortality or salvation. Confucian scholars 
disgusted by the corruption of the government or 
lamenting the fall of the dynasty they had served 
could retreat to the mountains to avoid further 
political entanglement. Others could retreat there 
to seek spiritual freedom and escape from social 
obligations. These hermits and recluses were 
generally conceived as men of wisdom and 
conviction, uninterested in material things, content 
to eat and dress roughly and live in caves or huts. 
They are thus almost exact opposites of the 
immortals dwelling in diaphanous robes in palatial 

Mountains and rulers were frequently likened to 
each other. The image of the mountain enhanced 
the image of the ruler by stressing his imposing 
majesty, connections to Heaven, and links to the 
realms of the immortals. At the same time, 
mountains had an anti-monarchical side, from their 
association with recluses who refused to have 
anything to do with the ruler and the world of 
government with its hierarchies and rules. 


In China, writing has been imbued with religious 
and philosophical significance from early times. '- 
The divinatory texts that have survived from Shang 



times record statements addressed to ancestors or 
spirits. The earliest transmitted texts from the Zhou 
period came to be considered the holy texts of the 
Confucian tradition, classics to be read with 
reverence or, better yet, memorized. Even though 
these texts did not convey the words of gods, they 
contained the teachings of the sages. In later 
centuries, after the use of paper became common, 
paper with writing on it was considered sacred, and 
well into the twentieth century old men would 
collect and burn scrap paper, that being the way to 
dispose of it with proper respect. Writing was also, 
of course, considered an art — to many, calligraphy 
was the highest of all the arts. 

The power of written texts can be fully tapped 
only by those learned in the written traditions, able 
to interpret the preserved texts and add to the 
repertoire by writing books themselves. Because the 
Chinese language was written in a logographic 
script — one graph for each word — reading and 
writing were skills that took many years to master, 
and from Shang times on those who had mastered 
the thousands of symbols used to make records 
were technical experts in demand at court. In 
Confucius' day learned men served at court as 
advisers, teachers, strategists, and clerks. They knew 
the rules for rituals and ceremonies, such as 
sacrifices to ancestors and reception of envoys; they 
knew about the Heavens and could advise on 
setting the calendar; they kept records and advised 
on precedents. But they depended on rulers for 
employment, and as states were destroyed, these 
learned men frequently found themselves in the 
uncomfortable position of having to locate a new 
lord in need of their services. 

Confucius urged his followers to master the literary 
traditions of their day, and the Analects reported that 
Confucius often discoursed on "poetry, history, and 
the performance of ceremonies" (7. 17). Yet he did 
not want men of education to think of themselves 
as narrow experts, but rather as persons whose 
moral sensibilities had been cultivated by studying 
the words of the sages. Their aim should be to 
become "gentlemen," men of integrity and honor 
who deserved to be respected as much for their 
moral cultivation as for their mastery of tradition. 
The true gentleman, in Confucius s vision, is not 
moved by profit like the petty man, but rather 
aspires to things lofty. He concentrates on 
improving himself and is indifferent to recognition 
or reward. "The gentleman feels bad when his 
capabilities fall short of the task. He does not feel 
bad when people fail to recognize him" (15. 18). If 
he can retain his self-respect even though no ruler 
employs him, he is not dependent on the ruler, and 
can develop ideas and take stands independent of 
the ruler. 

The Confucian claim to the moral autonomy of 
the educated came to have much greater historical 
significance after men trained in Confucian texts 
gained a hold on government posts, giving them 
some degree of social and political independence as 
well. During the course of the Han, it became 
widely accepted that officials should be men 
trained in the Confucian classics and respected for 
their character. Ambitious young men sought out 
teachers with whom to study the classics, for 
learning could lead to power and prestige. All over 
the country teachers attracted large numbers of 
students and disciples, and the enrollment at the 
imperial academy increased from a few dozen 
students to more than thirty thousand in the mid- 
second century ce. 

Confucian officials, trained to view their obligation 
to the ruler in moral terms, made forthright critics 
of imperial policies. During the Han many 
Confucian scholars and officials opposed activist 
policies such as government monopolies, 
questioning their morality and their effect on 
people's livelihoods. Scholars regularly objected to 
imperial extravagance, urging emperors to reduce 
their spending on palace ladies, entertainment, 
hunting parks, stables, and rituals. Thus, the 
coupling of Confucianism and the Chinese 
bureaucracy created a sort of balance of power 
between the emperor and the Confucian-educated 
officials who staffed the government but did not 
consider themselves mere servants of the emperor. 
Because the court set the standards that the literati 
had to fulfill to gain entry into officialdom, it 
circumscribed their autonomy, their capacity to set 
their own standards, but it never eliminated it. By 
the end of the Han those with Confucian 
educations had become self-conscious of their 
common identity. In the succeeding centuries the 
strength and coherence of this elite of educated 
gentlemen proved as important as political 
centralization or economic integration as a basis tor 
the unity of Chinese civilization. 

The impact of these developments on Chinese 
culture was profound. The importance placed on 
texts and learning fostered some of China's most 
renowned advances, such as the invention of paper 
in the Han period and printing in the Ting period. 
The obligation of the gentleman to devote himself 
both to learning the tradition and to refining and 
cultivating his own character legitimated artistic 
activities of many sorts, above all. perhaps, poetry- 
writing and calligraphy, but also painting and 
connoisseurship of ancient objects. A highly self- 
referential style 111 painting and calligraphy, one thai 
required firm grounding in what had come before, 
accorded well not only with the Confucian 
commitment to learning but also with the literati 
approach to other intellectual pursuits, such .is 



making extensive use of allusions in poetry and 
writing commentaries on the classics. 

Although it is common to associate learning in 
China with the Confucian literati, Confucian- 
trained scholars were never the only significant 
group of learned men who owed their standing to 
mastery of a body of texts. In Han times the 
astrologers, diviners, and experts in unseen forces 
transmitted their knowledge both orally and 
through texts. Buddhism had entered China as a 
religion with a vast body of scriptures, and monks 
gained standing, both within the Buddhist 
community and outside it, by mastering a body of 
texts and adding to the understanding of them 
through writing commentaries. In the fourth and 
fifth centuries religious Daoism acquired a large 
body of revealed texts, and although these texts 
were not publicly distributed the way the 
Confucian classics or Buddhist sutras were, priestly 
powers were closely tied to knowledge of them. 
Words, including written prayers and charms and 
oral incantations and hymns, were as much a part of 
Daoist rituals as the odor of incense, the sounds of 
flutes and drums, and the colors of robes and 

But the story does not end there. The supremacy of 
the written word and of those learned in the 
written word did not go unchallenged in China. To 
the contrary, from very early times important 
philosophical and religious thinkers disputed the 
priority given words, texts, the educated, and the 
kind ot knowledge that gets created and promoted 
through words and texts. They pointed to the limits 
ot language and to forms of knowing that could 
not be communicated through language. To put this 
another way, some thinkers have always resisted the 
way writing fixes, limits, and binds meanings, and 
have tried to preserve or recover the reality that 
exists prior to or beyond writing. These sets of 
ideas have been as powerful in Chinese art as the 
pro-text ideas, perhaps particularly because visual 
symbols are not words. 

The earliest formulation of this challenge to words 
is found in the early Daoist classics. "The Way that 
can be told is not the invariant Way" is the opening 
line of the Laozi. Words and writing are assertive 
and thus destructive. It would be better, the Laozi 
asserts, if people knew less, if they gave up tools and 
abandoned writing. They would be satisfied with 
their own lives and not envy their neighbors. 
Zhuangzi argued that the labeling of experience 
with words and its division into distinct categories 
was a falsification from the start, since reality could 
never be conveyed in this way. Zhuangzi placed the 
knowledge of the craftsman above the knowledge 
found in books. In one parable he had a 
wheelwright audaciously tell a duke that books 

were useless since all they contained were the dregs 
of men long gone. When the duke demanded 
either an explanation or his life, the wheelwright 

I see things in terms of my own work. When I 
chisel at a wheel, if I go slowly, the chisel slides 
and does not stay put; if I hurry, it jams and 
doesn't move properly. When it is neither too 
slow nor too fast, I can feel it in my hand and 
respond to it from my heart. My mouth cannot 
describe it in words, but there is something 
there. I cannot teach it to my son, and my son 
cannot learn it from me. So I have gone on for 
seventy years, growing old chiseling wheels. The 
men of old died in possession of what they 
could not transmit. So it follows that what you 
are reading are their dregs. 13 

Truly skilled craftsmen do not analyze or reason or 
even keep in mind the rules they once learned; 
they respond to situations spontaneously. 

Whereas Confucians, who saw truth in books, 
recognized an obligation to bring this truth to the 
attention of the ruler, Zhuangzi, who did not see 
truth in books, felt no need to serve in 
government. He told of receiving an envoy from 
the king of Chu, bearing an offer to give him 
charge of the entire realm. In response he asked the 
envoy whether a tortoise that had been held sacred 
for three thousand years would prefer to be dead 
with its bones venerated or alive with its tail 
dragging in the mud. On getting the expected 
response, he told the envoy to go away; he wished 
to drag his tail in the mud. 

Although the social standing of the educated in 
China owes much to Confucian ideas of the worth 
of written traditions and men educated in them, it 
would be a mistake to infer that the educated elite 
always thought exclusively in pro-text terms. In 
particular, Daoist ideas that questioned the role of 
words and texts appealed deeply to many educated 
men. These ideas also colored the development of 
Buddhism in China. The most Simfied school of 
Buddhism, the Chan school (known as Zen in 
Japan), rejected the authority of the sutras and 
claimed the superiority of mind-to-mind 
transmission of Buddhist truth through a series of 
patriarchs, the most important of whom were the 
First Patriarch Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who 
came to China in the early sixth century, and the 
Sixth Patriarch Huineng, a Chinese monk who 
died in the early eighth century. The illiteracy of 
Huineng at the time of his enlightenment was 
taken as proof of the Chan claim that 
enlightenment could be achieved suddenly through 
insight into one's own true nature, even by people 
who knew nothing of textual traditions. Chan 


masters tried to get their followers to free their 
minds from the traps of discursive thought by 
taking language to the limits. They would assign 
them baffling anecdotes or questions to ponder and 
respond to their efforts with cryptic utterances, 
shouts, or even blows. 

Tension between the world of the book and the 
world that cannot be contained by the book cut 
across many different traditions. In China, as 
elsewhere, people felt a strong urge to impose order 
on experience by specifying, categorizing, 
evaluating, and judging via words and their 
inscription in texts, but their attempts could never 
totally succeed because of all that could not be 
contained by texts, the disrupting forces and 
uncontrollable potency of rulers, mountains, 
divinities, oral revelations, dreams, emotions, and so 
on. The Confucian literati normally took their 
stand on the side of texts and order, but the 
distinction here goes beyond simple divisions of 
literati versus rulers, or Confucians versus Buddhists 
and Daoists. Buddhists, Daoists, and rulers all drew 
on texts and their ordering potential, and 
Confucian scholars to varying degrees drew on the 
magical power of rituals and the visual and 
emotional power of images, not to mention 
retreating to mountains or practicing meditative 
techniques that could lead to insights without use 
of books. 

The art of calligraphy, paradoxically perhaps, drew 
from both the reverence for writing and the deep 
belief in powers and forces that cannot be fully 
conveyed in words. Examples of writing were 
thought to reflect the writer's character and 
feelings, not just the thoughts he was trying to 
convey. The strength, balance, and flow ot the 
strokes were believed to convey the calligrapher's 
moral and psychological make-up as well as his 
momentary emotions. The flow of energy within 
the person was found manifest in the movement of 
his hand and brush and the resulting traces of ink. 


The ideas discussed so far are indigenous ideas, 
developed in the huge subcontinent we loosely 
label China. But some key elements in Chinese 
religious traditions entered from outside, 
particularly as part of or in the company of 
Buddhism, and these elements also provided part of 
the context of Chinese art. 

Representations of human beings appear 
occasionally in early Chinese art. Some Neolithic 
pots have human faces depicted on them (cat. 114), 
as do a few Shang-period bronzes; some late Zhou 
bronzes are decorated with small images of human 
beings engaged in warfare, hunting, rituals, or 
agriculture; sometimes the base of a lamp or tray 

was made in the form of a human servant (cat. 47). 
From the Han period there are many portrayals of 
human figures on the walls of temples or tombs; 
some of these appear to be generic figures, others 
are labeled as specific figures from history or 
mythology (cats. 103, 104). 

There is little evidence, however, that these 
depictions of human beings were idols or icons, 
made to represent gods or spirits during sacrifices 
or other rituals. Pre-Buddhist Chinese shrines were 
not centered on statues or paintings of deities. 
Chinese sacrificial ceremonies could be performed 
either in the open, with a temporary altar, or in 
temples, but in either case objects other than 
paintings or statues were used to represent the 
spirits or gods. The central object for the she 
sacrifices to the earth, for instance, was a small 
earthen mound; for sacrifices to ancestral spirits, a 
tablet inscribed with the name of the dead was 

With the introduction of Buddhism, however, the 
use of images to depict divinities and spirits 
expanded radically (see essays by Helmut Brinker 
and Su Bai in this volume). Buddhists used images 
both to teach Buddhist doctrine and to provide a 
focus for devotional activities. Within a few 
centuries of the introduction of Buddhism, not 
only did the altars in Buddhist temples house 
images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, but Daoist and 
folk temples held images of their gods, and ancestral 
temples also often came to contain images of the 

The reverencing of icons was not a practice that 
the historical Buddha Sakyamuni taught his 
disciples in India. But by the time Buddhism 
arrived in China as a religion of foreign merchants 
and missionaries, the use of icons was well 
established. The Scripture on the Production of Budtllui 
Images (Ztiofo xingxiangjing), one of the earliest 
sutras translated into Chinese, records the 
conversation between the Buddha and King 
Udayana concerning the rewards received in later 
lives by those who produce images ot the 
Buddha. u Even the most eminent monks taught 
followers devotional practices centered on images. 
The learned monk and translator Daoan (312 (85 
would set up a holy image and light incense 
whenever he gave a lecture. The equally eminent 
monk Huiyuan (334-417) in 402 assembled .1 group 
of monks and lay people in front of .111 image ot 
the Pure Land, the Western Paradise of the Buddha 
Amitabha. With such prompting, the production ol 
Buddhist images expanded gready. IK S-a. 
according to one observer, there were over .1 
thousand Buddhist statues in the city ofl uoyang. 
Each year, on die seventh da) of the fourth month, 
all these were brought to the [ingming Temple. 



where the emperor would come in person to 
scatter flowers on them as part of the Great 
Blessing ceremony. 

Both Confucians and Daoists denounced many 
Buddhist ideas and practices as immoral or unsuited 
to China. For instance, they portrayed the great 
sums spent on construction of temples, statues, and 
ceremonies as a drain on the economy that 
impoverished the people and thus indirectly the 
state. At the same time, they borrowed extensively 
from the repertoire of ideas and practices that 
Buddhists had introduced into China, including the 
use of images on altars. Probably the adoption of 
icons should be attributed to their visual 
effectiveness. Icons work differently from words and 
texts, because images of the human form are potent 
in arousing emotions. Moreover, the meanings they 
can convey are not fixed, but mediated by the 
response of the viewer — different people can give 
an image different meanings at different times — an 
attribute that makes images good objects for 

Although most of the icons that survive from Tang 
and Song times are of Buddhist divinities, not local 
or Daoist gods, ancestors, or Confucian sages, there 
is abundant textual evidence that by Tang and Song 
times temples of all sorts represented their central 
objects of worship with images. These statues and 
paintings must have constituted a large share of the 
art that the average person had occasion to see. 
Temples to Confucius and to Confucian sages and 
teachers regularly had statues in them. The imperial 
ancestral cult was expanded to accommodate halls 
with statues of emperors. And Buddhist monasteries 
added halls with images of their former abbots, 
treating them as ancestors. 15 

I have already suggested some of the ways the 
diverse ideas sketched here were linked to the 
equally diverse objects we now view as China's art 
treasures. The best way to extend my analysis of the 
ways creativity played out in a cultural context that 
encompassed the coexistence of numerous 
unintegrated ideas is to look at the conjunction of 
such ideas in a single time period. The Song 
dynasty (960—1279) offers a good case. 

The Song was without doubt a time when new 
ideas and practices appeared in profusion. Science 
and technology were making rapid progress, with 
advances in abstract disciplines like mathematics 
and in such practical matters as the technology of 
iron and steel, ceramics, ballistics, and textiles. New 
gods appeared, and existing cults spread. In 
Buddhism, Tiantai teachings underwent a revival. In 
Daoism, Celestial Heart and Thunder Rates 

teachings gained prominence. Among Confucians, 
polymaths like Shen Gua (1031-1095) contributed 
to everything from mathematics to geography, 
archaeology, music, printing, medicine, divination, 
military strategy, and agricultural technology. Other 
Confucian scholars like Cheng Yi (1033— 1107) were 
drawn to metaphysical speculation about the nature 
and workings of the cosmos. 16 

Certain trends and issues crosscut many traditions. 
For instance, concern both with texts and with 
what cannot be conveyed in texts enlivened 
intellectual life in many circles. Many highly 
educated Confucian scholars were attracted to 
forms of spirituality that did not rely on texts, 
including meditation and visionary experiences, 
and they were ready to make use of Buddhist and 
Daoist traditions toward these ends.' 7 At a less 
elevated level, many literati were captivated by cases 
of spirit-writing, in which spirits created texts by 
possessing objects or people. Zhu Xi (1130— 1200), 
the towering figure in Confucianism, took a strong 
line against Buddhist and Daoist practices, 
advocating the "investigation of things" through 
careful reading of the Four Books and the classics 
more generally; he also, however, advocated "quiet 
sitting," a form of meditation. In a comparable way, 
Chan Buddhism, notwithstanding its emphasis on 
transmission outside texts, was expanded to 
accommodate highly literate Chan monks who 
excelled in poetry and other literary arts. The 
impact of this lively interest both in words and in 
what goes beyond words is evident in Chan 
painting, which seems to extend the idea of 
communicating through nondiscursive means to 
painting that is suggestive much more than 

I would also argue that the fundamental conflict 
between the claims of rulers and of the educated to 
moral authority helped rather than hindered artistic 
creativity. The Song was a time when the moral 
autonomy of those with Confucian educations was 
strongly reasserted and became a matter of political 
struggle between the court and the Confucian 
literati. The size of the educated class grew so large 
in Song times that there was always a large supply 
of highly educated men who could not find 
employment in government service, but this did 
not make them more subservient to the court. To 
the contrary, literati residing in their home 
communities found a variety of ways to assert their 
moral autonomy. For instance, they frequently 
erected shrines to honor scholar-heroes of the past 
who had been persecuted or unfairly neglected. 
Leading literati like Su Shi (1037— 1101), who took 
an interest in painting, calligraphy, and poetry 
writing, helped validate aesthetic and scholarly 
pursuits in and of themselves, even if they did not 
lead to serving the ruler. Others, like Cheng Yi and 



Zhu Xi, rejected the scholar-aesthete model on the 
grounds that cultural activity should convey moral 
principles, not just entertain or express personal 
feelings. But they too strongly asserted the moral 
autonomy of the learned by insisting that the goal 
of learning was attaining sagehood, not office. 

Art comes into this story because both the court 
and literati circles used art to bolster their own 
authority and legitimacy, and the resulting 
competition, collaboration, appropriation, and 
specialization seems only to have promoted 
creativity. ,s The tremendous flourishing of 
landscape painting and caDigraphy in Song times 
should not be seen simply as automatic outgrowths 
of the long-established cultural value placed on 
mountains and writing, but rather as the product of 
the conjunction of many elements, including the 
competition and collaboration between the court 
and circles of literati ambivalent about their 
relationship to the court. 

The creation of a canon of masterpieces that set the 
standards in calligraphy involved an interplay of 
imperial sponsorship and literati connoisseurship. In 
992 the court had ordered the printing of a book 
of rubbings that reproduced copies of famous 
pieces of calligraphy, especially early ones by Wang 
Xizhi (307?-365?) and Wang Xianzhi (344-386). 
But comparing these pieces and determining their 
relative quality was largely the work of private 
scholars such as Mi Fu (1052-1107/8). " J 

specialization in landscapes may owe something to 
his understandings of Daoist ideas about the 
correspondences of the microcosm and macrocosm: 
a single depiction of a mountain and a river can 
represent the entire cosmos. 

The emperor who took the greatest interest in art, 
Huizong (r. 1100-1126), did not care for Guo Xi's 
paintings and had them put in storage. Moreover, 
he did not share Su Shi's rejection of technique. In 
his paintings he took considerable pains to convey 
the outer form of objects, and he trained court 
artists to observe nature with minute attention. 
Some of this difference in artistic taste may relate to 
Huizong's ambivalence toward the Confucian 
scholars of his day. Intellectually, Huizong was 
attracted to subjects like music, poetry, calligraphy, 
and medicine, interests many literati like Su Shi and 
Shen Gua shared. As a prince, he had shared a 
passion for art collecting with his uncle, the painter 
Wang Shen (see cat. 1S4), who in turn was on good 
terms with Su Shi. As emperor, he invited Su Shi's 
friend, the renowned painter and calligrapher Mi 
Fu and later his son MiYouren (d. 1165) to come to 
court as curators/professors. Yet politics estranged 
Huizong from the circle of Su Shi, since for most 
of his reign he excluded from his court those 
involved with the opposition to Wang Anshi, who 
had been prime minister during the reign of his 
father, Shenzong (r. 1067-1085). Even the books 
written by the leaders of the opposition, such as Su 
Shi, were banned and could not be reprinted. 

Court and literati taste often diverged, of course. Su 
Shi, who enjoyed social occasions at which 
educated men would compose poems, paint 
pictures, or inspect antiques, offered a theoretical 
justification for the superiority of "scholar's 
painting" over professional painting. He valued 
spontaneous creation over laborious technique, 
asserted the moral superiority of creating a work 
without thought of financial reward, and viewed 
painting as a form of self-expression much like 
poetry. Capturing the outward form of an object 
was not nearly as valuable as conveying its inner 
principle. 20 

Some of the monuments of landscape painting 
were created at court for imperial patrons, but 
court painters viewed themselves not as artisans 
but as scholar-officials, with all the moral 
independence claimed for that status. Guo Xi 
(ca. 1061-ca. 1090), for instance, was a learned man 
who wrote on the theory of painting and 
participated in literati circles, and in his writings he 
took a romantic view of art as self-expression. Yet 
his employment at court would have required him 
to work on projects not entirely of his own 
choosing. To complicate matters further. Guo Xi is 
also known to have been a Daoist devotee, and his 

Huizong took a strong interest in Daoism, which 
can be seen in such paintings as the one he made 
to commemorate the appearance of white cranes 
over the main gate of the palace during a festival in 
1112. Such a painting certainly glorified Huizong, as 
the appearance of the cranes was interpreted as a 
portent that cosmic powers approved of his rule. 
But the painting itself was probably seen only by a 
relatively small number of people in the palace. 
Much more important for impressing the general 
population with the grandeur of his rule would 
have been his many construction projects. Over the 
course of his reign he had main' temples, palaces, 
government buildings, and gardens constructed, 
often on grand scale. To Huizong. however, the 
religious impulse behind these projects may have 
been stronger than the desire to impress Ins 
subjects. Through his gardens, in particular, he 
attempted to recreate the cosmos, with .ill ol its 
myriad plants and animals, mountains and waters. 

Although Confucian scholars might condemn the 
grandiosity ofl [uizong's construction projects, it 
was much more difficult for them to decry Ins 
attempts to collect and catalogue cultural treasures. 
Huizong had .1 passion for antiques, especially 
Shang- and Zhou period bronze vessels and 



musical instruments, which he had collected and 
had scholars catalogue for him. His catalogue of 
calligraphy gave pride of place to the same 
calligraphers esteemed for centuries by the literati. 

After Huizong and his son Qinzong had been 
captured by the Jurchens and a new Song court 
established at Hangzhou (in 113 8), the new 
emperor, Gaozong (r. 1127-1162), made concerted 
efforts to gain the support of the literati. He 
directed his court artists to produce works on 
historical or classical subjects that served to 
associate his court with China's cultural heritage. 22 
Gaozong himself was a highly accomplished 
calligrapher and often made gifts of pieces of his 
calligraphy to favored officials. He brought Mi 
Youren back to court and had him serve as the 
curator of the palace painting collection and court 
painter. Art, thus, had become a site for earning the 
support and respect of the literati. 

There is a strong tendency in Chinese thought to 
rank unity or oneness above disunity, to assume the 
superiority of consensus over disagreement, of 
uniformity over diversity. We need to understand 
this frame of mind, but we do not need to 
subscribe to it. Even if Huizong and Zhu Xi would 
have each agreed that the world would be a better 
place if all thought as he did, much of the vitality 
and creativity in Chinese culture derives from the 
fact that such unification of thought was beyond 
the capacity of either of them. 


1. The existence of opposed 
tendencies in Chinese thought 
has long been recognized. See 
the classic article by Benjamin 
Schwartz, "Some Polarities in 
Chinese Thought," in 
Confucianism in Action, ed. 
David S. Nivison and Arthur E 
Wright {Stanford: Stanford 
University Press, 1959). Here, 
because my focus is on 
connections to art, I have 
selected a rather different set of 
ideas than Schwartz did. 
Moreover, I do not see a larger 
system that comprehends all of 
the polarities, but a much 
messier situation in which 
inconsistencies and even 
incoherence are not only 
possible but an accepted part of 
the way things are. 

2. See James Legge, trans., Tlie 
Chinese Classics IILJlie Shoo 
King (Hong Kong: University 
of Hong Kong Press, i960; 
reprint of Oxford University 
Press ed.), pp. 283-85. 

3. See K.C. Chang, Art, Myth, 
and Ritual: Tlie Path to Political 
Authority in Ancient China 
(Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1983), 

pp- 95-97; Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early Chinese 
Art and Architecture (Stanford: 
Stanford University Press, 
1995), pp. 4-12. 

4. See A.C. Graham, Disputers 
of the Tao (La Salle, 111.: Open 
Court, 19S9), pp- 232-34. 

5. On Mozi's and Guanzi's 
political thought, see Kung- 
chuan Hsiao, A History of 
Chinese Political Thought, trans. 
F.W. Mote (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 
1979), pp. 235-43,322-26. 

6. Translation from Patricia 
Buckley Ebrey, ed., Chinese 
Civilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd 
ed. (New York: Free Press, 
1993), pp. 33-37. 

7. See Mark Edward Lewis, 
Sanctioned Violence in Early 
China (Albany: State University 
of New York Press, 1990), 

pp. 174-212. 

8. See Isabelle Robinet, 
Daoism: Growth of a Religion, 
trans. Phyllis Brooks (Stanford: 

Stanford University Press, 
1997), pp- 30-32,46- 

9. Burton Watson, trans., The 

Records of the Grand Historian of 
China (New York: Columbia 
University Press, I96i),p. 57. 

10. On Chinese ideas about 
the sacred powers of mountains 

and their expression in Chinese 
art, see Kiyohiko Munakata, 
Sacred Mountains in Chinese Art 
(Urbana: University of Illinois 
Press, 1990); Lothar 
Ledderhose,"The Earthly 
Paradise: Religious Elements in 
Chinese Landscape Art," in 
Theories of the Arts in China, ed. 
Susan Bush and Christian 
Murck (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1983), pp. 
165-83; and John Hay, Kernels 
of Energy, Bones of Earth :Tlie 
Rock in Chinese Art (New York: 
China House Gallery, 1985). 

11. Robinet, p. 95. 

12. On this topic, see also K.C. 
Chang, Art, Myth, and Ritual, 
pp. 81-94; Derk Bodde, Chinese 
Thought, Society, and Science: Tlie 

Intellectual and Social Background 
of Science and Technology in Pre- 
Modern China (Honolulu: 
University of Hawaii Press, 
1991), PP- 26-31. 

13. Translation from Ebrey, ed., 
Chinese Civilization: A 
Sourcebook, p. 31. 

14. See Robert H. Sharf, "The 
Scripture on the Production of 
Buddha Images," in Religions of 
China in Practice, ed. Donald S. 
Lopez, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1996), pp. 

15. See Patricia Ebrey, "Portrait 
Sculptures in Imperial 
Ancestral Rites in Song 
China" T'oung Pao 83 (1997), 
pp. 42—92, andT Griffith Foulk 
and Robert H. Sharf, "On the 
Ritual Use of Ch'an 
Portraiture in Medieval 
China," Cahiers d' Extreme- Asie 
7 (1993-94), PP- 149-219- 

16. For an overview ot the 

religious and philosophical 
situation in Song times, see 
Peter N. Gregory and Patricia 
Buckley Ebrey, "The Religious 
and Historical Landscape," in 
Religion and Society in T'ang and 
Sung China, ed. Ebrey and 
Gregory (Honolulu: University 
of Hawaii Press, 1993), 
pp. 1-44. 

17. For a good example, see 
Robert M. Gimello, "Chang 
Shang-ying on Wu-t'ai Shan," 
in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in 
China, ed. Susan Naquin and 
Chiin-fangYii (Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 
1992), pp. 89-149- 

18. For recent overviews of 
Song court art, see Craig 
Clunas, Art in China (Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1997), 
pp. 53-63, and Wen C. Fong, 
Beyond Representation: Chinese 
Painting and Calligraphy S ,h —14 th 
Century (New York: 
Metropolitan Museum ot Art, 
1992), pp. 173-245- 

19. See Lothar Ledderose, Mi 
Fu and the Classical Tradition of 
Chinese Calligraphy (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 
1979) and Peter Charles 
Sturman, Mi Fu: Style and the 
Art of Calligraphy in Northern 
Song China (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1997). 

20. See Susan Bush and Hsio- 
yen Shih, Early Chinese Texts on 
Painting (Cambridge: Harvard 
Yenching Institute, 1985), 

pp. 196-234, passim. 

21. See James M. Hargett, 
"Huizongs Magic 
Marchmount:The Genyue 
Pleasure Park of Kaifeng," 
Monument Serica 38 (1988-89), 
pp. 1-48. 

22. See Julia K. Murray, Ma 
Hezhi and the Illustration of the 
Book of Odes (New York: 
Cambridge University Press, 


Five Thousand Years 
of Chinese Culture 

Recent years have seen a growing 
attempt to understand the Chinese artistic 

tradition— like the world's other artistic 

traditions— by relating it to its cultural 
context. In so short an essay, however, on<^ 
can only sketch the outline of a 
conceptual framework for this topic, which 
spans the entire Eurasian land mass over 

more than four millennia. 

Yu Weichao 

Director, National Museum of 
Chinese History 


At least since the seventh century CE, three major 
artistic traditions have coexisted in the world: the 
East Asian tradition centered in China, the Western 
tradition centered in Europe (and, after the 
eighteenth century, in the United States), and the 
Islamic tradition. All three have long historical 
roots, and these roots are neither unitary nor linear. 
Their later evolutions have been shaped primarily 
by the evolutions of their vastly different cultural 
systems— the East Asian based on Confucianism, the 
Western on the commingling of Classical thought 
and Christianity, and the Islamic on the teachings 
of Islam. 

The definition of "culture" here is that used in 
contemporary anthropological research, namely, 
"Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, 
of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by 
symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of 
human groups, including their embodiment in 
artefacts. . . . Culture systems may, on the one hand, 
be considered as products of action, on the other as 
conditioning elements of further action." 1 In short, 
"culture" consists of those predominant concepts 
that determine the rules of behavior of members of 
society and form the "cultural phenomena" of their 
groupings. From this perspective, it is the "culture" 
of any country or people that truly gives shape to 
its artistic expression. 

based on religious concepts— Christianity and Islam. 
Only in China and East Asia did a secular ethos and 
system of secularly derived moral values- 
Confucianism— come to constitute the foundation 
of society. This created a distinct aesthetic, which, in 
conjunction with differences in the conditions of 
life, gave rise to an artistic tradition different from 
the other two both in content and in forms of 

At a time when Christianity and Islam were widely 
accepted in Europe and the Middle East, Buddhism 
had an enormous following in China. Why, then, 
did Buddhist concepts not become a major basis of 
Chinese culture (although they did dominate 
certain cultures, such as the Tibetan)? The answer 
must be that, for a fairly lengthy period, 
Christianity and Islam were state religions in 
Europe and the Middle East; government and 
religion were integrated. In China, on the other 
hand, although the embrace of Throne and creed 
was sometimes close, it was always limited in time, 
space, and degree. Additionally, Buddhism was never 
supreme in the culture of the Han ethnic majority, 
even during its apogee, from the Northern and 
Southern Dynasties era through the Sui and Tang. 
Furthermore, Chinese Buddhism absorbed many 
Confucian moral and ethical concepts. In other 
words, among the three major cultures, the Chinese 
was by far the most secular. 

Because for a long historical period artists were 
considered mere craftsmen, their works expressed 
not the maker's subjective aspirations but the 
collective or individual values of society's dominant 
groups, whence came their patrons. Subsequently 
there emerged some artists who did not depend on 
patronage for their livelihood, and whose works 
therefore could express their own interests and 
perceptions. Because these were generally members 
of the upper classes, however, their works too 
mostly reflect the consciousness of the social elites 
to which they belonged. Not until the modern era 
have art works come increasingly to express the 
individual characters of their makers, and to show a 
concomitant proliferation of styles. Within every 
artistic tradition, this pattern in the history of art 
has caused the works of different periods to be 
strongly stamped with hallmarks of their eras. 

Societies everywhere follow essentially similar 
processes of historical development, but at disparate 
paces and with disparate cultural content. This 
underlying similitude of developmental paths 
produces considerable similarities among the art 
works of different countries and peoples at the 
same stage of social development; at the same time, 
the overlying disparities in cultural characteristics 
make for entirely different artistic traditions. Among 
the three major world artistic traditions, two were 

It was in the Middle East that cultural systems 
coalescing government with religion originated 
some five thousand years ago. In ancient Egypt, for 
instance, the Pharaoh was also the monarch, uniting 
in his person state and creed. In Europe, by 
contrast, almost till the end of the Classical age, 
state and religion were mutually supportive but 
structurally and functionally separate institutions. 
Not till the fourth century CE did Rome adopt 
Christianity as the official religion, a policy soon 
followed by Rome's successor kingdoms in Europe 
and continued (although not unchallenged) into the 
era of the modern nation-states. In this regard, the 
Classical civilization of Europe, including its Cretan 
and Mycenean precursors, must be considered an 
interlude between the cultures of Mesopotamia and 
ancient Egypt and that of medieval Europe. As for 
Islam, it has since its beginning been accepted as a 
state religion in the Middle East. 

The formation of the Chinese cultural tradition 
proceeded along different lines. Since its beginnings 
during the Xia, Shang, and Zhou eras, government 
and religion were separate, except under King Xin 
of the late Shang, who at one point assumed the 
power to offer sacrifices. The separation of 
government and religion simultaneously reflected 
and promoted a strong sense of secularism in the 
Chinese cultural tradition, but this secularism did 


not become pronounced until the reign of 
Emperor Wu of the Western Han (r. 141-87 BCE), 
when Confucianism was established as the 
orthodox state ideology. 


China's land area is very extensive, and a complex 
regionalism characterized the primitive cultures of 
the Neolithic era. Over time, of course, the various 
cultures changed and influenced each other, thus 
narrowing the differences between them. But even 
after entering the age of civilization, regional 
disparities continued to exist because of variations 
in the natural environment and in cultural origins. 
In this essay Chinese culture is taken to mean only 
the mainstream culture. 2 

Approximately five thousand years ago, from the 
Liao River in the northeast through the central and 
lower Yellow River basin and southward to the 
central and lower Yangzi River basin, civilization 
began to dawn. About four thousand years ago the 
three early dynasties, Xia, Shang, and Zhou, 
emerged successively in the central Yellow River 
basin, and China entered the age of civilization. 
What is generally known as Chinese culture 
originated during this period, defined and 
reinforced, from this time forward, by the traits 
listed below. 

First, the polity that emerged was multiethnic, 
centered around the Huaxia people (later called the 
Han people) and associated with other somewhat 
closely related peoples. Even when one particular 
ethnic group seized political control from another, 
the state always remained multiethnic. In fact, its 
specific structure became ever more tight knit. A 
multiethnic state in which the Han people formed 
the majority group emerged during Qin and Han. 

Second, government took the form of an autocracy, 
centered around the ruler as Son of Heaven. 
Heaven, however, was not a personalized deity, nor 
were the emperors god-kings or even priest-kings. 
Rather, Heaven represented an idea of willed 
cosmic order and propriety which the emperor 
was expected, by means of moral example, 
prescribed ceremonial, and efFective governance, 
to reify on earth. 

Third, a basically uniform writing system was 
adopted, which promoted cultural interchange and 
consensus among regions and peoples. 

Fourth, hierarchical systems of rites were 
established, to set norms for the conduct of the 
different social classes. Of the systems created 
during the three early dynasties, that begun during 
the Zhou was the most comprehensive. Since 11 was 
originally created to stabilize the Zhou class system. 

the period-specific aspects of these rites disappeared 
with the demise of the Zhou, but the rites 
themselves did not disappear. They continued to 
influence social behavior in subsequent dynasties, 
and became a part of a longstanding tradition of 
ritual conduct for individuals as well as the state. 

A fundamental component of culture is beliefs. The 
exact beliefs prevalent during the three early 
dynasties are still unclear but are thought to have 
been forms of shamanism, meaning in large part the 
superstitious worship of heaven and earth, with 
shamans as intermediaries between humankind and 
the supernatural. 3 From the late Neolithic Liangzhu 
culture of the Yangzi delta (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 BCE) 
through the Shang and Zhou periods, precious jade 
objects were used as offerings to heaven and 
earth — jade bi disks to heaven and jade cong tubes 
to earth. The mysterious and mesmerizing patterns 
on ritual bronzes of the Shang and Zhou would 
seem to make them instruments of shamanism, so 
that Professor Zhang Guangzhi (K.C. Chang) has 
used the term "shamanistic culture" to explain 
them. 4 Shamanism, a pre-religious structure of 
magical beliefs, was common to most early cultures. 
But the use of jades for sacrifices to heaven and 
earth, and the use of ritual bronzes in the worship 
of ancestors and mountain and river gods, was 
unique to the magical beliefs of China during the 
three early dynasties. Like the Zhou rituals, at least 
some of these practices survived into the Ming and 
Qing dynasties as ceremonials protective of state 
and society and as evidence of Heaven-pleasing 
righteousness in the practitioners. 

The (to us) mysterious images on ritual bronzes of 
the three early dynasties could not have been cast 
solely for the purpose of evoking awe. According to 
the entry for "the third year of Duke Xuan" in the 
Zuo zhuan (a historical narrative of the early 
Eastern Zhou period, probably compiled toward 
the end of Eastern Zhou), "There was virtue in the 
time of the Xia, so the Nine Provinces submitted 
to the Xia, and offered bronzes which they made in 
tribute. Those living afar also offered drawings 
depicting local spirits and demons. Then the Xia 
cast a large ding on which were portrayed all the 
spirits and demons, so that the people might know 
of them. Thus, when they travelled to the 
mountains, rivers, and forests around the land, 
they would not be molested by the main spirits 
and demons. To handle affairs from all over in 
this manner was to act according to the mandate 
of Heaven." 5 

I Hiring the three early dynasties people were just 
beginning to emerge from .1 state of barbarism. 
They attributed all good and ill to supernatural 
forces that were amenable to prayer and 
propitiation, hence the popularity of shamanism. 



Given this cultural background, it was natural that 
images of various spirits and deities became the 
principal subject of the arts of the three dynasties. 6 


By the Han dynasty, and particularly after the reign 
of Emperior Wu, the magical cosmos of the three 
early dynasties had changed into a secular cosmos 
conceived in strongly Confucian terms. 

During the three early dynasties the primary 
objects of worship were heaven and earth, 
mountains, rivers, and ancestors. Similarly, moral 
precepts stressed the duties of venerating heaven 
and earth, worshiping all the spirits, 7 and honoring 
one's ancestors. Magical beliefs and social morality 
were basically one. 

During the Eastern Zhou, and particularly after the 
late Spring and Autumn period, the teachings of 
Confucian and other secularly inclined 
philosophers flourished, gradually coming to 
dominate the ideological sector; at the same time, 
secular works of art began to increase. 

Confucius, from whom the Confucian school of 
thought is considered to take its origin, 
propounded a coherent system of social ethics and 
morality. During the reign of Emperor Wu of the 
Western Han, other schools of socio-political 
thought were proscribed and Confucianism alone 
reigned supreme. Thenceforth, although individual 
rulers might espouse or even promote Buddhism or 
Daoism, Confucian ideas held sway over China for 
some two thousand years. Also during the reign of 
Emperor Wu the philosopher and political adviser 
Dong Zhongshu (ca. 174-ca. 104 BCE) distilled 
Confucian teachings on ethics and morality into 
the formula "three human relationships and five 
constant virtues" {sangcmg wuchang), 9 which 
remained normative throughout the next two 
millennia. Dong also proposed that "Heaven and 
man are one," a theory of "resonance (or mutual 
interaction) between heaven and man," which 
linked the shamanistic worship of Heaven with 
secular ethics and morality. In other words, Heaven 
is possessed of supreme power and beneficent will, 
humans are possessed of the potential for virtuous 
or evil actions; the "oneness" or "resonance" or 
mutual interactivity of Heaven and humankind 
posits that human actions affect Heavens will, 
which in turn affects all mundane events, including 
human fortunes. 

In the ancient world the theory of "Heaven and 
man are one" was unique to Chinese culture, 9 and 
from the reign of Emperor Wu it dominated Han 
philosophy. The theory generated a vast body of 
omen lore: the appearance of rare animals or plants 
or meteorological phenomena, or the discovery of 

ancient treasures were regarded as symbols of 
Heaven s approbation and humans' resulting good 
fortune. The devotees of religious Daoism, which 
began to take shape during late Western Han, aimed 
at transcending all bodily constraints, including 
aging, death, and their earthbound condition. This 
begot an obsession with the occult, including 
alchemy, numerology, divination, and quasi-magical 
dietary-respiratory-gymnastic regimens — all 
intended to permit adepts to attain corporeal 
immortality. At about the same time Buddhism also 
arrived and was accepted in China, conflated to a 
certain extent with early religious Daoism. 

A common subject of Han art was the coexistence 
and congruence of secular activities and the 
heavenly world. This was most intensely and 
completely manifested in the pictorial programs 
that covered the walls of Eastern Han tombs. These 
included pictures of the heavenly world and 
astronomical phenomena, as well as many 
immortals and divinities; drawings of auspicious 
symbols that represented the idea of "resonance 
between Heaven and man"; and depictions of the 
everyday life of the deceased. Since the simple 
burials of the poor have not survived, what we see 
are the concerns and the appurtenances of the 
upper classes: mansions, banquets and 
entertainments, carriage processions and outriders, 
along with the farming, animal husbandly and 
handicrafts that supported the estate. 10 Most 
strikingly, abundant images of everyday life have 
joined the spirits, deities, and shamans who form 
the principal subjects of surviving pre-Han art. 

Reflecting the enlarging secularism of the Han 
world-view, Han tomb furnishings — pottery 
models, stone sculptures, murals, as well as 
possessions cherished in life — reflect less of a sense 
of mystery and more of a simple secular feeling 
than pre-Han tomb accoutrements. Even art works 
with religious themes had a strong humanistic tone. 
This was an extremely important change in the 
course of Chinese art; for a very long time 
hereafter many purely religious works of art sought 
to stir the feelings of believers and art lovers alike 
through their expression of humanity. 


Throughout human history certain universal social 
processes have promoted the spread of religious 
beliefs in medieval eras. Beginning about the end of 
the third century, in the period of disunion 
following the fall of the Han dynasty, religious 
belief became widespread, permeating Chinese 
culture. In China, from the Northern and Southern 
Dynasties period through the Sui and Tang, 
Buddhism reached its apogee. Society was still 
governed, however, according to Confucian ethical 
and moral precepts. Moreover, the ardent Buddhism 



of these centuries was many times punctuated by 
government-sponsored anti-Buddhist campaigns, 
motivated by political necessity or by a given rulers 
pro-Daoist leanings in the perennial competition 
between Buddhism and Daoism. Clearly, despite its 
popularity, Buddhism remained ideologically 

Furthermore, during the late Han and Three 
Kingdoms periods, as Buddhism began to flourish, 
it did so in part by acculturation, that is, by taking 
on, in part, the teachings of Confucius and 
Mencius. For example, the Shijiamuni lihuo, the first 
Buddhist text written (and not just cited) in China, 
proposes the essential "unity of the three creeds"- 
Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism." In the 
third and fourth centuries certain Buddhist 
metaphysical doctrines (xuantan yili) were held to 
be related to contemporary neo-Daoist 
metaphysical teachings (xtiaii xue), which were 
themselves tinged with Confucian theories. 
Cultural influences did not flow in one direction 
only. Based on the theory that every human mind 
contains and can discover within itself the Buddha- 
mind, the Chan Buddhist patriarch Huineng 
(638-713) propounded the doctrine ofsudden 
enlightenment" (dunwu). In later centuries, long 
after the heyday of Buddhism, this concept of 
sudden, unmediated perception or realization 
became a key element of Chinese philosophy and 
aesthetic theory. Its influence on the intellectual life 
of China was profound, pervasive, and lasting, but it 
exerted that influence not as a precept of Buddhist 
faith but as an element of secular Neo- 
Confucianism.'-This Sinification ot Buddhist 
precepts was another manifestation of the 
predominance of Confucian thought in Chinese 
society even when Buddhism was at its peak. 

Where social thinking consists mainly of religious 
doctrines, all aspects of social culture will be 
permeated by religious overtones; where Confucian 
ethics and morality form the content of social 
thought, secularity will predominate. Chinese 
culture from the period of disunity through the Sui 
and Tang was clearly of the second type. 

Buddhist sculpture and painting of this era, 
adorning temples and cave-temples, was indeed 
highly sophisticated, but no more so than art works 
of secular content. Noted artists of the time, such as 
Gu Kaizhi (ca. 344-ca. 406) of the Eastern Jin, 
portrayed religious and mundane subjects alike. 
New artistic heights were achieved both by the 
Buddhist volumetric sculptures ofYungang and 
Longmen in the north, which show influence from 
Gandharan and Guptan art, and by the Six 
Dynasties tomb carvings near Nanjing in the south, 
which continued the Eastern Han tradition oi relief 
carving, mostly non-Buddhist in content, on the 

interior walls of tombs. Murals in later aristocratic 
tombs — like that of Lou Rui (531-570) of 
Northern Qi; or of Princess Yongtai and the princes 
Yide and Zhanghuai of Tang, all buried in 706 — 
reflect metropolitan style and court standards of 
workmanship and are secular in content. As one 
would expect, the contemporaneous murals in the 
Buddhist cave-temples at Dunhuang, in far western 
Gansu, show a great mixture of stylistic influences 
and a more provincial level of workmanship. 

When court sculptors were set to work to produce 
Buddhist sculptures for the ruling houses, the results 
equaled any contemporaneous secular works. Court 
sculptors of the Northern Wei imbued the colossal 
Buddha atYungang with solemn dignity and the 
reliefs in the Binyang Cave at Longmen with 
devout majesty. Court sculptors of the Tang empress 
Wu Zetian (r. 684-704), a wily ruler and passionate 
Buddhist, imbued the colossal Buddha and eight 
attendant divinities at the Fengxian Temple of 
Longmen with benevolence, gentleness, earnestness, 
and power. All these figures embody Chinese 
sculpture at the top of its bent, and reflect the 
cultural efflorescence of the capitals to which they 
were adjacent. They combine sublimity with a 
worldly magnificence that attests to the secular 
coloration acquired by Chinese Buddhism. 
Arguably, the finest Chinese Buddhist sculptures of 
this period were also the finest art works of their 
time anywhere in the world. 

Mainstream ideas, the cultural basis of both 
religious and secular art, evolved gradually during 
the Southern Dynasties, Sui, and Tang from the 
intermingling of Buddhism and Confucianism to 
the integration of Buddhism, Daoism, and 
Confucianism. This trend continued until after the 
Northern Song, when a renewed and enriched 
Confucianism achieved the social and political 
importance held by its precursor during the Han, 
and Buddhist art went into a rapid decline. 


Song Neo-Confucianism, and us continuations 
during the Ming and Qing. was by no means .1 
monolithic set of teachings. The philosophers 
assembled under this rubric ranged considerably in 
their opinions and disputed then differences 
vehemently. But the common core "l Nieo- 
Confucianism was .1 primary concern with 
problems of ethics and epistemolog) and .1 wholt) 
secular approach to both these sets of questions. 
Vastly oversimplifying, we might saj that Neo- 
Confucians sought to understand the metaphysical 
essence of the universe (the Dao) and to bung the 
human mind heart (.vm, which of itself "has no 
substance; it takes its reactions to the rights and 
wrongs of everything in I leaven and earth for us 
substance" 13 ) into harmony with it. 



The literati, as the culture -bearing elite of later 
dynastic China were called, scorned sculpture as 
mere artisanry but valued the kinds of paintings 
that they considered metaphors of the Dao 
(primarily landscapes) or of the enlightened, 
cultivated xin (paintings of various subjects, 
primarily in ink monochrome, that were expressive 
in intent and amateur in rendition). Of course, 
during the millennium from the founding of the 
Song to the overthrow of the Qing, the styles (and 
to some extent the subjects) of literati-approved 
painting evolved greatly, but without losing touch 
with their secular, Neo-Confucian origins. 

Only in the recent past, with the introduction of 
Western knowledge and fundamental changes in 
the political system and economic structure of 
society, Chinese culture has received massive shocks 
and Chinese art has been in constant turmoil. Of 
course, there are close links between political 
systems, economic structures, and cultures, but 
cultural traditions also have a degree of autonomy. 
New culture and new art, which reflect new 
yearnings, must evolve out of the foundation of the 
original cultural traditions. Contemporary 
intellectuals must not forsake the search for a new 
culture and a new direction for art. In order for us 
to correctly assess China s traditonal culture and 
develop contemporary Chinese culture and arts, 
and in order for modern Chinese to understand 
their own values, it is necessary to review the 
course of Chinas culture over the last five thousand 
years, to think about the traditions existing within 
this course, and to understand the foundations of 
China's culture and its arts. The above ruminations 
are part of such a quest. As to their validity, I await 
the comments of my readers. 

Translated, from the Chinese, by June Mei. 

4. Zhang Guangzhi, Six Lectures 

on Archaeology (Wenwu 
Publishing House, 1986), 

pp. 47-5 2- 

5. Part 1 of the Jiaosizhi in the 
Han shu addresses the subject 

of supernatural beings and 
defines the term wu as 
referring to spirits and demons. 

6.Yu Weichao, "Changes in 
WorldViews as Seen in 
Archaeological Art Materials 
from the Pre-Qin, Qui, and 
Han Eras," in Collected Essays 
Celebrating Su Bingqi's Fifty Years 
in Archaeology (Beijing: Wenwu 
Publishing House, 1989), 
pp- H3-I5- 

7. During Western Han, all 
tamous mountains and rivers 
were considered to be or to 
house numinous spirits. Hence, 
part 1 of the Jiaosizhi in the 
Han shu says, "[During the 
Western Zhou,] the Son of 
Heaven made sacrifices to all 
the famous mountains and 
rivers in the land, and to 
mollify all the spirits, but there 
are no written records of the 
rituals.' 1 

8. The three relationships — all 
hierarchical but also 
encompassing mutual 
responsibility — are sovereign- 
subject, tather-son, husband- 
wife; the five virtues are 
human kindness, righteousness, 
propriety, knowledge, sincerity; 
together, sangang wuchang might 
be understood as "the whole 
duty of humankind" 
(Definition supplied by 
Stephen Allee, Freer/Sackler 
Galleries, Smithsonian 

12. Chinese Buddhist 
Association, ed., Chinese 
Buddhism, vol. I, articles on 
"Buddhism of the Northern 
and Southern Dynasties," and 
"The Chan Sect" (Shanghai: 
Oriental Publishing Center), 
pp. 29-30, 319-25. 

13. Ckuanxilu, part 2, of 
Complete Works of Wang 
Wencheng, Sibu Congkan 
edition, vol. 3, p. 31a. 


i. A.L. Kroeber and C. 
Kluckhohn, "Culture: A 
Critical Review of Concepts 
and Definitions," Harvard 
University, Papers of the Peabody 
Museum of American Archaeology 
and Ethnology, 47:1 (1952), 
p. 181. 

2."Su Bingqi on the China 
Dream of Archaeology," 

Mingbao yuekan, 1997:7. 

3. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism — 
Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, 
trans. Willard R.Trask 
(Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1972). 

9. Qian Mu,"The 

Contribution That Traditional 
Chinese Culture Can Make to 
the Future of the Human 
Race," in Chinese Culture Past, 
Present, and Future — Essays 
Celebrating Eighty Years of the 
Zhonghua Shuju (Zhonghua 
shuju, 1992). 

10. Xin Lixiang, Studies of Han 
Dynasty Painted Stones (Tokyo: 
Doshisha, 1996). 

11. Ren Jiyu, ed., History of 

Chinese Buddhism (Chinese 
Academy of Social Sciences 
Publishing House, 1981), vol. 1, 
chaps. 3-5. 



Jade as Material 
and Epoch 

Elizabeth Childs-Johnson 

Visiting Scholar, New York University 

Jade, "the fairest of stones," is described 
in the revered and earliest of Chinese 
dictionaries as embodying five virtues: 
"Benevolence is typified by its luster that 
is bright and warm; integrity by its 
translucency; wisdom by its sonorous ring 
when struck; courage by its hardness; 
and steadfastness by its durability." 1 As far 
back as the late Neolithic period, this 


obdurate stone, known as nephrite jade, could be 
worked into what are for Chinese tradition 
technical masterpieces of ritual and aesthetic 
function. Yu jade was, in fact, the preeminent 
medium of the late Neolithic period, exploited 
earlier than bronze as a political and religious 
power symbol which may now be associated with 
China's earliest civilization. 2 Late Neolithic 
prehistoric cultures — Hongshan, Liangzhu, and 
Longshan — have been identified archaeologically as 
three successive jade- working cultures of circa 
3600-2000 bce, predating the historic Xia, Shang, 
and Zhou periods. Each culture boasts a major jade 
art that is idiosyncratic yet telling in the formation 
of later Chinese values and cultural expression. 

In this exhibition, jades are drawn not only from 
the jade-working cultures of Neolithic date, but 
also from other periods of great innovation such as 
the Western and Eastern Zhou, when jade was first 
used for head and body covers in burial and for 
elaborate pectorals hanging down the front of 
aristocratic robes, and from later periods, Han 
through Tang, when jade was worked into a variety 
of exquisite ornamental forms. 


Nephrite, like jadeite, is considered "true jade" by 
specialists today. Unlike the emerald green and 
harder jadeite, nephrite varies in color from 
translucent white to various shades of green and 
brown and is the only jade that was used during 
the Neolithic and early dynastic periods. 

Based on a recent identification, nephrite can now 
be documented as originating in Neolithic China. 
A specimen taken from an outcropping of rock at 
Zhaomeiling in Liyang, Jiangsu Province, has been 
confirmed as having mineral qualities similar to 
Liangzhu-period nephrite. 3 It is likely that local 
deposits of nephrite were found elsewhere in the 
lower reaches of theYangzi River. The nephrite 
found in tombs of the far northeast (Hongshan 
culture) is also thought to have been mined locally. 

Mineralogically, nephrite is a rock composed of 
densely intergrown, randomly oriented, interfelted 
fibers of the minerals tremolite and actinolite. These 
minerals are calcium-magnesium-iron silicates, 
Caz (Mg,Fe 2+ ) 5 Sis O22 (OH) 2, and belong to the 
amphibole mineral group. 4 The difference between 
actinolite and tremolite is in the quantity of 
magnesium and iron. In actinolite, iron appears in 
greater quantities, 10 to 50 percent; in tremolite, 
iron occupies under 10 percent of the total. Iron 
content affects the color of nephrite by darkening 
it, creating gray to green hues. In its purest form, 
the nephrite is translucent white (see, for example, 
cats. 17, 20). 

Minerals sometimes mistaken for jade — referred to 
as "false jades" or as "pseudo-jades" — include agate, 
bowenite, fluorite, talc, and serpentine. The major 
scientific means of distinguishing tremolites and 
actinolites from other minerals is by their specific 
gravity. Nephrites have a higher specific gravity and 
greater hardness than pseudo- and false jade 
minerals. 5 

Jade is one of the most difficult stones to fashion: 
on Mohs's scale of hardness for minerals (ranking 
from 1 to 10) jade measures 6—6.5; thus, it requires 
a harder stone such as quartzite (7-7.5) or diamond 
(10) to abrade or "carve" it. Several scholars have 
theorized about how early jade — the translucent 
nephrite as opposed to emerald green jadeite — 
was worked in ancient China. 6 Each has described 
a technique that involves various stages of working 
with abrasives, from initially slicing off a chunk or 
slab of jade from a rock outcropping to boring holes 
and modeling linear motifs and openwork designs 
on the final jade piece. It is likely that a straight- 
edged hand or gut-string saw was the tool used to 
cut, slice, and pare the jade into a workable form. 

Other tools involved probably included the awl and 
tubular drill, which may have been of bamboo. 
Since a flint (suishi) awl has been excavated from a 
Liangzhu tomb, it is possible that this was the type 
of tool used to carve the minute detail decorating 
cong (prismatic tubes) and related ornaments. 7 
Other specialists have argued that shark teeth 
excavated from Liangzhu tombs were used or that 
only a tool with a diamond point was sufficiently 
hard to carve such refined detail. 8 That the 
Liangzhu craftsmen working jade used a bamboo or 
comparable drill with quartzite as an abrasive to 
make holes in ritual jades such as bi (disks) and cong 
(prismatic tubes) is convincing, since the remaining 
elliptical marks, particularly marked in the centers 
of cong, identify that type of tool. These holes are 
created from two sides by a bamboo drill whose 
point loses sharpness and thus width at the very 
center so that a ridge is formed. Quartzite crystals 
have been found on the surface of many Liangzhu 
and Hongshan jades, thus confirming that quartzite 
was the abrasive used with water when working the 
surface. On Neolithic jades, abraded decorative 
motifs often appear chipped; on later jades, metal- 
tipped tools were used so that these decorative 
motifs appear as clean, crisp lines. 

In recent experiments on jades at the Freer and 
Arthur M. Sackler galleries in Washington, D.C., 
Wen Guang and Janet Douglas have shown that 
certain jades of dark green and brown color, dating 
to the Longshan and successive cultures and 
deriving from north and northwest China, are 
mineralogically iron- and manganese-rich 
nephrites. 9 These jades possess small amounts of 



manganese oxide that can be measured by X-ray 
fluorescence and related tools that measure mineral 
composition and the microstructure of minerals. 10 
The dagger-ax (ge; cat. n) from the Shaanxi 
Provincial Museum falls into this category of 
manganese oxide— rich nephrite. Wen Guang has 
explained that the dark green and brown to almost 
black coloration of tall cong (see, for example, cat. 5) 
appears to derive from jades that have been 
collected over time. This phenomenon may be 
attributable to panmo, the repeated handling of jade 
that causes discoloration over time, especially 
through oxidation of the iron content. The so- 
called chicken-bone white (jigubai) or chalky 
white surface patches, particularly common on 
Liangzhu jades (see cat. 3) but also on others 
(cats. 2, 12), appears to be caused primarily by 
heating to a temperature above 900 C rather than 
by alteration during a long burial." The jade 
mineral does not decompose, but its density 
decreases and its microstructure becomes looser so 
that the jade may become brittle and less 

§-shs b, g 



Jade as a precious stone has an eminent history in 
China and for this reason is intimately linked with 
the beginnings of Chinese ritual and Chinese 
civilization. As one archaeologist has pointed out, 
all characters, or graphs, written with the jade 
graph yu are associated with spiritual power or 
beauty.' 2 For example, the word bao ("precious") 
incorporates the jade graph. So does the word gtti 
(a kind of jasper stone or an adjective meaning 
"extraordinary" or "admirable"). 

Fig. l.Jade types of the Hongshan culture:A. Hooked 
cloud; B. Horse-hoof shape; C. Dragon; D. Pig-dragon; 
E. Disk; F Cat-headed bird; G. Cicada; H. Fish; 
I. Turtle; J. Double dragon-head arcli; K. Three-ring 
ornament with pig-head protomes; L.Ax ; M. Three-hole 
flat ornament; N. Bead; O. Bracelet; P. Pencil-shaped 
stick; Q. Bauble; R. Animal face with tusk-like 
extensions; S. Animal-face handle; T. Hook-shaped 
handle. Neolithic period, Hongshau culture (ca. 3600- 
ca. 2000 bce). 

Jade's sacrosanct position in the history of Chinese 
tradition is probably best told not through later 
anecdotal descriptions, but rather through excavated 
finds and the earliest literary reference to ritual (//) 
in Shang period bone inscriptions.' 3 The character 
//' incorporates the jade graph yu, suggesting by its 
inclusion that jade was the earliest material as art to 
be used in religious worship. The function of jade 
as a preservative and symbol of immortality is also 
well known through Han alchemical practice and 
the life-preserving quality that is signified in the 
burial jade body suits of the Warring States and 
Han periods. 


The working of jade is well illustrated by numerous 
finds from the three successive late Neolithic 
cultures, that occupied coastal northern through 
southern China, from Liaoning down as far as 
Fujian. As Willetts once noted, Yuan Kang in The 
Lost Records of Yue (Yue jueslni), a Warring States 
text, wrote that after the Stone (Neolithic) and 
before the Bronze and Iron ages, man used jade for 
weapons; this "Jade Age" was a period 
contemporary with the legendary Five Emperors 

and prior to the historic Xia.' 4 Archaeological 
evidence documents this reference: jade was the 
primary medium exploited by the elite to 
symbolize their power to rule. Whether or not we 
use the label "Jade Age," the use of jade over an 
approximate sixteen-hundred-year period (ca. 3600- 
2400 bce) may be traced largely to coastal pari'- of 
China, an area of great cultural innovation at this 
time. 15 Elite tribal groups forming what 
anthropologists now describe as China's earliest 
city-states are associated with these jade-working 
cultures — the Liangzhu in China's southeastern 
provinces of Zhejiang andjiangsu and in Shanghai; 
and slightly later Shandong Longshan cultures ol 
northeast China; but also possibly by the slightly 
earlier 1 -longshan, ol far northeast China, primarily, 
1 iaoning and Inner Mongolia provinces. 

Jade types from I longshan tombs (see tig [) are 
sinking in their seemingly non-Chinese taste for 
sculpturally sensuous form. Two jades in this 
exhibition — an ornament 111 the form >>t hooked 
clouds with profile bird cat. 1) and an ornament in 
the form of a curling so-called pig-dragon {zlmloiig; 



cat. 2) — are quintessentially Hongshan Chinese. 
Both works are directly tied to fertility-cult 
interests. 16 Small jade figures as well as clay figures 
of various sizes representing nude females with 
large hips and buttocks have been found on 
outdoor stone-lined altars, in the Goddess Temple 
foundation, and within aristocratic cist tombs at 
Niuheliang; their discovery suggests the presence of 
a cult centered on a form of mother goddess. The 
only items seen in tombs of the elite are jades, 
however. Most are pierced with holes for 
suspension or attachment to cloth, suggesting a 
function similar to that of an amulet worn by a 
specialized religious, ruling elite. 

Most of the excavated Hongshan burials with jades 
derive from select areas, as at Niuheliang, which on 
the basis of present evidence was once a center for 
religious worship. The hooked cloud shape ot jade 
(see, for example, cat. i) has been found on the 
chest area of several corpses in the elite cemetery at 
Niuheliang, suggesting that this type of ornament 
decorated the chest as a pectoral. The shape, with 
hooks at four corners framing a bird's head in 
profile, represents the prototype of the age-old bone 
and bronze script symbol for cloud with emerging 
bird or dragon head, 17 evidently a reference to the 
heavenly bird in later Chinese myth. 

The pig-dragon (cat. 2) also suggests a potent 
symbol in its emphatic disposition which begins in 
a boar-like head flaunting tusks and beady eyes and 
ends in a short thick body curl. This fetal posture 
emphasizing birth and nascent power is imitated in 
the shape of the pictograph for qiu, the earliest 
form for writing dragon in Chinese script. lS In all 
later Chinese history, dragons bring rain and 
beneficence. During the Neolithic period the 
Chinese domesticated the boar. As symbols of 
wealth, boar (or pig) skulls are commonly found in 
elite tombs. 19 That the image of dragon with boar 
tusks and other fertility deities presided as symbols 
of control in this northern Hongshan culture is also 
made clear by the remains of dragon and fertility 
goddess sculptures, which decorated the wall of 
what, at Niuheliang, excavators describe as a 
mother goddess temple. In addition to their 
association with fertility, the pig-dragon jades are 
remarkable for their sensitive and painstaking 
modeling: they appear as though they were 
sculpted, wet clay rather than flat and linear, 
calligraphically defined jades that are traditionally 
associated with Chinese aesthetics. 

The Liangzhu culture, of overlapping and slightly 
later date, reflects a more advanced social stage in 
the new and more complex layout of religio- 
administrative centers, as well as an increased 
complexity of jade types and their functions. In 
burials, jade not only decorates the dress of elite 

Fig, 2. Jade types of the Liangzhu culture: A. Disk (bi^); 
B. Short and tall prismatic tubes (cong,); C.Ax head 
and reconstructed ax with parts; D. End attachments to 
the staff of an ax; E. Arrow and spear heads; F.Three- 
pronged headdress ornament; G. Trapezoid-shaped 
headdress ornament of a talisman; H. Lower body/shoe 
ornament; I. D-shaped headdress ornament; J. Arc-shaped 
ornaments (huangj; K. Spindle whorl; L. Belt buckle; 
M. Staff knob; N. Bird, fish, cicada, tortoise, and frog 
ornaments; O. Necklace ornament; P. Slit earrings; 
Q. Ornament; R. Plain and decorated bracelets. Neolithic 
period, Liangzhu culture (ca. 3600— ca. 2000 BCE). 

leaders, but now appears worked into shapes of 
ritual implements and weapons (fig. 2). 20 Liangzhu 
jade owners wielded power over more sophisticated 
and complex religious rites and political and 
military matters as well. 

The new appearance of specific ritual implements 
such as cong and hi, and of broad axes (yue) in large 
numbers complements the more complex scenario 
of ritual and socio-political administration that 
anthropologists currently describe as characterizing 
China's earliest city-state. They propose that the 
Liangzhu culture encompassed a time span of 
roughly 3600/3300-2000 bce and that it included 
four major phases. 21 Fully mature jade types 
representing Liangzhu periods III— IV of circa 3000- 
2400 bce are represented in the exhibition by three 
cong (cats. 3, 4, 5). 



The cong is the most idiosyncratic of all jades. It 
may be defined by its shape: a tube that is prismatic 
on the outside and circular and open from top to 
bottom inside. The Neolithic jade cong is decorated 
with animal and/or semihuman masks on the 
prismatically shaped corners of its outer square. In 
later ritual texts the cong is also defined as a symbol 
of the earth. 

Liangzhu jades derive almost entirely from burials, 
evidently of a ruling, religious elite. These differ 
from Hongshan burials not only in their larger and 
more complex jade assemblage, but in their design; 
they were part of a man-made earthen mound with 
raised outdoor altar (figs. 3-4). Apparently, such 
raised earthen mounds with jade-filled burials 
functioned initially as outdoor ritual altars and 
subsequently as burial grounds called jitan mudi 
("joint sacrificial and burial centers") and were 
locally described as tuzhu jinzita ("earth- 
constructed pyramids"). 22 

Fig. 3. Mound remains of the earthen outdoor altar at 
Yaoslian ,Yuhang county, Zhcjiang Province. Neolithic 
period, Liangzhu culture (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce). 

Recently, it has been proposed that Sidun, in 
Jiangsu Province, and possibly twenty other related 
burial-ground mounds were part of larger city- 
states that were cosmologically designed in the 
form of the cong, the ritual jade implement 
(figs. 2B, 4A:2, 5). 23 At present, however, only 
Sidun, Zhaolingshan, and Mojiaoshan appear to 
possess adequate features that qualify them as 
candidates for this ideal plan (fig. 4A). 24 The 
proposed plan encompasses a central earthen altar 
and four axially located burial grounds as well as 
many residences and defensive moats: the Sidun 
mound complex measures 900,000 square meters in 
area, and the mound proper is over 100 meters 
wide and over 20 meters high. 25 This design 
conjures up the look of today's surviving Angkor 
Wat in Cambodia, Tikal in Guatemala, and the 
religious structure called "Bright Hall" (mingtang) 
with circular moat (piyong) mentioned in later 
Chinese ritual texts. 2 '' In any case, what emerges in 
the archaeological data is a new and extremely 
sophisticated phase of settlement: a city-state with 
spiritual center, outlying towns, a defensive system, 
and competitive arts serving both religious and 
political needs. This archaeological evidence of the 
Liangzhu culture defines the heart of the so-called 
Jade Age, not only in the sophisticated architectural 
design of a spiritual center but because over 90 
percent of the ruling elite's burial goods were jades. 

For protohistoric Chinese the cong was evidently 
more than a talisman; it appears to have been a 
mechanism of ritual and spiritual control. 
Positioned in four directions, it symbolized the 
power to petition or exorcize spiritual and demonic 
forces in a universe that was conceived as 
prismatically square. It is no accident that the 
shamanic jangxiang, or u'tt, the major exorcizer of 


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Fig. 4. Reconstruction of i. \:n outdoor altar at Sidun, 
Jiangsu Province, with (A:z) drawing of jade cong. and 
(B) outdoor altar at Zhaolingshan, Jiangsu Province. 
Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture (ca. 3600-ca. zooo 



demonic influences in Han dynasty religious 
practice, had vision in four directions. The character 
for wu ("shaman") — although not known textually 
until Eastern Zhou times — is related in origin to 
the Shang character (ox fang ("direction").- 7 As is 
evident, one of the variations for fang in Shang 
bone inscriptions is like the Greek cross, the same 
shape as the cong. And it may also be no accident 
that in the ancient myth of China s origins the 
eight cosmic pillars that upheld the universe when 
the mythic Pan Gu created the world were axially 
oriented. 28 

The other popular ritual implement, the circular hi, 
is also probably significant in its association with the 
heavens, the circular vault or dome mentioned later 
in Huainanzi and the Chnci ("Songs of the South"): 9 
The few representations of birds and clouds that 
decorate hi (fig. 6) are in keeping with what must 
be a symbol of skyward power in which clouds and 
birds are associated in all later Chinese lore. 

The cong (cat. 3) that comes from the largest tomb, 
No. 12, at Fanshan, in Zhejiang Province, is a 
marvel of craftsmanship. Twenty-four tiny 
representations of simple and complex mask types 
decorate all the flat surfaces of this vessel's exterior, 
straddling all corners and intervening passages (fig. 
5 A). Two alternating image types — the semihuman 
mask with horizontally striated headdress and the 

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Fig. 3. Shape and decor of time exhibited jade prismatic tubes 
(cong): A. Cong (cat. 3) from tomb No. 12, Fanshan, 
Zhejiang Province; B. Cong (cat. 4) from Fuquanshan tomb 
No. g, Qingpn county, Shanghai; C. Cong (cat. 3) from tomb 
No. 3,11'ujin county, Jiangsu Province. Neolithic period, 
Liangzhu culture (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 BCE). 

Fig. 6A. T\ie bird and cloud motif on a jade disk (hi) 
from the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C. (17.348). Neolithic period, Liangzhu 
culture (ca. 3600— ca. 2000 BCE). 

Fig. SB.fade disk (bij. Neolithic period, Liangzhu 
culture (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 BCE). Freer Gallery of Art, 
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. (17.348). 







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Fig. 7. Evolution of the (A) jade blade (zhang,) and 
(B) knife (dao) from agricultural tools. Neolithic period 
(ca. 7000-ca. 2000 BCE). 

schematic interpretation of the mask aligning the 
four corners of this tall cong is the semihuman 
mask, simplified to an abstract design of eye, 
mouth, and headdress. 

Jade usage takes a new turn during the last phase 
of the Neolithic and first phase of China's ancient 
historical period, which begins with the Xia 
(ca. 2100-ca. 1600 BCE).The new jade types that 
appear during the Longshan and Xia (Erlitou 
culture) periods — the last flowering of the "Jade 
Age" — include the blade {zhang) and the knife 
(dao) . Usually plain in decor, they function as 
insignia. Both the blade and the knife are based on 
agricultural tool types. 32 The blade, which is 
swordlike in shape and flares out at one end, 
originates in the hoe and is known mostly in bone 
or ivory as early as 5000 bce at Hemudu, in 
Zhejiang Province (fig. 7A). 33 The knife derives 
from the harvesting knife (fig. 7f3).The recarved 
jade knife (dao; cat. 6) from the Shanghai Museum 
may be attributed to the Shandong Longshan 
Neolithic. Representational imagery still decorates 
the front of the jade knife. 

animal mask with layered eyelids and nasal ridge — 
decorate each prismatic surface. These semihuman 
and animal-mask images are also represented more 
complexly on the interstices. The latter, more 
elaborate version portrays the semihuman with 
feathered headdress, trapezoidal face, and winged 
arms embracing the animal mask, which has tusks 
and framing limbs ending in claws (fig. 5). Both 
Mou Yongkang and Wu Ruzuo have identified 
these masked deities as sun gods. 30 When depicted 
as two different images, they should be interpreted 
as a sun god and his vehicle, the embodiment of 
animal power. Working these minuscule motifs must 
have required great delicacy and painstaking labor 
in digging and working away the surface with a 
tiny flint or diamond awl. Although it has altered in 
color to a chalky white, the cong retains its brilliant 
luster, which through burnishing seems to have 
intentionally captured the rays of the sun. This cong 
has been nicknamed the "king of cong," after the 
vessel's large size and superbly worked imagery. 3 ' 

The cong from tomb Number 9 at Fuquanshan, 
near Shanghai, is marked by a translucent gleaming 
yellow-brown to green color (cat. 4). Miniature 
masks and flanking birds fill four sides of this cong, 
which is more circular than square (fig. >B). liody 
parts, only one millimeter wide, of both the masked 
images and birds are filled with tiny whorling cloud 
scrolls. On the cong from tomb Number 3 at Sidun, 
Jiangsu Province (cat. 5; fig. sC) thirteen levels of 
mask images represent a standard variation of the 
tall cong type that is tempting to associate with the 
stacked arrangement of repeated images on a native 
American totem pole of the Northwest. The more 

The blades (zhang; cats. 7, 8) reflect two styles. The 
first is a classic Xia blade (zhang; cat. 7), seen in 
excavated examples from Erlitou (fig. SA).The 
handle is typically rendered with a delicate, dentiled 
outline and paper-thin relief strips running from 
top to bottom on the front side only. This 
geometrically textured area contrasts with the 
blade, which flares out and is slightly concave. The 
blade (cat. 8) from Sanxingdui, Guanghan, in 
Sichuan Province, is a manneristically distorted 
regional version of the classic Xia type. For 
example, the blade's mouth does not flare; it comes 
to a point like a dagger-ax that then is bifurcated. 
Comparable blades excavated from the same two 
hoards at Sanxingdui are equally eccentric (fig. SB). 
They either violate classical form through the 
addition of an extraneous, small profile bird placed 
at the bifurcated mouth or destroy the beauty of 
the paper-thin strips through harsh, repetitive 
incised lines across the handle. The latter examples 
represent the end of a classical Longshan and 
Erlitou period tradition of working jade blade 

It is apparent that at this point 111 time more 
sophisticated tools, probably metal tools in the form 
of disks and drills (the modern lathe called the 
chatou), were used with abrasives 10 carve the 
insignia and their decor. The appearance of 
multiple, small lengthwise scratches on .1 jade's 
surface indicates burnishing with metal ripped 

During the Shang period tea. [600-ca. 1100 bi i |, 
certain jades — particularly, weapon-, in the form of 



Fig. 8. Representative jade blades (zhang,) from 
(A) Erlitou and (B) Sanxingdui. Xia/Shang periods 
(ca. iSoo-ca. 1500 BCE). 

dagger-axes (ge) or broad axes (yue) — continue to 
reflect the Xia taste for large-scale insignia. Jade 
types that eventually replace the insignia are the flat 
or round small figurines, designed more for 
decorative than ritual purposes. The small animal 
and human figures popular during the Shang are 
represented in the exhibition by four pieces 
excavated intact from the celebrated tomb 
belonging to the Shang queen popularly referred to 
as Fu Hao, 34 but correctly identified by the name 
Fu Zi. 35 Three of the jades represent variations of 
the bird motif- — one naturalistic version from the 
side (cat. 10(3]), another with headdress and 
human-like legs tucked in profile (cat. 10(4]), and a 
third bird with ram's horns (cat. io[l]). A fourth 
small jade (cat. io[2]) of light translucent green 
represents a human whose hands rest on his knees 
in servile attitude. All four jades have holes for 
attachment and were probably worn suspended as 
charms or decorative baubles. In the excavation 
report, jade figurines from this rich tomb amounted 
to over three hundred out of a total of six to seven 
hundred jades. 3 ° 


The Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) is 
represented here by two jade works. A jade dagger- 
ax (ge\ cat. 11) from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, is a 
Western Zhou version of this weapon made 
popular during the Shang period. The Zhou date is 

apparent in the grooving and downward point of 
the blade's tip, as found on dagger-axes ofWestern 
Zhou date excavated from Sanmenxia, Henan 
Province, andTianma, Shanxi Province. 37 The major 
artistic innovation in the jade medium during the 
Western Zhou period is seen in the rich assemblage 
of jade pieces creating a burial mask (cat. 12; fig. 10) 
and extended chest and body pectoral with 
additional, flanking jade insignia ot dagger-axes and 
hi (fig. 10), excavated at Sanmenxia in 1990. 3S This 
earliest of jade face masks, dating to the ninth 
century bce, clearly anticipates the creation of a 
complete jade body suit by the Western Han period 
(206 bce-8 ce) in provinces as far afield as Hebei, 
Shandong, Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Hubei. 39 

Sanmenxia has long been known as a Western 
Zhou cemetery site of the Guo state — an 
enhefment that was probably of very early Western 
Zhou date. 40 In the 1950s over two hundred tombs 
were excavated at this site, and in the last fifteen 
years new finds, including tomb Number 2001, to 
which the jade mask (cat. 12; fig. 10) belongs, were 
reported. This burial find is of high interest for 
what it says about Western Zhou burial rites and 
ritual reform, which required sets of vessels and 
jades that by their number and quality were 
designed to signify status. For example, tomb 
Number 2001 included not only bronze sets of gni 
(grain), ding (meat), and li (steamer) vessels (six to 
eight per set of identical form but different size), 
but sets of chimes and bells, as well as other unusual 
art works such as an unprecedently early belt with 
gold decorative attachments and an iron sword with 
jade fitting. 



This rich tomb also documents that there was a 
specified manner of decorating the corpse with 
jade. The burial mask (cat. 12), for example, is 
composed of fourteen jade pieces, and the pectoral 
running from the corpse's neck to its knees is 
composed of seven huang (arc-shaped) jades that 
are interconnected with agate and faience beads 
(fig. 10). Flanking the corpse were two jade dagger- 
ax-like blades at chest level, two pair of bi, and two 
handle attachments at foot level. Additional stone 
cowries (hari) were placed in the corpse's mouth, 
and round post-shaped jades (wo) were placed in 
the corpse's hand. Two further sets of eight small 
jade inlays were found on the feet. The excavators 
explain that these jades lay on top of what appear 
to have been over ten layers of red and yellow 
decorated silk cloth. 4 ' The jade face mask was sewn 
to a silk cover, while the pectoral ot jades formed a 
necklace that lay on the corpse's chest. The practice 
of decorating a corpse with jade necklaces may be 
traced back to the Liangzhu period, when multiple 
strands of jade beads were commonly placed on 
both male and female corpses. 

The fourteen jades of the Sanmenxia burial mask 
(cat. 12) mark pairs of eyebrows, eyes, temples, ears, 
and cheeks and individually mark the forehead, 
nose, mouth, and neck. This type of jade face mask 
with elaborate jade pectoral and mouth and hand 
plugs may be compared with various others 
identified recently not only elsewhere in Henan, 
but also in Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei, dating to 
the Western Zhou and later Eastern Zhou 
periods. 4 ' The latter burials derive from cemeteries 
identifying Zhou enfiefments belonging to the 
ancient states ofjin (Qucun,Tianma, Shaanxi), Ying 
(Pingdingshan, Henan), Guo (Fengxi, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi), Jing (Zhangjiapo, Shaanxi), Yu (Baoji, 
Xi'an, Shaanxi) andYan (Liulihe, Fangshan, Hebei). 
Evidently, the practice of burying the elite with 
jade face masks and pectorals was standardized at 
this point in Western Zhou history. 

In addition, jade was used to plug the orifices of 
the corpse. These jade investments protected the 
corpse from disintegrating while allowing the spirit 
(him) to continue living, as described in various 
texts of Eastern Zhou and Han date. 4 ' In the Yi Li 
("Ceremonial Rites"), there is reference to the 
mingmu (the spirit mask that covers the head), with 
the commentary that the invoker of the spirit wore 
this jade covering at funerals in order to summon 
up the departed spirit which relatives and friends 
sought to keep from drifting fir away. 44 After the 
invocation rite, the jade face mask would then be 
buried with the corpse. (In archaeological literature, 
this face mask is commonly described as a "sewn 
jade face guard" [zhuiyu mianzhao].) The interest in 
invoking the spirit is well known as the objective ot 
the shaman that inspired the poem "Summons ot 

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Fig. g. Jade face masks from the Spying and Autumn 
period: From tomb Nos. g2—gj,Jin cemetery, Qucun, 
Tianma, Shanxi Province; From tomb No. 651, Shaogou, 
Luoyang, Henan Province; From tomb Nos. 637, 1316, 
1723, 2717, 22og, at Zhongzhoulu, Luoyang, Henan 
Province. Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period 
(770-476 BCE). 

the Soul" in the Chuci ("Songs of the South"). 
Thus, the purpose of these jade masks is not only 
aesthetic but profoundly religious. 

The rich and decorative sway of jade that peaked 
as a revived art during the Eastern Zhou (770- 
256 bce) is amply illustrated by its widespread use 
in pectoral and girdle ornament decorating the 
robes of the literati. The exhibited jades 
(cats. 13—16) representing small plaques, dragon 
pendants, disks, and rings tall into this category ol 
decorative object. Competitiveness in the arts was 
at a premium during the Waning States period 
This was the time of "The Hundred Schools." 
when roving philosophers plied their trade in 
trying to win the support of an overlord. Confucius 
allegedly worked the literati crowd ol' 1 u in 
Shandong. By the seventh century BC1 . the central 
Zhou state was reduced to puppet status and was at 



Fig. 10. Jade mask and pectoral from tomb No. 2001, 
Shangcunling, Sanmeuxia, Henan Province. Western 
Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 BCE). 

the mercy of the most powerful states of the day, 
known then as the Five Hegemonies (Wu Ba). 

By the beginning of the fifth century bce, 
internecine warfare was intensive. China was 
divided into seven powerful states, and there were 
numerous smaller ones that came and went, such as 
Peng in southern Henan at Xujialmg, which was 
consumed by Chu.We read in poems from the 
Chuci ("Songs of the South") about various types 
of art whose specialty belonged to one of the 
competitive states. For example, the state of Qui 
was esteemed for its basketware, Qi for its silk 
cords, Zheng for its silk banners, and Jin apparently 
for its finely made belt buckles (xibi) that "glittered 
like bright suns." 45 Although Jin is credited with 
creating exquisite belt buckles — presumably of 
jade — the artistic domain of jade was not limited to 
this northwestern state. Jade girdles and pectorals 

Fig. 11. Jade ornamental plaque from tomb No. 1 at 
Xiasi, Xichuan, Henan Province. Eastern Zhou, Spring 
and Autumn period (770—476 bce). 


Fig. 12. Variations of Eastern Zhou and Han jade 
pectoral and girdle ornaments: A. Decorative painted 
wooden figurines from Chu tombs at Xiuyang, Henan 
Province, and Jiangling, Hubei Province; B. From tomb 
No. 58,groupYi, Lit state, Shandong Province; C:i—J. 
From burials accompanying the tomb of the King of 
Nanyuc, Guangdong Province. Eastern Zhou— Western 
Han periods (770 BCE—S CE). 



Fig. 13 . Jade pectoral of Concubine A (right) 
from tomb of the King of Nanyue, Guangzhou, 
Guangdong Province. Western Han dynasty (206 BCE- 
8 CE).The Museum of the Western Han Tomb of the 
Nanyue King, Guangzhou. 

were ubiquitous in China throughout the Western 
and Eastern Zhou periods; they represent what one 
wore while alive and apparently took along into the 
next world. There is, however, some question about 
which jade necklaces were worn in life and which 
appear to have been made for burial. The jades 
initially used to create jade face masks from the 
late Western Zhou as represented by the jade face 
mask (cat. 12), and eventually body covers, 
apparently were often created out of reused or 
lesser quality jade. 4<i 

An early example of one these decorative Eastern 
Zhou pectoral jades is the small plaque (cat. [3; 
fig. 11) excavated in 1987 from Xiasi, Xichuan 
county, in Henan Province. This jade (only 
7.1 centimeters high) apparently came from tomb 
Number 1, which belonged to the wife of the Chu 
Prince Shuzhi Sun Peng, chief minister of Chu 
from 55 1 to 54S Bcr.. 17 There is no archaeological 
data that may be used to describe the piece's 
function, however. Since the plaque has two holes 

for suspension or attachment, it appears to have 
decorated a pectoral or girdle rather than a belt 
buckle. Although small, its shape and decoration are 
representative of the Eastern Zhou interest in richly 
textured surfaces and in the revival of Shang 
imagery that appears in all mediums of this period. 
An Eastern Zhou interpretation of the Shang 
animal mask is seen in the round eyes and body 
extensions in the form of C-curls which vary in 
textural effects from feathers, granulation, hooks 
with volutes, and scales, to claws. 

A pair of dragon {long) pendants (cat. 14) from 
Pingliangtai, Huaiyangshi, Henan Province, of 
Warring States date is another ubiquitous form in 
Eastern Zhou art. 48 In fact, during this phase of 
artistic activity, the dragon is the most popular 
ornament; and the most popular design at this time 
is the dragon type from Pingliangtai, with its head 
thrown back, its body in S-shape, and its claws 
rendered as curls. This pair of dragon pendants may 
also be joined to form the heraldic centralized 
motif of a pectoral. During this phase, the sensuous 
effect of the sinuous dragon body is enhanced by 
raised curls. 

The Warring States jade ring (huan) with S-pattern 
(cat. 15) from Xujialing in Xichuan county, Hubei 
Province, and the Han bi with grain pattern 
(cat. 16) from Zhouzhi county, Shaanxi Province, 
are also probably pendant parts of pectorals that 
were worn by aristocrats when they were alive (see 
figs. 12, 13). The green jade bi is covered with the 
so-called grain pattern, the small-scale nodules that 
rise symmetrically out of tightly coiled C-hooks, a 
motif that appeared on late Zhou bronze vessels 
(see, for example, cat. 44). Shapes of sacred ritual 
design of Neolithic origin, such as the bi, were 
revived along with the animal mask as another 
popular ornament enriching Western and Eastern 
Han period art. The most elaborate designs, 
texturally varied concoctions, and elegantly 
inventive assemblages hung down the front ot both 
male and female aristocrats. Variations ot girdles and 
pectorals, clanging and swaying, glittering and 
ringing signified dignity and rank — a sonorous and 
well-dressed elite. 

Jade continued to grow as an art from Han to Tang 
times. In contrast to the Shang versions of small 
animal carvings, those from the I Ian and later 
periods tend to be more naturalistic. The winged 
horse (cat. 17) and so-called bixic (a winged lion 
with horns, cat. iN) illustrate the new naturalism, 
seen in images ofboth mythical and non-mythical 
animals of Han date (2or< m 1-220 ce). Although 
stereotyped through such conventions as the arched 
neck and suspended tail to signify liveliness and 
movement, these animal shapes of hardstone jade 
begin to turn and twist 111 space. 



Fig. i4A.Jadc belt decorated with Persian tribute bearers, 
from cache at Hejia village, Xi 'an, Shaanxi Province. 
Tang dynasty (6i8-go7). Shaanxi Provincial Museum, 
XV an. 

The climax of the Eastern Zhou and Han periods 
is represented by a white jade vessel (zun; cat. 19) 
belonging to Liu Hong, Duke of Xuancheng and 
Commander Guarding the South, from 
Huangshantou, Anxiang county, Hunan Province. 49 
Dating to the Western Jin (265-316), this vessel is a 
remarkable jade facsimile of a bronze original (see, 
for example, cat. 51), a popular type in Han times. 
The immortal mountain theme is signified by 
animal heads emerging from cloud motifs and by 
immortals,winged humans, seated or running pell- 
mell alongside dragons and other supernatural 
creatures, including the Goddess of the West herself, 
wearing the distinctive mortarboard-style headdress. 
It has its source in the Daoist cult of immortality 
symbolizing the mountain Kunlun, which was the 
domain of the Goddess of the West (Xiwangmu) 
(see cats. 19, 49, 50, 51). This scene in relief 
complements the Hongshan Neolithic sculpted 
ornament. Both are emblematic: the Hongshan jade 
(cat. 1) represents a bird amid clouds, most likely 
signifying the skyward realm of heaven; and the 
relief on the Western Jin vessel (cat. 19) represents 
the heavenly abode of Mount Kunlun, where 
immortality was granted by an empowered goddess. 

Jade continued to be valued for its immortal power 
and beauty during the Tang dynasty (618-907). The 
translucent Xinjiang white jade belt excavated from 
a cache at the village of Hejia, in Xi'an, Shaanxi 
Province (cat. 20; fig. 14B) is one superb example. 
Discovered in 1970, this cache has become famous 
for its gold and silver vessels, amounting to about 
270 out of some 1000 objects, which are 
unprecedented for their variety, workmanship, and 
quality of preservation. 50 The royal hoard has been 
identified as belonging to a prince of Bin, whose 
mansion in ancient Chang' an (present-day Xi'an) 
was consumed by flames in the mid-eighth century 
during the rebellion of general An Lushan. Like the 

Fig. l^B.Jade belt plaques from cache at Hejia village, 
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province: 1. (top) lion plaque (detail, 
cat. 20) and 2. (bottom) Persian tribute-bearer plaque. 
Tang dynasty (618— goy). 

decor of so many of the solid silver and gold vessels 
of this hoard, the major decorative motifs of the 
belt represent Central Asian and Persian subjects. 
The belt is composed of sixteen pieces: fourteen 
that are square and two that are D-shaped. On the 
back of each piece are loops where the piece was 
sewn to a leather backing. Each jade piece was 
worked into a relief image of a lion: poses vary 
from standing, sitting, sniffing, to pawing the air — 
all different and all indicative of a very lively animal 
(fig. i4B:l).This motif is one of three that appear 
to be popular on jade belts of eighth-century Tang 
date. The other themes are also exotic, featuring 
Persians playing musical instruments or Persians 
bringing tribute offerings (figs. 14A, B:2).The lion 
is also well known as foreign to Tang and earlier 
China, and is probably of Central Asian origin. 5 ' 

The art of working jade is special to China. The 
fact that this hardstone, nephrite, could be worked 
at all as early as the Neolithic period is indicative of 
the singular reverence the Chinese have paid to the 



stone. Over time nephrite was abraded into almost 
any shape — from a prismatic tube to a relief 
representing the paradise landscape of a goddess — 
reflecting the sophisticated level to which this art 
could be perfected. It is understandable, then, that 
the Chinese identified jade philosophically with the 
celestial sphere, immutable and indestructible, the 
material embodying the vital energy of nature. 


Fig. i . After Elizabeth Childs- 
Johnson, "Jades of the Hongshan 
Culture," hits Asiatiques 36 
(1991), Jig. i, p. 83. 

Fig. 2. After Elizabeth Childs- 
Johuson, unpublished paper. 

Fig. 3. After Liangzhu wenhua 
yuqi (Beijing: Wenwtt chnbanshc, 
1989), pi. 1. 

Fig. 4. After Zhongguo wenwu 
bao (December 31, 1995), fig. i, 
p. 3; and Xu Huping, ed. , 
Dongfang wenming zhiguang 
[Nanjing: Nanjing bowuyuan, 

wtf,M i z > p- w- 

Fig. 3. After Wenwu, no. 2 
(1988), figs. 19-20, p. 12; Gems of 
the Liangzhu Culture: From 
the Shanghai Museum 
Exhibition (Hongkong: Urban 
Council, 1992), no. 89, p. 224; 
Wenwu, no. 2 (1984), fig. 9, 
p. 119. 

Fig. 6A. After Deng Shaping, 
Gugong xueshu jikan 10 (1992), 
figs. 1-2. 

Fig. 7. After Elizabeth Childs- 
Johnson, "'Symbolic Jades oj the 
Erlitou Period" Archives of 
Asian Art 48 (1995), fig. 2, p. 66. 

Fig. 8. After Elizabeth Childs- 
Johnson, "Symbolic Jades of the 
Erlitou Period" Archives of 
Asian Art 48 (1993), fig. 23, p. 85; 
fig. 1, p. 65. 

Fig. 9. After Huaxia kaogu, no, 3 
(1992), Jig 2:3-4, P- W, 
Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 2 
(Shijiazhuang: Hebei meishii 
chubattshe, 1003). pi. 296. 

Fig. 10. After Wenwu, no. 1 
(i994),fig$. 18, 38—39; Wenwu, 

no. 7 0995), figs. 10-11, 17-19, 49; 
Wenwu, no. 8 (1994), figs. 3, 7; 
Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 3 
(Shijiazhuang: Hebei meishu 
chubanshe, 1993}, figs. 1, 7-9, 

Fig. 11. After Xichuan Xiasi 
Chunqiu chumu (Beijing: 
Wenwu chubanshe, 1991), 
fig. 82:1, p. 100. 

Fig. 12. After Zhongguo yuqi 
quanji, vol 3 (Shijiazhuang: 
Hebei meishu chubanshe, 1993), 
figs. 23, 23-27; Jades from the 
Tomb of the King of Nanyue 
(Hongkong: Woods Publishing, 
i99i)> fig s - 8, 10, pp. 28, 30. 

Fig. 13. After Jades from the 
Tomb of the King of Nanyue 
(Hongkong: Woods Publishing, 
1991), pi. 133. 

Fig. 14 A. After Zhongguo 
meishu quanji, vol. 9 
(Shijiazhuang: Hebei meishu 
chubanshe, 1993), pi. 219, 
pp. 120—21. 

Fig. 14B. After Zhongguo 
meishu quanji, vol. 9 
(Shijiazhuang: Hebei meishu 
chubanshe, 1993), fig. 223, p. 79. 


i. Sfutowen jiezi gulin, ed. Ding 
Fubao (Shanghai:Yixue shuju, 
1930); see also the translation 
in S. Howard Hansford, Chinese 
Jade Carving (London: 
Humphries, 1950), p. 31, cited 
in William Willetts, Chinese Art, 
vol. 1 (New York: George 
Braziller, 1958), pp. 53-62. 

2. Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, 
"The 'Jade Age' and 
Incipient CivilizatiomThe 
Archaeological and Artistic 
Evidence for Jade as a Power 
Symbol during the Late 
Neolithic of ca. 3600- 

2000 BCE" (paper presented at 
"Stones from Heaven," Ancient 
Chinese Jade Symposium, Los 
Angeles County Museum of 
Natural History, 24 March 
1996); and Elizabeth Childs- 
Johnson, Ritual and Power: Jades 
of Ancient China (New York: 
China Institute, 1988). 

3. Wen Guangandjing 
Study of Chinese Archaic 
Jade." iSrh Percival David 
Foundation Colloquy on Art and 
Archaeology in Asia — Chinese 
Jades (London: University ol 
London. [995), pp. H6-18. 

4. Most of this text on the 
technical and nuneralogical 
properties of jade is from Wen 
andjing, "A Geoarchaeological 
Study" p. 3. 

5. See ibid., p. 3; and Wen 
Guang,"Bian yu" 
("Distinguishing Jade"), 
Wenwu, no. 7 (1992), pp. 75—80. 

6.WuTanghai, Renshi guyu 
("Understanding Ancient 
Jade") (Taibei: Zhonghua 
minguo ziran wenhua xuehui, 
1994); Hayashi Minao, 
"Liangzhu wenhua yuqi 
wenshi de diaoke jishu" ("The 
Art of Working Liangzhu Jade 
Decor"), in Xu Huping, ed., 
Dongfang wenming zhiguang — 
Liangzhu wenhua faxian 60- 
zhounian jinian wenji ("The 
Light of Oriental 
Civilization — Collected Essays 
in Commemoration of the 
60th Anniversary of the 
Discovery of Liangzhu 
Culture") (Nanjing: Nanjing 
bowuyuan, 1996), 
pp. 338-47; Zhang Minghua, 
"Liangzhu guyu cong lun" 
("Discussion of the Ancient 
Jade Cong of Liangzhu"), 
Dongnan wenhua, no. 2 (1992), 
pp. 112—19; and S. Howard 
Hansford, Chinese Carved Jade 
(London: Faber and Faber, 

7. Wang Zunguo, "Liangzhu 
wenhua 'Yu jian cang' shuluo" 
("Analysis of the 'Jade Shroud* 
of the Liangzhu Culture"), 
Wenwu, no. 2 (1984), p. 33. 

8. For the argument that shark 
teeth were used, see Zhang 
Minghua, "Liangzhu guyu de 
kewen gongju sin shemma" 
("What Are the Tools Used to 
Work Early Jade of the 
Liangzhu Culture?"), Zhongguo 
wenwu bao (6 December, 1990), 
p. 1; Zhang Minghua, 
"Liangzhu guyu eonglun" 
("Discussion of Liangzhu 
Jade"), Dongnan wenhua, no. 1 
('993). PP- 112-14; and for the 
argument on the diamond 
point, sec I [ayashi Minao, 
"Liangzhu wenhua yuqi," 

p. 338. 

■ J fane! I >ouglas, persona] 
communication with the 

author, 7 December. [996. 

10. The composition 
and microstructure ofjade can 
also be measured b) F LIR 
(Fouriers transform infrared 
absorption spectrometry) and 
i>\ SI M scanning .■'. 
mi< ros< op} 

11. Wen Guang andjing 
Zhichun, "Mineralogical 
Inquiries into Chinese 
Neolithic Jade," Tlie Journal of 
Chinese Jade 1 (1996); and 
Hansford, Chinese Carved Jade, 

12. Zhejiang sheng wenwu 
kaogu yanjiu suo et al., ed., 
Liangzhu wenhua yuqi ("Jades of 
the Liangzhu Culture") 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1990), p. 11. 

13. For two examples of the 
bone graph // ("rite/ritual"), 
see Li Xizoding,Jiaguwenzijishi 
("Explanation and 
Commentary on Oracle Bone 
Graphs"), vol. I (Nangang: 
Zhongyang yanjiu yuan lishi 
yuyan suo zhuankan 50), p. 49. 

14. Willetts, Chinese Art, p. 90; 
Yuan Kang, Yue jue situ, ed. 
Qian Peiming, vol. 13 (Beijing: 
Zhonghua chubanshe, 1985), 
p. 5S; or Yue jue shu, Sibu 
congkan ed., vol. 62, p. 93b. 

15. See Childs-Johnson. "The 
Jade Age,"* pp. 1-3. 

16. Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, 
"Jades of the Hongshan 
Culture, the Dragon and 
Fertility Cult Worship" Arts 
Asiatiques 56 (1991). pp. S2-95. 

17. See. for example, the bone 
graph for "cloud" (yim) in Li, 
Jiaguwenzi, vol. 1 1 , p. 3459. 

18. Childs-Johnson, "Jades of 
the Hongshan Culture," p. 95. 

19. See, for example. Dawenkou 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe. 
1974), figs. 6, 8. 

20. For the division ot 

I iangzhu jades into categories 
of weapons, costume 
ornament, and implements for 
ritual use, see Childs-Johnson, 
Ritual and PoiveT, pp. [9—22; and 
Zhejiang wenwu ehu, ed.. 
Liangzhu guyu ("Ancient Jade 
o( Liangzhu' 1 ) (Hang 
Zhejiang wenwu chubanshe. 
1996), pp. to" 

ii. Bian Fcngshi,"! iangzhu 
wenhua de tenqi yu ntand.u" 
("The Periodization and 
Chronology of die Liangzhu 
Culture"), Zitongyuaii wenwu, 

57; and 
Song Jian. "Lun Liangzhu 
wenming de xing&huai 
guocheng" ("Concerning the 

irion of the City-State of 
die Liar 

(paper presented at Liangzhu 
wenhua guoji taolunliui 



[International conference on 
Lianzhu culture], Yuhang, 
Zhejiang, 1—4 November 
1996). For an English summary 
of Song's paper, see Elizabeth 
Childs-Johnson, "The 
International Symposium on 
Liangzhu Culture," Early China 
News 9 (1996), p. 28. 

22. As used by Li Wenming and 
Wu Rongqing, "Zhongguo 
wuqiannianqian de 'tuzhu 
jinzita' — -Jiangsu Kunshanshi 
Zhaolingshan yizhi ji qi chutu 
wenwu" ("The Five- 
Thousand- Year-Old Earthen 
Pyramid of China — The 
Remains and Relics Unearthed 
at Zhaolingshan, Kunshanshi, 
Jiangsu"), Longyu wenwu yishu 
(1993) 17, pp. 24-32. 

23. Che Guangjin,"Yu cong 
yu Sidun yizhi" ("The 
Remains of Sidun and the Jade 
Cong"), Zhongguo wenwu bao 
(31 December 1995), p. 3; 
reprinted in Xu, ed., Dongfang 
wanning, pp. 371-73. 

24. Ji Jianfang, in "Liangzhu 
wenhua mucang yanjiu" 
("Research on Burials of the 
Liangzhu Culture"), in Xu, ed., 
Dongfang wenming, fig. 12, 

p. 191, proposes a slightly 
different design which he 
describes as a patriarchal clan 
cemetery mound at 
Zhaolingshan (see fig. 4B in 
this essay). Zhang Zhiheng, 
"Liangzhu wenhua juluo qun 
de tezheng" ("Special 
Characteristics of Settlement 
Groups of Liangzhu Culture"), 
Zhongguo wenwu bao (7 April 
1996), p. 3, reviews evidence 
for a similar structure at 
Mojiaoshan, although this site 
also possesses significant 
remains of columned 

25. Che, "Yu cong yu Sidun 
yizhi," p. 3. 

26. For an example of the ideal 
structure of the nnngtang and 
piyong based on the square and 
circle, see Nelson Wu (Wu 
Nosun), Chinese and Indian 
Architecture (New York: George 
Braziller, 1963), pp. 40-41, pis. 
129-30; and Nancy Steinhardt, 
Traditional Chinese Architecture 
(New York: China Institute, 
1984), pp. 70-77, pis. 3-1-3-4 

27. FanYuzhou,"Yinxu buci 
zhong de 'wu' yu 'wu di'" 

('"Wu' and 'wu di' in Yinxu 
Inscriptions"), Nanfang wenwu, 
no. 2 (1994), PP- H5-I9- 

28. See, for example, a 
reference to this myth in the 

Huainanzi, in John Major, 
Heaven and Earth in Early Han 
Thought: Chapters Three, Four, 
and Five of the Huainanzi 
(Albany: State University ot 
New York Press, 1993), p. 49; 
and in David Hawkes, Ch'tt 
Tz'u: Tlie Songs of the South 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1959). P- 47- 

29. Major, Heaven and Earth, 
PP- 38-39- 

30. Mou Yongkang, "Dongfang 

shiqian shiqi taiyang chongbai 
de kaogu xue guancha" 
("Archaeological Investigation 
of Sun Worship in the East 
During the Neolithic"), 
Gugong xucshu jikau 12 (1995), 
p. 4; Mou Yongkang, "Liangzhu 
yuqi shang shen chongbai de 
tansuo" ("Discussion of Deity 
Worship ot Liangzhu Jades"), 
Qtngzhu Su Bingqi kaogu 
wuslnwu nian lunwenji 
("Collected Essays Celebrating 
Fifty-five Years of Su Bing's 
Archaeological Research") 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1989), p. 186; and Wu Ruzuo, 
"Luolun Changjiang, Huanghe 
Hang Huyu shiqian shiqi de 
taiyangshen congbai" 
("Discussion of Sun God 
Worship Along the Two River 
Valleys ot the Yellow River 
During the Neolithic"), 
Huaxia kaogu, no. 2 (1996), 
pp. 75-85. 

31. Zhejiang sheng wenwu, 
ed., Liangzhu wenhua yuqi, 
p. 184. 

32. Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, 
"Symbolic Jades of the Erlitou 
Period: A Xia Royal Tradition," 
Archives of Asian Art 48 (1995), 
pp. 64-90. 

33. See, for example, Lin 
Huadong, Hemudu wenhua 
chutan ("Preliminary Discussion 
of the Hemudu Culture") 
(Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin 
chubanshe, 1992), pp. 159-66, 
and fig. 6—3, p. 161, pi. 4, top. 

34. For example, see Chang 
Ping-ch'uan, "A Brief 
Description of the Fu Hao 
Oracle Bone Inscriptions," in 
K. C. Chang, ed.. Studies of 

Shang Archaeology (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 19S6), 
pp. 121-40. 

35. For example, see Chang 
Cheng-lang, "A Brief 
Discussion of FuTzu,"in 
Chang, ed.. Studies of Shang 
Archaeology, pp. 103-20. 

36. Yinxu Fu Hao mu ("The 
Burial of Fu Hao atYinxu) 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1980), pp. 114-15. For an 
English translation of the 
original site report, see 
Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, 
Excavation of Tomb No. 5 at 
Yinxu, Anyang, Chinese 
Sociology and Anthropology 
Series, vol. 15, no. 3 (Armonk, 
N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1983), p. 83. 

37. Kaogu yanjiu suo, ed., 

Shatigcunliug Guoguo mudi 
("The Cemetery of the Guo 
State at Shangcunling") 
(Beiiing: Kexue chubanshe, 
1959), pi. 21:8—10. 

38. For the site report on this 
tomb, see Kaogu yanjiu suo, 
ed.,"Sanmenxia Shangcunling 
Guoguo mudi M2001 fajue 
lianbao" ("A Brief Excavation 
Report ot Tomb No. 2001 at 
the Cemetery of the Guo State 
at Shangcunling, Sanmenxia"), 
Huaxia kaogu, no. 3 (1992), 

pp. 104-13. 

39. For a very recent discovery 
of an early Western Han jade 
burial suit, see the report on 
the burial of Liu He at the 
Han imperial burial center 
near Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, 
in Zhongguo wenwu bao 

(20 October 1996), p. 1. 

40. See Kaogu yanjiu suo, ed., 
Shangcunling Guoguo mudi, 
pp. 48-54, and pp. S3-85 
(English summary). 

41. According to the site 
report, numerous other jades 
such as bi,gui,ge, cong, handle- 
shaped pieces, tigers, deer, 
dogs, ox heads, horse heads, 
birds, turtles, and fish lay on 
top of the coffin cover; Kaogu 
yanjiu suo, ed., "Sanmenxia 
Shangcunling Guoguo," p. 1.05. 

42. This is identified in part by 
Zhang Changshou, "Xi Zhou 
de cangyu — 1983— 1986 man 
Fengxi fajue ciliao zhi ba" 
("Burial Jades of the Western 
Zhou — Excavated Material at 

Fengxi, from 1983 to 1989"), 
Wenwu, no. 9 (1993), pp. 55—59. 
For other examples, see jade 
masks illustrated in Luoyang 
Zhongzhoulu, (Beijing: Kexue 
chubanshe, 1959); see also 
Kaogu yanjiu suo, ed., 
"Tianma — Qucun yizhi 
Beizhao Jinhou mudi disanzi 
yu disizi fajue" (The Third and 
Fourth Excavations of the 
Cemetery of the Marquis ot 
Jin at Tianmu — Qucun 
Remains"), Wenwu, no. 8 
(1994), pp. 4-33. For the 
recently excavated jade face 
mask ofWestern Han date 
from Changqingxian, 
Shandong, see Zhongguo 
wenwubao (10 October 1996), 
p. 1. 

43.J.J. M. de Groot, The 
Religious System of China 
(reprint, Taibei: Chengwen, 
1969), chap. 3, pp. 269-74. 

44. Yili ("The Classic of 
Rites"), Sibu congkan ed., 

Vol. 12. 

45. Hawkes, Ch'tt Tz'u, 

pp. 105-9. 

46. Jade trom other, earlier 
contexts was often reused to 
make face masks — for example, 
for those buried in the Jin state 
cemetery at Beizhao, Tianma- 
Qucun, Shanxi Province; see 
Wenwu, no. 1 (1994), p. 27. 
"Pseudo-jade" was used to 
create burial suits for some 
occupants ot the Nanyue 
tombs (tomb No. 2); see Wen 
Guang "Xi Han Nanyue 
wangmu yuqi di zhi kaogu xue 
yanjiu" ("Geological and 
Archaeological Research on 
Jades from the Royal Tomb of 
the King of Nanyue"), Gugong 
xuexujikan 11, no. 1 (1993), 
pp. 9—30; and Wen Guang, "Yu 
yu min guyu" ("True and 
Pseudo-Jade"), Gugong wenwu 
yuekan 11, no. 4 (1993), 

pp. T26-37. 

47. See Henan sheng wenwu 
yanjiu suo, ed., Xichuan Xiasi 
Chunqiti Chumu ("The Chu 
Tombs of the Spring and 
Autumn Period at Xiasi, 
Xichuan") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1991), p. 98, and 
fig. 82:1, p. 100. For the 
identification of the female 
belonging to tomb No. 1 trom 
which the jade derives, see 

p. 324; for the jade, see also 
Zhongguo meishu quanji, 9: Yuqi 

("The Complete Arts of 
China, 9:Jade") (Shijiazhuang: 
Hebei meishu chubanshe, 
1993), pi. 108, and p. 40. This 
jade is probably unfinished 
since there is a lack of 
corresponding detail on one of 
the upper sides; one side of the 
piece lacks the corresponding 
filler detail of the claw and 
scale motifs. This piece may be 
compared with one similar in 
size and shape from the 
Cunguoji burial at Lianjiaxian, 
Shandong; ibid., pi. 103. 

48. Representative examples of 

this popular jade dragon type 
are illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi 
quanji 3: Clutnqiu Zhanguo 
("The Complete Set of 
Chinese Jade 3: Spring and 
Autumn and Warring States 
Periods") (Shijiazhuang: Hebei 
meishu chubanshe, 1993), 
pis. 36-40, 132-33, 209, 213-15. 

49. For the site report on 

Huangshantou, Anxiang, 
Hunan Province, see "Hunan 
Anxiang Xi Jin Liuhong Mu" 
("The Tomb of Liuhong ot the 
Western Jin at Anxiang, 
Hunan") Wenwu, no. 11 (1993), 
pp. 1-12. 

50. For the site report on 

Hejiacun, Xi'an, Shaanxi 
Province, see "Xi'an Nanjiao 
Hejiacun faxianTangdai 
jiaocang wenwu" ("The 
Cultural Relics from the 
Cache of the Tang Dynasty 
Discovered at Hejiacun, 
Nanjiao, Xi'an"), Wenwu, no. 1 
{1972), pp. 30-42. 

51. For an explanation of the 
origin of the lion in China, see 
Laurence Sickman and 
Alexander Soper, The Art and 
Architecture of China, (reprint, 
Harmondsworth: Penguin 
Books, 1984), pp. 61-62. 



Ritual Bronzes 

Epitome of Ancient 
Chinese Civilization 

All the major civilizations of the ancient 
world passed through a developmental 
phase that we call the Bronze Age. In 
ancient China bronze vessels were 
essential symbols of monarchic rule and 
of aristocratic status, and this special 
significance brought about the 
exceptional development of Chinese 
bronze workmanship. The magnificence 

Ma Chengyuan 

Director, The Shanghai Museum 


of China's bronzes is unmatched by those of any 
other Bronze Age civilization. 


The first hereditary monarchy in Chinese history, 
known as the Xia dynasty, was also the beginning 
of the age of Chinese culture. Historical records, 
which note that bronze casting was already quite 
highly developed by the time of the Xia, are borne 
out by the archaeological evidence of the Erlitou 
culture. The Erlitou site atYanshi, Henan Province, 
which predates the Erligang site of the Shang at 
Zhengzhou, was discovered during the 1950s. 
Found in the third level of the tumulus at Erlitou 
were a tomb and bronze vessels, weapons, and jades 
that had been buried with the deceased. 1 The 
bronzes of the Erlitou culture atYanshi comprised 
primarily jue, but also jia, he, and cooking vessels. In 
shape, these vessels were exceedingly similar to 
pottery vessels of the same period or earlier. The 
bronze jue from the Shanghai Museum (cat. 21) 
closely resembles the pottery jue found at the 
Erlitou site, and is obviously primitive in its casting 
and design. Xia bronzes also include some relatively 
finely worked pieces. 

Some of the more distinctive Xia bronzes are 
turquoise-inlaid ornamental plaques of unknown 
use. But apart from these and a very few vessels that 
bear simple geometric decorations, the vast 
majority of Xia bronzes are plain and undecorated. 
In this, they differ greatly from the Shang Erligang 
period bronzes from Zhengzhou, which are 
generally decorated with zoomorphic patterns. One 
of the items unearthed at Erlitou is a round bronze 
ornament decorated with an inlaid turquoise cross 
within concentric circles, a decoration unique to 
the Erlitou culture. A bronze ax (yue) with similar 
inlaid turquoise crosses in a circle is in the 
collection of the Shanghai Museum, and its date 
can be ascertained through a comparison with the 
objects from Erlitou. This yue, which is very large 
and heavy, is the most magnificent of extant Xia 
bronzes; it was not a functional weapon but a 
symbol of military authority. From it, we may 
anticipate the discovery of similarly large and 
impressive Xia bronzes. Functional bronze weapons 
found at the Erlitou site include dagger-axes (ge) 
and battle-axes (iji).The Xia bronzes discovered to 
date were cast in the latter part of the Xia dynasty. 

Palace foundations and groups of tombs have been 
found at sites of the Erlitou type located along the 
Yellow River in Henan Province; similar culture 
sites are also located north of the Yellow River in 
southern Shanxi.The remains of a rather large early 
Shang city, which is later than the Erlitou site, has 
been discovered east of Yanshi. According to 
historical records, this region became part of the 

Xia domains after the dynasty was founded. Ot 
course, the picture of Xia bronzes is far from 
complete. Much more archaeological excavation of 
Xia cultural sites remains to be done. 



The development of Shang bronzes can be divided 

into early, middle, and late periods. 

Early Shang bronzes, from the beginning of the 
Erligang period, have been found mainly at 
Zhengzhou, Henan Province, and date 
approximately to the sixteenth century BCE. New 
vessel shapes such as the gong, zun, and li appeared 
during this period. The strong primitive inclination 
to imitate pottery, which is found in Xia bronzes, is 
absent in those of Erligang. Among bronzes ot this 
period zoomorphic masks (taotie) are the most 
commonly seen decorative motif, and animal forms 
were used extensively as well. 

Mid-Shang saw further variations in the types of 
bronzes. Shapes were gradually perfected. 
Decoration expanded to cover much of the surfaces 
of the vessels, and also greatly increased in both the 
line density and complexity of composition. 
Further development produced decorative patterns 
rendered in strong relief, and bronzes began to be 
ornamented with animal heads done in high relief. 
Casting technology extended to the casting of large 
vessels, as revealed by the number of large zim and 
other vessels discovered. A large square ding, a meter 
tall, has also been unearthed at the site of the Shang 
city in Zhengzhou. Bronzes of the middle period 
include the dragon-and-tiger suif discovered at 
Funan, Anhui Province; a jar with movable loop 
handles' found with a group of bronzes at 
Zhengzhou, Henan Province; and bronzes from 
some of the sumptuous Shang tombs at Panlong 
city in Huangpi county, Hubei Province. 4 All of 
these vessels are markedly more mature than the 
early Shang bronzes of the Erligang period at 
Zhengzhou. At the same time they differ noticeably 
from the late Shang bronzes, marking the period 
from the fifteenth through the fourteenth, or 
perhaps into the thirteenth, century BCE as one 
of transition. 

The late Shang was the greatest period in the 
development of Chinese bronzes, showing the 
largest variety of shapes and decorative schema, and 
the bronzes from the "Yin ruins" at Anyang, Henan 
Province, offer the most representative and 
complete view of the period. Along with the 
increase in types of objects there developed set 
rules governing the proper combinations of vessels, 
and the shapes of pieces reached a fully mature 
stage. New to this period were vessels in the shape 
of birds and animals. In these vessels artistry and 



practicality were superbly integrated, as exemplified 
by the Fuhaoxia zun in this exhibition (cat. 24). 

It is noteworthy that the bronzes with the most 
distinctive animal designs are often found far from 
Anyang, in peripheral areas of the Shang domain. 
For instance, the pig zun and elephant zun in this 
exhibition (cats. 27, 25) were unearthed in Hunan. 
Moreover, Shang bronzes from places other than 
Anyang, particularly those from Hunan and Jiangxi 
provinces, which lie south of theYangzi River, do 
not merely differ in their form from those at 
Anyang but are often conspicuously more ornate. 
This kind and degree of difference merits our 
attention. Why were these most lavish Shang 
bronzes not unearthed in the area that was the 
political and economic center of the Shang dynasty, 
but rather in places so distant as to be regarded as 
barren wilderness in that era? Their exquisite 
craftsmanship indicates that these pieces could not 
have been cast in such places, and the names of 
individuals and clans cast on some of the bronzes 
show that they were possessions of some of the 
great clans of central China. Archaeological data 
gathered during their excavation shows that — 
unlike the bronzes found at Anyang — the vast 
majority of them were not burial furnishings, nor 
are there any signs that they were ever used in sets 
for rituals. They were generally buried at various 
sites atop mountains or along the banks of rivers. It 
is highly possible that these choice samples of 
Shang bronzes were specially imported into the 
peripheral regions, where they were regarded as 
expressions of respect and admiration for Shang 
culture. In 1963 an animal mask you was unearthed 
in Ningxiang, Hunan Province. Inside this vessel 
were over a thousand solid and tubular jade beads.' 
This exhibition features the Ge you, from a royal 
tomb in Ningxiang, Hunan Province, which also 
contained over three hundred jade beads, jade 
pieces, and tubular jade beads (cat. 26). An animal 
mask pou found in Hunan contained over two 
hundred small bronze ax heads. From this, we can 
see that in this outlying region Shang bronzes were 
preserved as a form of wealth. Perhaps future 
archaeological discoveries will elucidate the 
formation and nature of this cultural phenomenon. 

The most common decorative motif found on late 
Shang bronzes is the zoomorphic mask formerly 
known as the taotie pattern. This was generally 
executed in clearly layered relief against a dense and 
fine-lined intaglio spiral pattern. In particular, the 
eyes of the mask were made large and prominent, 
enhancing the mysterious, solemn, and intimidating 
aspect of the image. On late Shang bronzes small 
birds or small dragons often flank the mask, with 
bird patterns the more frequent. This type of design 
composition has ancient historical origins. Late 
Neolithic jade cons from the Liangzhu culture. 

which existed in what is now Jiangsu, Zhejiang, 
and Shanghai, were often carved with images of 
deities represented by their two eyes. Often, a bird 
in flight was placed on each side of the deity, with 
the birds' heads turned away from the central 
image. The heads of the birds accompanying the 
zoomorphic masks on late Shang bronzes are the 
same as those on the Liangzhu culture jades, 
indicating that this type of decoration was an 
adoption and continuation of the traditions of 
Liangzhu culture. Oracle bone inscriptions describe 
the phoenix as the Wind God and also the envoy of 
the Celestial Emperor, 7 entrusted with the mission 
of relaying information between Heaven and 
humans. An animal mask flanked by bird patterns 
may have been an image of deity. The decorative 
motifs on Shang bronzes always invoke the Celestial 
Emperor and various spirits; they were not merely 
more or less stylized animals. Rather, they expressed 
a strong religious desire for communion between 
Heaven and humans and for blessings from the 
Celestial Emperor and various spirits. The birds 
flanking the zoomorphic masks may represent the 
phoenix as emissary in these transactions. The great 
flourishing of decorative art on Shang bronzes 
manifests religious aspiration. 

The casting of Shang bronzes was done in pottery 
section molds. Specially prepared clay was made 
into the number of external and internal mold 
sections required by a particular shape. Patterns and 
inscriptions were carved or incised into the 
external mold sections. After being thoroughly 
dried and fired, the mold sections were fitted 
together and reinforced to form a complete mold, 
which was fitted with a cover containing a pouring 
hole for the bronze to enter and one or more holes 
through which air bubbles would be expelled. 
Molten bronze was poured between the inner and 
outer molds. After the bronze had cooled, the mold 
was broken and the bronze removed and given .1 
final finishing and polishing. Shang workmanship in 
the making of pottery molds was extremely hue. 
and set the highest standards in the ancient world 
for the casting of bronze pieces in pottery molds. 
Pottery molds were used exclusively to cast bron; es 
through the Eastern Zhou, after which additional 
methods were introduced. 


Early Western Zhou (ea. [050-ca. 975) bn 
making was to a large extent a continuation ot late 
Shang practices. 1 ate Shang and earl) Western 
Zhou are often considered as .1 single and 
supreme period in the evolution of Chinese bronze 
making. Withal, the Zhou people differed 
significantly from the Shang people in their 
political organization, religion, and cultural 
> on< epts, differences concretely manifested as time 




went on by a great diminution in the absolute 
numbers and types of wine vessels and a 
corresponding increase in bronze vessels for food. 
The establishment of rites that stressed food rather 
than drink led directly to considerable development 
of such existing types of bronze food vessels as the 
ding, the yan, and the gui. The large round ding of 
the Western Zhou greatly outnumbered those of 
the Shang; the yan was used more extensively than 
during the Shang; square-based gui, such as the Li 
gui and Da Feng gui from the time of King Wu, 
were entirely new to this era. The Zhou attached 
great importance to ancestor worship, in strong 
contrast to the Shang worship of gods and spirits. 
Religious connotations are less apparent in 
bronze decorations of the Western Zhou. Apart 
from zoomorphic masks, the most gorgeously 
executed bronze motif of the Western Zhou, 
particularly during the time of kings Kang and 
Zhao (perhaps early ioth c), was the phoenix 
pattern. Phoenix patterns, beautifully accomplished 
in limitless variety, became a feature of this period, 
imparting an aura of wealth and luxury to the 
bronzes. Their vogue, however, was brief; beginning 
in middle Western Zhou, such sumptuous phoenix 
patterns were seldom to be found on bronzes. 
But, like the last burst of twilight, they brought the 
peak period of Chinese bronze making to a 
magnificent close. 

Early Western Zhou bronzes show another 
important change from Shang: the appearance of 
long inscriptions inside the vessels. Many of these 
inscriptions recorded major events of the time, 
events often not mentioned in surviving historical 
texts. For instance, the inscription on the He zun 
featured in this exhibition (cat. 32) records and 
precisely dates the building of the Western Zhou 
capital, Chengzhou (in the area around present-day 
Luoyang, Henan Province) by King Cheng, 
successor of the Zhou conqueror: "It was at the 
time when the king began the building of Cheng- 
zhou. . . .This happened in [King Cheng's] fifth 
year." 8 These inscriptions are our most direct and 
most reliable historical sources for the study of 
ancient Chinese history. 

From the reign of King Mu of the Western Zhou, 
the types, shapes, and decorations of the bronzes 
changed significantly reflecting new customs and 
uses. Bronze wine vessels, including the jia, gong, 
zun, and you, essentially faded from use, and 
although some new shapes such as the ling appeared 
to take their place, the proportion of wine vessels 
was much smaller than before. Beginning in the 
middle period (ca. 975-875) of the Western Zhou, 
many new types of food vessels such as the fu and 
shu appeared, and older types of food vessels such as 
the dou and pu were used more extensively than 
before. New variants of some commonly used 

vessels like the gui emerged. Zoomorphic masks, for 
centuries the chief decorative motif of bronzes, 
gradually changed in appearance. Major parts of the 
mask, such as the relatively well-formed ears, 
eyebrows, mouth, fangs, and claws, were simplified 
or sometimes omitted altogether. The eyes, which 
had been the paramount feature, lost their former 
power, sometimes being reduced to two small, 
socket-less circles, and at other times only faintly 
suggested by a stylized outline. These changes 
drained the masks of their former solemnity, 
ferocity, and mystery. 

The middle period of the Western Zhou also saw a 
noticeable reduction in the use of dragon and bird 
patterns for bronze decoration and, as with the 
zoomorphic masks, modifications in the design of 
these traditional motifs. These modifications 
transformed the dragons and birds into what were 
formerly known as "curved zigzag patterns" — what 
we now call "modified animal patterns," 
"intertwined animal eye patterns," "coiled animal 
body patterns," etcetera. These patterns were 
generally composed as continuous bidirectional 
horizontal bands of decoration around the bronzes, 
imparting a sense of simplicity and sprightliness. 
The most distinctive pattern of this period was the 
wave pattern (formerly known as the "curved band 
pattern"), whose regular, rhythmic undulations 
create a powerful sense of motion. 

Bronzes of the late Western Zhou period (ca. 875— 
771) show basic continuity with those of the middle 
period. An ever-greater proportion of the food 
vessels consists of fu and slm.At the same time both 
the prescribed uses and the appearance of common 
food vessels such as the ding and gui became 
increasingly formulaic. Of two principal ding 
variants, one was flat-bottomed with a relatively 
shallow belly, the other round-bottomed and deep- 
bellied. The principal form of gui had a contracted 
mouth with cover, swelling belly, two symmetrically 
placed animal-shaped lug handles spanning the 
belly, and three evenly spaced zoomorphs serving as 
feet under a ring base. The decorative combinations 
were also more fixed: for example, a flat-bottomed, 
shallow ding would generally have a modified 
animal pattern around the lip and a wave pattern 
around the belly, whereas a ding with deep belly and 
rounded bottom was usually more simply 
decorated, sometimes with only a few parallel lines 
under the lip, sometimes with an overlapping fish- 
scale pattern in a band around the lip. This trend 
toward formulanzation suggests a certain stagnation 
in bronze making at this time; nevertheless, some 
items produced for royal use were still very well 
made. During the late Western Zhou the greatest 
innovation in bronze decoration was the interlaced 
dragon pattern. This consisted of a central dragon 
flanked on both sides by several subsidiary dragons. 


The dragon bodies were interlaced, that is, not 
merely overlapped but passed under-and-over one 
another, creating a sense of undulant motion that 
was further developed during Eastern Zhou. Late 
Western Zhou dragon interlace generally appears 
on square hu. The famous Song hu, and the Jin Hon 
hu recently unearthed from the tomb of the 
Marquis of Jin in Quwo, Shanxi Province, both 
bear this type of pattern. 

PERIODS (770-221 BCE) 

Aristocratic tombs of the early Spring and Autumn 
era have revealed very few bronzes that were 
relatively well crafted. The Zhou kings had lost the 
western part of their domain and relocated their 
court to their eastern capital near present-day 
Luoyang. In the smaller states that made up the 
Zhou realm, bronze making was rather crude. In 
the larger states, however, signs of progress were 
already appearing. 

By the mid-Spring and Autumn era Zhou kingly 
authority had declined and the various fiefdoms 
were expanding their power and their borders and 
beginning to come into collision. But as the 
authority of the Zhou ruling house dwindled and 
the political and military struggles between the 
states intensified, ideas and political institutions 
evolved apace. Unsettled times stimulated major 
advances in the forces of social production, 
begetting countless new forms of workmanship. 
The earlier forging of iron weapons and 
implements led to mastery of the art of casting 
iron. Bronzes became an indispensable symbol of 
power, status, and legitimacy for the new elites in 
the aristocratic states, spurring bronze making to an 
unprecedented period of innovation and 
development. To meet rapidly escalating military 
needs, the casting of bronze weapons was also 
carried to new heights. Even some small states 
possessed significant quantities of bronzes, and with 
the breakdown of centralized patronage along with 
centralized authority, regional traits of bronzes of 
this period became quite distinct. 

New vessels appeared, and old types were rendered 
with fresh shapes and unusual designs, which made 
for an entirely new look. Included in this 
exhibition is the square lotus-and-crane hu (cat. 45) 
found in Xinzheng, Henan Province, in 1923. 
Openwork petals rise from the lid, on which stands 
a crane raising its wings as if about to fly. Lug 
handles on two sides of the hu take the form of 
crested dragons looking backward, and winged 
dragons mark the four corners of the square belly. 
Iwo powerful slinking animals support the vessel, 
which is decorated overall with an interlaced 
double-bodied dragon pattern. The effect is opulent 

and dazzling: the stolid and heavy bronze style that 
had prevailed since the late Western Zhou has here 
been wholly replaced by the innovative spirit first 
apparent in the mid-Spring and Autumn era. 

Regional characteristics of bronzes of the late 
Spring and Autumn era are best exemplified by 
works from the kingdoms of Qin in the west, Jin in 
the north, Qi in the east, and Chu in the south. In 
the 1920s a group of unusually designed and 
exquisitely decorated Jin bronzes were unearthed at 
Liyu village in Hunyuan. Shanxi Province. These, 
together with the bronzes recently found in tomb 
number 251 at Jinsheng village inTaiyuan, can be 
considered representative of Jin style bronzes 
(cats. 43, 44), 9 whereas those from the Chu tomb at 
Xiasi, Xiquan county, in Henan Province are typical 
of the Chu style. 10 In both shape and decoration 
the recently discovered he of King Fuchai of Wu is 
an example of how features of the Jin and Chu 
bronzes were absorbed and integrated elsewhere." 

Improvements in casting techniques using pottery 
section molds, the spread of the complementary 
processes of casting-on and precasting, and the 
considerable maturing of the lost-wax casting 
technique all reflect significant advances in the 
bronze technology of this period. A major 
revolution in the art of bronze making during the 
Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods was 
the use of stamps to create the surface designs in 
the molds. Besides increasing the number of 
bronzes that could be produced, it also assured the 
uniform quality of the decorative patterns on the 
pieces. This advanced technique is seen most 
frequently among the extant bronzes ot the Jin 
state. Excavation of the site of the Jin bronze 
workshop at Houma in Shanxi Province has fully 
revealed the advanced bronze casting technology of 
the time.'- Advances such as the use of stamps in 
mold-making changed the nature ot creating 
surface decoration: only the maker ot the stamp 
required artistry: the workers who impressed the 
design from the stamp onto the mold needed only 
simple technical skill. Subsequently new arts ot 
surface decorating appeared, using inlaid gold, 
silver, and copper to create a varicolored surface. 
The gold, silver, and copper would be hammered 
into sheets or threads, and the threads might be 
coiled into tight spirals, then inlaid into the grooves 
cast in the bronze to receive them. (. In some 
bronzes, copper, gold, silver, and turquoise were 
inlaid in combination to form a sumptuous, 
brocade-like design. 

It was during the late Spring and Autumn period 
that human activity began to be used .is .1 
decorative motif. .1 clear manifestation of the 
unprecedentedly strong social humanism ot the 
tune. Subjects like battles, hunting, banquets, rituals, 



musical performances, and mulberry-leaf picking 
might be depicted in inlaid copper or chiseled into 
the surfaces of bronzes. Inlay and incising were also 
used to portray fantastic creatures such as human- 
headed animals or bird-headed humans. 

On bronzes of the Spring and Autumn and Warring 
States periods the most popular decorative motifs 
were variations of dragon patterns — an abrupt 
change from the ubiquitous zoomorphic masks of 
Shang and Western Zhou, which doubtless signals a 
change in society's beliefs. The dragons might be 
interlaced, or coiled, or stylized into a dragon-like 
pattern. However the dragons were rendered, they 
commonly encircle the vessels in continuous 
designs, in strong contrast to the separate units 
characteristic of earlier bronze decor. Elaborate and 
delicately linear detail characterizes these dragons. 
Late variants of the dragon patterns omitted the 
heads, leaving only the interlaced bodies. The 
impulse toward variation and increasingly fine 
detail eventually turned bronze decorations into 
geometric designs. That was the final stage of 
bronze decoration, succeeded by the appearance of 
large quantities of plain, undecorated bronzes alter 
the mid- Warring States period. 

(221 BCE-220 CE) 

The vast majority of bronzes of the Qin and Han 
periods were practical vessels without ritual 
significance, objects of daily use, often with 
inscriptions indicating their weight or capacity. 
Most vessels had little or no decoration. Some 
bronzes, however, from aristocratic and royal tombs 
of the Western Han, display exquisite 
workmanship. " In particular, the surface decorative 
techniques of gilding, gold-and-silver inlay, and 
painting had reached very high standards. 
Implements for daily use, cast in human or animal 
forms, became notable achievements of Han bronze 
making. These include the Changxin Palace lamp, 
as well as the lamp in the shape of a goose holding 
a fish (cat. 53). 

Han period bronzes made by peoples living around 
the periphery of the empire are markedly different 
from those of central China. The most notable ones 
come from the bronze culture of the Yi people in 
the western parts of Yunnan. Since the 1950s a large 
number of bronze artifacts have been recovered 
from an ancient tomb at Shizhaishan,Jinning, 
Yunnan. Among them is a gold seal marked "Seal of 
the King of Dian," which confirms the ethnic 
origin of the bronze culture at this site. 14 
Shizhaishan bronzes show very advanced use of 
lost-wax casting, gold-and-silver inlay, gilding, and 
inlaid gemstones. Both linear and fully modeled 
depictions of people, animals, structures, etcetera, 
richly varied and lifelike, adorn these bronzes. They 

are composed in scenes of sacrificial offerings, 
music and dance, production, trade, war, and 
hunting, offering a vivid picture of Dian society of 
the time. During this same period the Xiongnu of 
the northern grasslands, the Donghu tribe of the 
Xianbei people in the northeast, and theYue in the 
south were also creating bronze cultures, each with 
its own style. Together, they complete the current 
picture of developments in ancient Chinese bronze 

Translated, from the Chinese, by June Mei. 


1. Erlitou work team of the 
Institute of Archaeology, 
Chinese Academy of Sciences, 
"Brief Report on the 
Excavations of Sections 3 and 
8 of the Erlitou Site atYanshi, 
Henan," Kaogu, 1975:5. 

2. Gejieping, "Bronzes of the 
Shang Era Found at Funan, 
Anhui Province," Wenwu, 

3. Henan Provincial Institute of 
Cultural Artifacts and the 
Zhengzhou Municipal 
Museum, "Newly Discovered 
Buried Shang Dynasty Bronzes 
from Zhengzhou" Wenwu, 

4. Hubei Provincial Museum. 
"Erligang Period Shang 
Bronzes from Panlong City," 
Wenwu, 1976:2. 

5. Gao Zhixi, "Shang Bronzes 
and Sites Discovered at 
Huangcai, Ningxiang, Hunan," 
Kaogu, 1963:12. 

6. Shanghai Municipal 
Commission for the 
Preservation of Cultural 
Artifacts, "Tombs of the 
Liangzhu Culture at 
Fuquanshan, Shanghai," 
Wenwu, 1984:2. 

7. An oracle bone inscription 
reads, "The Emperor sent the 
Phoenix." See Guo Moruo, 
Pud tongzuan, p. 398. 

8. Ma Chengyuan, "A Tentative 
Interpretation of the He Zun 
Inscription," Wenwu, 1976:1. 

9. Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Taiyuan 
Municipal Commission for the 
Preservation of Cultural 
Artifacts, "Brief Report on the 
Excavation of a Large Spring 
and Autumn Era Tomb (no. 
251) and Horse-and-Chanot 
Pit at Jmsheng Village, 
Taiyuan," Wenwu, 1989:9. 

10. Henan Provincial Institute 
of Cultural Artifacts, et al., "A 
Chu Tomb of the Spring and 
Autumn Era at Xiasi, Xiquan" 
(Wenwu Publishing House, 

11. Chen Peifen,"King Fuchai 
of Wu," Bulletin of the Shanghai 
Museum, no. 7. 

12. Shanxi Provincial Institute 
of Cultural Artifacts, The 
Bronze Casting Site at Houma 
(Wenwu Publishing House, 

13. Report on the Excavation of a 
Han Tomb at Maucheng (Wenwu 
Publishing House, 1980). 

14. Yunnan Provincial Museum, 
Report on the Excavation of a 
Group of Ancient Tombs at 
Shizhaishan, Jinning, Yunnan 
(Wenwu Publishing House, 



Innovation in Ancient 
Chinese Metalwork 

By the early second millennium bce 
ancient China's artists and craftsmen 
had already been creating ceramics and 
working jades for over two thousand 
years. Their mastery of these two materi- 
als is evident in the outstanding 
workmanship, elegant shapes, and sophis- 

ticated designs that characterize the 

Jenny So 

Curator of Ancient Chinese Art, 
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. 
Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C. 




• Site O City 

Map l. Map of China showing major ancient and modern cities and sites. 

Map 2. Map of China in the Tang dynasty showing Eurasia and the Silk Road. 


best of early Chinese ceramics and jades. But the 
supremacy of these two mediums was soon to be 
challenged by a new material that would eventually 
dominate China's artistic scene for the next 
thousand years: cast bronze, an alloy mainly of 
copper, with smaller amounts of tin and/or lead. 
Cast-bronze objects became symbols of the power 
of the ruling elite, replacing the ritual jades of the 
preceding Neolithic era as ceremonial regalia in 
political and religious rites. 

Set next to the refined ceramics and jades of the 
time, early attempts at bronze casting in China, 
such as the wine cup (jue; cat. 21) made circa 
1700-circa 1600 bce, appear unusually crude and 
almost devoid of artistic merit. But the jue's modest 
appearance and undecorated surface should not 
diminish its significance in the history of this new 
technology. The vessel has the unusual distinction of 
being one of the earliest bronze vessels made in 
ancient China, as it closely resembles similar wine 
cups from Erlitou,Yanshi, Henan Province, where 
burials generally dated to the second quarter of the 
second millennium bce have yielded some of the 
earliest cast bronze objects (see Map i). 1 

Fig. 1. Ceramic wine cup (jue). Early second millennium 
BCE. Erlitou, Zhengzhou, Henan Province. 

Metallurgical analysis ot the Erlitou wine cups 
shows that they were cast from a deliberate alloy of 
copper and tin, poured in a molten state into a 
mold made up of four or more fitted sections. The 
alloy and casting (instead of cold-working) 
technology evident on these vessels, as well as the 
mold-assembly methods, were major innovations in 
material use and manufacturing technique for 
China of the early second millennium bce. But 
these first bronzes were also firmly linked to 
China's older, established ceramic industry. The 
eccentric shape of the wine cup, certainly not easily 
cast in bronze, was based on cups commonly made 
in pottery during the early second millennium bce 
(fig. l).The potter's experience in maintaining high 
kiln temperatures must have contributed to the 
bronze maker's ability to smelt, refine, and mix his 
ores for casting. Excavations at Erlitou habitation 
sites also yielded fragments of clay casting molds, 
further demonstrating that the early bronze casters 
worked closely with potters of the time. 2 


The unassuming beginning exemplified by the 
small drinking cup (cat. 21) does not prepare us for 
the bronze caster's astonishing progress in the 
following centuries. By 1500-1400 BCE the 
undecorated early vessels had given way to vessels 
with surfaces enhanced by varied scrolled designs 
(cat. 22). Bronze makers must have been quick to 
realize (lie decorative potential offered by a casting 
technique that utilized section molds (fig. 1): it gave 
access to the interior surface of the mold, allowing 
designs to be executed with relative ease in the soli 

clay. 3 It is possible to incise designs into the hard 
surface of cold bronze, but such a technique could 
not have created the flowing rhythm ot the many 
scroll designs on the early bronzes. The raised linear 
designs on the fang ding (cat. 22) embody the 
decorative possibilities of section-mold casting 
technique at their simplest: lines incised on the 
interiors of mold sections become raised lines 
(thread relief) on the cast vessel. Continuous 
refinement of this unique advantage offered by 
section molds enabled the bronze workers to create 
vessels with ever more ornate surfaces from circa 
1300 to circa 1 100 bce (cats. 23-26). 4 

More amazing, perhaps, than the advance in 
decorative technique is the existence, as early as the 
mid-second millennium bce, of foundries that 
could handle such monumental castings as the fang 
ding (cat. 22). Nor was this rectangular cauldron, 
which weighs about 40 kilograms and is S2 
centimeters high, entirely unique in its time: it was 
found, in a shallow pit at Qian village, Pinglu 
county, Shanxi Province, with two round ding 
vessels, each about 70 centimeters high. 3 Farther 
east, in the vicinity of Zhengzhou. Henan Province, 
believed to be the site of one of the earliest capitals 
of the Shang dynasty.'' three separate discoveries 
have unearthed eight other square or rectangular 
cauldrons, closely comparable to the present 
example in size and decoration, together with 
additional large round ding vessels.' I he largest ol 
these fang ding is 100 centimeters high and weighs 
S2.4 kilograms. 



Differences in alloy composition and mold assembly 
among these fang ding suggest that the bronze 
casters were still learning and experimenting, 
especially with large castings. Scientific analyses of 
two of the Zhengzhou vessels show a fairly 
consistent range in the percentage of copper in the 
alloy, but wide fluctuations in the percentage of 
lead, which contributes to the viscosity — hence, 
ease in pouring — of the alloy. 8 Casting seams left 
on the vessels also suggest that different mold 
assemblies and casting procedures were used to 
make vessels of the same shape and decoration. On 
one Zhengzhou vessel, as in the Pinglu example 
(cat. 22), the four central sections of each side, the 
legs, and the flat bottom appear to have been 
precast. These were inserted into the molds for the 
four corner sections, and then the rest of the vessel 
was poured around the precast parts. Large areas of 
metal overflow on the four faces of the Pinglu 
vessel where these joints occur testify to problems 
in the casting. On several of the Zhengzhou vessels, 
one single mold section was used for each of the 
four sides, producing a more polished casting less 
marked by casting seams (compare the 
reconstruction in fig. 2). 


Sometime around 1300 bce the Shang kings 
relocated their capital to the vicinity of present-day 
Anyang in northern Henan Province. The two 
centuries or so between the manufacture of the fang 
ding (cat. 22) and the bronzes associated with the 
court at Anyang (cats. 23—26), saw huge strides in 
the bronze caster's craft. By about 1200 bce not 
only were China's bronze casters able to create 
dense, multilayered decoration on a vessel's surface, 
they were also able to produce vessels with 
complex shapes that must have challenged the 
ingenuity of the section-mold makers of the time. 
Whereas decorating the bronze surface allowed 
bronze casters to develop two-dimensional designs, 
the inherent three-dimensional form of the vessels 
presented opportunities to create sculpturally. For 
example, a fairly ordinary abstract shape — a four- 
sided vessel (cat. 23) — became, with the addition of 
a ram at each of the vessel's four corners, an 
inspired organic form that still fulfilled its function 
as a container. The rams' heads emerge as fully 
three-dimensional sculptures, while their chests and 
front legs appear 111 relief, rendered with astonishing 
realism amid a dense sea of spiral and scroll 
patterns. The shallow well of the large basin (cat. 
29) becomes a viable pool for the coiled dragon 
whose three-dimensional head rises most 
convincingly from its two-dimensional snakelike 
body. These vessels are made more remarkable by 
their unusual size — the basin is the largest example 
of its kind — and by the likelihood that they were 
made not in the capital region of Anyang but in 
workshops in the remote southern and southeastern 

Fig. 2. Reconstruction of section-mold assembly for casting. 

fringes of the Shang domain, along the Yangzi 
River basin. 9 

Conceptually different from vessels incorporating 
animal forms are two creations (cats. 27, 25) that are 
wholly sculptural. An accidental find in Hunan 
Province, south of the Yangzi River, the boar (cat. 
27) is exceptional not just for its size but for its 
realism; its cloven hoofs, boarish snout, and tusks 
are all carefully observed and convincingly 
depicted. Even the fine scale-pattern and the large 
spiraling motifs on its haunches evoke the animal's 
hide and musculature. Unlike most bronzes of the 
time, the boar is not a container, and we can only 
surmise its function. Cylindrical channels running 
crosswise through the boar's front and back 
haunches suggest that it might have been carried, 
by means of poles inserted through the channels, 
perhaps at ceremonial processions. 10 If so, the 
choice of animal would have been related to the 
religious or ritual requirements of the local 
(southern) patrons for whom it was made. The 
elephant (cat. 25), one of only two known (the 
other is in the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian 
Institution), served a better-attested function as a 
wine or water container." Though a vessel, it too is 
animal-shaped; its elaborate surface motifs, however, 
are utterly nondescriptive of elephants. The small 
hare-like creature perched on top of the elephant's 
trunk serves no function but presents an 
incongruous — therefore witty — juxtaposition. 



Two oddly shaped vessels (cats. 28, 24) are 
anomalous both as vessels and as animals. Neither 
accurately represents a real animal or can be linked 
to a specific shape in the standard vessel repertoire. 
The silhouette of catalogue 28 suggests a snake or a 
crocodile; in fact, both snakes and crocodiles appear 
as decorative motifs on its surface. It is likely that 
the creators of this vessel, excavated in the brackish 
semidesert region of northern Shared Province, in 
the middle reaches of the Yellow River basin, were 
actually familiar with these creatures. ' 2 The bird- 
shaped vessel (cat. 24) is one of a pair recovered 
from the late thirteenth-century bce tomb of the 
Shang royal consort Fu Hao at Anyang, Henan 
Province.' 3 It is not based on any recognizable bird, 
although its large hooked beak suggests that of a 
parrot. The ambiguity of its shape carries over onto 
its decoration, where visual puns and double 
meanings tease the eye and the imagination. Two 
dragons diving onto the bird's forehead double as 
horns; the large spirals of its wings are also coiled 
serpents; an owl, with distinctive eyes and beak, 
appears as part of the tail feathers. The small three- 
dimensional figures of a bird and dragon, which 
also serve as handles for the lid on the back of its 
head, seem to peer playfully between the horns. 

Bronze casting expanded greatly in geographical 
range, in productivity, and in creativity during the 
last centuries of the second millennium bce, as 
demonstrated both by the artifacts themselves and 
by their archaeological locations. The magnificent 
four-ram zun (cat. 23) and the bronze boar (cat. 27) 
were found south of theYangzi River in Hunan 
Province; so were the elephant-shaped vessel (cat. 
25) and the bail-handled covered container (you; 
cat. 26). u The large basin (cat. 29) came from the 
lower Yangzi River basin in southeastern China, the 
serpentine vessel (cat. 28) from a site just south of 
the Great Wall in northwestern China. In the 
quality of their workmanship some of these vessels 
are virtually indistinguishable from the best 
products of the capital region of Anyang. Some, like 
the elephant or the you, may have come from the 
area of Anyang; others may have been made by 
regional workshops according to local tastes or 
ritual needs (cats. 27-29). 

Other artifacts from theYangzi River valley, like the 
drum (gu; cat. 34) which was a chance find in 
Chongyang county, Hubei Province, further attest 
to locally distinctive bronze-casting traditions in the 
peripheral regions. It is one of only two bronze 
drums known, both distinctly southern in style. 
Bronze drums may have played a special part in the 
rites and rituals of the south. 1 ' No bronze drums 
have yet been recovered along the Yellow River 
basin, although drums made from humbler 
materials such as earthenware and wood were in 
use there. '"The loose design of spirals on the 

present drum suggests a relatively early date of 
manufacture (ca. 1500-1300 bce); if correct, this 
means that local bronze-casting workshops were in 
operation in the south at about the same time as 
their northern counterparts in the Shang heartland 
along the Yellow River basin. 

Dramatic evidence of the geographical extent of 
southern bronze casting and the skills of the casters 
has been afforded by recent discovery of two 
sacrificial pits, containing bronzes dated to the late 
second millennium bce, at Sanxingdui, Guanghan 
county, Sichuan Province in southwestern China.' 7 
The Sanxingdui pits and Fu Hao's tomb at Anyang 
are closely contemporary but about eight hundred 
miles apart, and the bronzes from the two sites 
differ strikingly in type, form, and size (fig. 3). The 
impressive bronze mask (cat. 30), the largest of three 
recovered at Guanghan, has no parallel elsewhere in 
China. Its function and context of use are unclear, 
its form and size unprecedented, and the meaning 
of its extraordinary projecting pupils is a mystery. 
That they had special meaning for the society that 
created them is evident from the extra effort 
required to produce them. Projecting a startling 
distance from the face, the pupils appear to have 
been precast, then inserted into the mold for the 
rest of the face, which was cast around them in a 
second pour of metal. In the use of precast 
elements, as well as in its monumental size, this 
casting is reminiscent of similarly ambitious 
products of northern workshops, such as the large 
fang ding (cat. 22) discussed above. The rectangular 
slot at the center of the forehead may have held an 
extension, perhaps resembling the long scrolled 
projection fitted on one of the other two masks.' 8 
Clearly the people who commissioned the bizarre 
bronzes at Guanghan and buried them together 
with a rich assortment of bronze, jade, and ivory 
objects in two large pits (not tombs) were masters 
of a bronze-casting technology closely comparable 
to that of their counterparts farther north in the 
Yellow River basin. Although the bronze casters of 
the lower Yellow River basin may have been the 
first to explore, develop, and eventually achieve 
high standards in bronze casting, it was the distant 
workshops that seem to have tested the limits of 
the technology by attempting eccentric shapes, 
unorthodox decoration, and gigantic castings. 


It was precisely one of these distant centers ot 
power, one located in the middle and upper Yellov 
River basin, that eventually overcame the Shang 
kings at Anyang about 1 100 bce. The conquerors, 
whose homeland spanned present-da) Gansu and 
Shaanxi provinces, established the Zhou dynasty, 
locating its capital in the easternmost pari of their 
realm, near present-day Xi'an."' Not only did the 
Zhou adopt Shang rituals and customs and 



bovine horns on the lid; coiled serpents on the 
shoulders; beasts with large coiled bodies below; and 
realistic recumbent buffalo on the foot; all rendered 
in varying relief against a fine spiral ground. 

Similar features can also be seen within the Zhou 
realm, on bronzes excavated near Baoji county, 
Shaanxi Province, datable to the first hundred or 
more years of Zhou rule (ca. noo-ca. 950 bce). 
Comparable energy and power are exuded by the 
massive hooked flanges and bold taotie with 
outward-spiralmg horns on the vessel tor liquids 
(zun; cat. 32)," the intimidating bovine horns on 
the base of the food container (gui; cat. 35), 2 - 1 and 
the exuberant arrays of real and imaginary creatures 
on both the gui and the rectangular gong (cat. 36). 24 
Zhou bronze casters exploited the hooked flanges 
on the zun (cat. 32) for maximum effect by 
deliberately extending them beyond the rim — the 
overhangs were separately cast and attached to the 
existing flanges by additional pours of metal. The 
massiveness of this vessel is not purely visual: 
unusually heavy for a vessel of its size, it weighs 
14.78 kilograms. The same complexity of 
manufacture characterizes the above-mentioned gui 
and gong: on the gui, intricate mold assembly for the 
projecting bovine horns, precast, multianimal 
handles, and a small bell attached to the underside 
of its base; on the gong, the three-dimensional, 
down-curving horns of the creature that forms the 
lid. The new aesthetic requirements of early Zhou 
patrons continued to push bronze casters to the 
limits of their skills, and with surpassing results. 

Fig-3- Bronze standing figure. Late second millennium 
BCE. Sanxingdui, Guanghan, Sichuan Province. 

continue to require the bronze casters' services, 
their patronage infused new life into a tradition by 
then over five hundred years old. The Zhou 
brought with them a liberating flamboyance most 
certainly influenced by the eccentric creations from 
the south, southwest, and southeast. 20 Vessels in this 
exhibition dating from the early part of Zhou rule 
(ca. 1100— ca. 1000 bce) illustrate some of these 
distinctive Zhou features (cats. 31, 32, 35, 41). 

The container for liquids (lei; cat. 31), found far 
from the Zhou realm in a cache in Zhuwajie, Peng 
county, Sichuan Province, is an outstanding example 
of Zhou's invigorating effect on bronze design. 21 
Vessels of equally imposing size were made by the 
Shang casters, but the bold elephant-trunk handles 
and the ferociously hooked flanges running from lid 
to foot create a bristling silhouette that is assertively 
difierent from the monumental lei vessels of the 
Shang. Its surface decoration augments this effect 
with a host of new motifs: taotie (semiabstract 
zoomorphic motifs) with almost freestanding 

Besides introducing new aesthetics and motifs, the 
Zhou conquest also appears to have brought a 
change in ritual practices that presented a different 
set ot problems to the Zhou bronze caster. 2 ' The 
gong (cat. 36), dating from the early tenth century 
bce, formed a set with two other vessels, each 
different in shape but identical in design and 
bearing the same forty-character inscription 
inside. 2 '' The rectangular container (fang yi; cat. 41) 
from the late tenth century BCE is also part of a set 
of three vessels different in shape but identical in 
surface decoration and inscription. 27 Zhou nobles, 
prompted perhaps by religious customs or ritual 
requirements at court, seem to have been the first 
group to require sets of vessels with matching 
designs, shapes, or dedicatory inscriptions. By the 
early ninth century bce, when the large container 
tor liquid (hu; cat. 39) and its mate were made, large 
sets of bronze vessels, often carrying matching 
dedicatory inscriptions and comprising a narrow 
range of shapes and designs, had become the 
norm. 2S This development, which required that the 
bronze caster produce virtual duplicates (often in 
decoration and sometimes in shape), presented new 
demands on an industry that, up to then, had only 
been making one-of-a-kind bronzes. 


The increase in sets of vessels with long inscriptions 
associating them to certain noble families or clans is 
symptomatic of a political development during the 
ninth and eighth centuries bce: the declining power 
of the Zhou kings and the increasing autonomy of 
the nobles in their respective domains surrounding 
the Zhou court. To appear appropriately equipped 
with the trappings of authority, ambitious dukes 
and princes began commissioning sets of bronze 
vessels to display as symbols of power at important 
rituals and state occasions. The spouted pitcher (he; 
cat. 38) and the food container (gui; cat. 39) 
unearthed at the city of Pingdingshan, central 
Henan Province, signify this new demand. 29 Both 
vessels carry inscriptions linking them with the 
small state of Ying, which fell to rivals sometime in 
the fifth century BCE. The wealth of bronzes 
associated with the Ying state at this site has been 
matched by the rich finds associated with various 
other principalities, attesting to an overall sharp rise 
in demand. The bronze-casting industry had to 
improve production methods, not simply to make 
duplicate vessels but also to increase output as 
required by its expanding clientele. 30 

In 770 bce the Zhou kings lost their western 
capital at Xi'an to marauding nomads and fled to 
their eastern capital near present-day Luoyang, 
Henan Province. Their shrunken power accelerated 
the fracturing of the realm into powerful 
aristocratic states, with concomitant explosive rise 
in the demand on the bronze industry. This political 
decentralization must have been responsible in part 
for the radical changes that took place in workshop 
organization and production methods of the 
bronze-casting industry by the seventh and sixth 
centuries bce. A large sixth-fifth-century bronze 
foundry site, under excavation at the city of 
Houma, southern Shanxi Province, since the 1950s, 
has yielded workshop debris that hints at 
techniques capable of meeting all requirements — 
sets of ritual vessels matching in shape and/or 
decoration, vastly increased scale of production, 
foreign exotica, and everyday needs — without 
sacrificing the high-level workmanship that court 
and noble patrons had come to expect. 31 

Foundry debris at Houma suggested a production 
process organized according to specialization and 
division of labor. The multistep processes of 
shaping, decorating, and assembling the clay molds, 
as well as the manufacture of different types of 
bronzes (both ritual and utilitarian), probably took 
place in separate areas of the workshop compound, 
with different groups of workers contributing 
specific skills toward the final product. Most 
compelling of all the finds at Houma were the 
thousands ot pieces of decorated clay foundry 
debris, suggesting the wavs in which surface 

Fig. 4. Clay model of decorative design for casting. Late 
6th— early 5th century BCE. Niucun, Houma, Shanxi 

decoration and appendages such as handles, lids, and 
other decorative accents were made. It seems that 
some kind of master pattern system was used, so 
that the same decor units could be variously 
combined into vessels of diverse shapes, sizes, and 
designs. A complex multistep decor replication 
process required taking repeated clay negatives from 
a single positive model, which served as a master 
unit (fig. 4). This process made possible identical 
repeated patterns on a vessel (fig. 4), or identical 
handles, legs, or decorative appendages on a single 
vessel. For sets of bronzes in graduated sizes, a series 
of similarly graduated master units could produce 
appropriately sized but otherwise identical handles 
or accents (fig. 5). 32 With a wide variety of master 
patterns at the workshop's disposal, the decor 
possibilities were virtually unlimited. 

The four-sided vessel (Jang hu; cat. 43) was likely a 
product of the Houma workshops. It forms a set 
with three other identical vessels, recovered from 
the rich tomb of a noble of the Jin state at [insheng 
village, outside Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi 
Province (see also cat. 44). 33 As a measure of the 
bronze caster's facility in replicating vessel shapes 
and decoration in a variety of sizes and designs, the 
tomb that yielded these four hn also contained 
matching sets, but in graduated sizes, of seven and 
six tripod vessels (ding); a set of eight matching 
stemmed and covered food containers (don); four 
basins (jian); and two sets of bells (bo), five in one 
set and fourteen in the other (fig. 6). Detailed 
studies of a hn in the Freer Gallery oi Art. 
Smithsonian Institution, demonstrated that the 
continuously interlacing dragon and twisted-rope 
designs on such vessels were actually replicated 
from just four or five master pattern units, each 
repeated as necessary to compose .1 given register of 
decoration (tig. 7)." Similarly repeated pattern units 
form the designs on the interior and exterior ol the 
rectangular basin (pan; cat. 4SI. The first-rate 
workmanship possible on bronzes decorated by 



Fig. 5. Drawing of clay mollis in graduated sizes for 
casting bosses on bronze bells of graduated sizes. 
Late 6th- early 5th century BCE. Niucun, Houma, 
Shanxi Province. (Drawings by Li Xiating [Shanxi 
Institute of Archaeology]). 

such a process of replication is illustrated by the 
Freer hu and the Palace Museum basin. The densely 
multilayered and interlacing designs that typify this 
production method may have been developed in 
conjunction with it, the better to camouflage the 
joins between pattern units, as well as the minor 
adjustments for fit that may become necessary as 
the units are repeated on vessels of different 
curvatures, circumferences, and shapes. 

The sixth- and fifth-century bce workshops that 
produced these bronzes had progressed well beyond 
the twelfth- and eleventh-century Shang foundries 
that made individual bronzes, each from its own set 
of hand-carved clay molds. A section-mold maker 
at an Anyang foundry would probably have had to 
have a fair idea ot the shape, size, and decoration of 
his finished vessel. A model or mold maker at the 
Houma foundry would probably have been familiar 
with only that element of the vessel for which he 
was responsible — a lid or a handle or a foot or a 
unit ot decoration — but not with the completed 
object. In the late sixth- to early fifth-century 
bronze foundry at Houma one can see perhaps the 
source of the streamlined division of labor and 
mass-production techniques associated with the 
renowned Ming and Qing dynasty porcelain 
workshops operating at Jmgdezhen,Jiangxi 
Province, nearly two thousand years later (see essays 
by Wang Qingzheng and Regina Krahl in this 

Fig. 6. Drawing of sets of bronze vessels (4 hu, 6 and 7 
ding, 8 dou, 4 jian, 5 and 14 bo) from finshengcun , 
Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. Late 6th— early $th century 
BCE. (Drawings by Li Xiating [Shanxi Institute of 

Cultural diversity and increased contact among the 
divers cultures, along with social and political 
mobility, proved to be major invigorating forces for 
the bronze industry through the end of the first 
millennium bce. Sculptural bronzes and animal 
appendages on bronze vessels continued to be 
major provincial features (cats. 33, 37, 38, 55-58). 
The spouted vessel (he; cat. 38), 35 from a tenth- 
century bce context in the city of Pingdingshan, 
central Henan Province, quaintly borrowed the 

duck-shaped spout characteristic of ceramic he 
vessels from the southeastern coastal provinces of 
Jiangsu and Zhejiang, while retaining the more 
traditional Zhou shape, handle, and legs (fig. 8). 
The endearingly awkward elephant-shaped vessel 
(cat. 37) from Rujiazhuang, Baoji county, Shaanxi 
Province, is a tenth-century bce local descendant of 
the boar- and elephant-shaped bronzes of a few 
centuries earlier (cats. 27, 25). 3<1 On the 



Fig. 7. Container for liquids fhuj. Early 5th century BCE. 
Bronze. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 
Washington, D.C. (57.22). 

Fig.8. Covered spouted server (he). 11th— 10th century 
BCE. Bronze. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian 
Institution, Washington, D.C. (33.2). 

Rujiazhuang elephant the elaborate surface 
decoration of the earlier vessels has dwindled to a 
large spiral above each leg, no doubt intended to 
suggest rippling musculature but appearing 
essentially ornamental. The animal's head, however, 
is rendered with considerable realism. 

The bronze bell (bo; cat. 33) represents a group of 
bells with similar decoration that date from the late 
tenth century bce and are now in various Chinese 
and Western collections. 37 Like bronze drums (cat. 
34), bronze bells are closely identified with the 
Yangzi River basin, having a continuous history of 
use and production there since the late second 
millennium bce. 3 * By the tenth century BCE, 
however, they had penetrated the Zhou court, 
where sets of large bronze bells began to appear as 
important components of ritual regalia. Despite the 
integration of the bells into mainstream Zhou 
tradition, many of their southern characteristics 
persisted, particularly the use of animal decoration, 
such as the four tigers climbing down the sides of 
the bell, or the bird at the top of the flange in the 

Other peripheral regions also contributed to 
metropolitan bronze designs, as exemplified in an 
unusual lopsided vessel (cat. 44). Part of the large 
group ot bronzes unearthed from the same fin 
noble's tomb that contained catalogue 43, this flask 
with asymmetrical profile and bird-shaped lid 

illustrates the ancient Jin state's contact with 
nomadic peoples living in the area north of today's 
Great Wall. v ' Its peculiar shape was probably 
inspired by the animal-skin flasks carried by hunters 
and herders who lived along ancient China's 
northern and western borders, an antecedent more 
clearly illustrated by a plain bronze example 
recovered in northern Hebei Province (fig. 9). 40 Its 
surface decoration, however, was drawn from the 
standard late sixth-century bce Chinese decorative 
repertoire, and its workmanship is typical of Jin 
state bronzes. Such bronze vessels were probably 
made in Jin or similar workshops as exotica for 
their noble patrons, and occasionally to be 
presented as gifts to leaders of northern tribes. 

One of these northern tribes, known in Chinese 
historical texts as the Di, actually settled south of 
the Great Wall in the fourth century bce. founding 
the small and short-lived state of Zhongshan just 
south of Beijing. The multiarmed lamp in the shape 
of a tree (cat. 54), together with a rich assortment 
of bronzes that reflect the tribe's northern heritage, 
came from the tomb of a Zhongshan king who 
died at the end of the fourth century bce. 41 In this 
lamp eight monkeys, perceptively — even 
affectionately — portrayed, scamper about and hang 
from the tree branches, as two bare-chested fellows 
below appear to be cajoling the monkevs, rc.uh to 
catch whatever may be flung to them. Two 
centuries later the elaborate fittings on the 



Fig. g. Flask. 6th century BCE. Lijiazhuang, Xingtang 
county, Hebei Province. 

canopied carriages of Western Han princes reveal 
the continuing Chinese fascination with these 
border tribes: a mounted hunter executing a 
Parthian shot at a leaping tiger behind him, and 
topknotted foreigners riding elephants and camels 
(cat. 49; see also cat. 51). 42 This exotic iconography 
is further enhanced by lavish inlays of gold, silver, 
and turquoise, colors that might have approximated 
the brightly appliqued felts and other fabrics worn 
by the northern peoples. 43 

The bronze casters of south China, whose 
repertoire of masks, drums, and bells, and 
preference for sculptural ornament on vessels, 
contrast so strikingly with the bronze conventions 
of the heartland, attained new heights during the 
late first millennium bce. Three exceptional bronzes 
(cats. 45, 46, 52) can be associated with the state of 
Chu, the most powerful ruling house to emerge 
south of theYangzi River in the second half of the 
millennium. Chu s exoticism differs from that of 
the north, featuring intricate baroque forms and 
fantastic, serpentine imagery. 4 " 1 The sinuous 
creatures with elaborate horns that support the 
large, early sixth-century bce vessel (cat. 45) are 
close relatives of the pair of slightly later, malachite- 
encrusted beasts, one of which is represented here 
(cat. 46) . 4S The rhythms generated by the sinuous 
body, animated pose, lolling tongue, and spiraling 
horns of the fabulous animal amplify the more 
subtle rhythms produced by the interlaced pattern 
and sculptural appendages on the earlier vessel 
(cat. 45). A kneeling humanoid, biting one snake as 

he grips two more in his hands (cat. 52), is one of 
two such corner fittings that supported a lacquer 
screen found in a tomb at Guangzhou, Guangdong 
Province, just north of Hong Kong. This fabulous 
creature demonstrates Chu's far-reaching 
geographical and temporal influence on the bronze 
maker's art. 

Successful production of these intertwining and 
curvilinear forms posed a new challenge to bronze 
casters trained in section-mold casting techniques. 
Although the main body of the hu vessel and of the 
fabulous inlaid beast were still cast using mold 
sections, like nryriad bronzes before them, the 
gyrating, spiraling horns of the appended creatures 
on the hu were made with a little-used technique: 
lost-wax casting. Compared with the millennium- 
old section-mold casting technique, lost-wax 
casting is an easier way to cast complex three- 
dimensional shapes and decorations. The technique 
starts with a wax model of the shape to be made; 
because wax is soft and pliable, this shape can be as 
intricate as desired (fig. 10). After the model is 
encased in clay, the whole assembly is heated so 
that the wax melts away through vents left for this 
purpose, leaving a cavity inside that exactly 
duplicates the model. Molten bronze is then poured 
into this cavity. When the bronze has cooled, the 
clay mold is broken open to reveal the final product 
in cast bronze. This technique appeared in China 
sometime during the sixth century bce, used 
primarily to cast complex decorative appendages on 
Chu bronzes (like the horns on cats. 45 and 46); it 
may have been prompted by the special demands of 
Chu aesthetics. 46 


By the late second century bce, when the screen 
support (cat. 52) was made, lost-wax casting was 
widely used in both metropolitan and regional 
workshops to produce large, intricately shaped or 
sculptural bronzes (cats. 50, 53, 55— 58). The 
exquisite gold-inlaid incense burner (cat. 50) 
belonging to the Western Han prince Liu Sheng is 
a handsome product of metropolitan workshops. 47 
The frank realism and exotic imagery of the 
bronzes from the Dian kingdom in Yunnan 
Province, in southwestern China, illustrate the 
foreign heritage of its people and the huge 
distances that separated them, culturally and 
artistically as well as geographically, from the Han 
court (cats. 55— 58). 48 The Dian peoples wore fitted 
trousers and short tunics typical of horse-riding 
tribes of Central Asia and seemed to delight in 
animated (perhaps even rowdy) dancing (cat. 56). 49 
Bulls appear to have held a significant place in Dian 
ritual and sacrifice (cat. 57); and the brutality of war 
was apparently acknowledged, perhaps even gloried 
in (cat. 55). These Dian bronzes were all made with 
the lost-wax casting technique. In subsequent 


Fig. w. Reconstruction of mold assembly for lost-wax 

centuries systematic refinement of this latest 
technical innovation allowed bronze casters to 
produce the myriad Buddhist and secular gilt 
bronzes of the Tang dynasty (cats. 160, 169) as well 
as such spectacular creations as flying dragons 
(cat. 59). 

Lost-wax casting constituted a major technical 
innovation of the first millennium bce, but by no 
means the only one. Continued intermingling of 
new ideas from different parts of China stimulated a 
variety of new decorative techniques. One of these 
was the use of color. Whereas the decoration of 
bronze surfaces had previously been 
monochromatic, accomplished solely with 
patterning, the bronzes might now be inlaid with 
gold, silver, and semiprecious stones (cats. 46, 49, 
50), gilded with mercury amalgam (cats. 51, 52, 56), 
or simply painted with pigments, among other 
devices (cat. 53). These colorfully decorated bronzes 
kept the industry healthy and productive well into 
the first centuries ce, despite rising competition 
from the lustrous jades, colorful lacquers, and 
embroidered silks that had begun to capture the 
hearts and budgets of wealthy elite patrons. 50 

Local and peripheral traditions were not the sole 
sources of challenge and inspiration for bronze 
casters of the first millennium bce. Deliberate 
archaism resurrected orthodox Shang and Zhou 
styles. Although the four-sided wine vessel ( fang hit; 
cat. 43) dates from the early fifth century bce, its 
shape, paneled design, and petaled crown represent 
deliberate echoes of a vessel type popular during 
the ninth and eighth centuries bce.'' 1 Echoes of past 
traditions continued to figure in bronze designs of 
the late first millennium bce, contributing to their 
already complex artistic character and meaning. 53 

A third driving force behind the creativity of the 
first millennium bce: had little connection either 

with the somber rituals of the Shang and Zhou 
courts, with longstanding artistic traditions, or with 
particular local customs. The miniature carriage, a 
box on wheels (cat. 42) dating from the eighth 
century bce, is an early hint of this new force. 53 
This remarkable object is ingeniously designed with 
fifteen moving parts: six turning wheels; four 
hinged openings (on top and at one end); a sliding 
door bolt; and four pivoting birds. The one-legged 
doorkeeper might have been chosen specifically for 
his handicap, for he could not easily make off with 
the treasures he is guarding. The carriage's clever 
design, movable parts, and miniature size all suggest 
that this was a toy. Perhaps it and other miniatures 
found in the same context were indeed toys, the 
idle elite's playthings or collectibles — perhaps even 
containers for precious memorabilia. 

Demand for similar utilitarian or luxurious secular 
items flourished by the end of the first millennium 
bce (cats. 49, 51, 52, 56). The crowning 
achievements in this category must be the bronze 
lamps made in the last centuries bce (cats. 53, 54). 
Never meant as funerary paraphernalia or as ritual 
implements, bronze lamps were strictly functional 
furnishings in affluent households. Some, like the 
multiarmed lamp (cat. 54), performed their function 
simply by supplying effective lighting through a 
delightful shape; others, like the lamp in the shape 
of a goose (cat. 53), are dazzlingly ingenious, even 
ecologically minded designs. As the wick burns 
inside the cylinder on the goose's back, the vertical 
panels that form the cylinder may be slid back and 
forth so as to throw the light anywhere within 360 
degrees. The smoke from the burning oil rises up 
into the fish-shaped cover and thence to the neck 
of the goose; from there it descends into the goose's 
hollow body, which has been filled with water to 
absorb the smoke. This keeps the room free ol smoke 
and smell/' Man dynasty householders were clearly 
as mindful of the air they breathed as we are today. 


Even surpassing the extravagant luxury goods of the 

Han court were those made for the ruling class of 



the Tang dynasty (618-907). Both the Han and Tang 
courts shared the blessings of a stable, unified realm 
whose expansive territory reached far into Central 
Asia, bringing trade and tribute from the 
westernmost end of the Silk Road to the Tang 
capital (see Map 2). The Tang court was grand, 
cosmopolitan, and sophisticated, and the luxury 
goods of the Tang ruling elite reflected these 
qualities. Exotic goods, peoples, and customs 
poured into the capital at Chang' an (modern 
Xi'an), endowing Tang society with a rich 
multiculturalism unsurpassed before or since. 55 
Bronze, the preeminent luxury material of the 
previous two thousand years, was no longer the 
choicest substance, even at times being used for 
funerary goods like its more common ceramic 
counterparts. Gilt bronze continued, however, to 
hold a special place in Buddhist contexts (cats. 160, 
169), and the magnificent gilt-bronze dragon 
(cat. 59) is exceptional in any context. s6 This 
dragon, which is over 34 centimeters long, has an 
awesome presence; with its hind legs and tail flung 
high in the air and its front legs held taut, it seems 
as if it had just touched down. The function of this 
remarkable object remains a mystery, since the 
circumstances of its discovery provide no clue to its 
use or context. As an emblem of the power of the 
Tang empire, both at home and abroad, this flying 
dragon is unmatched. 

Instead ot bronze, the preeminent status metals 
throughout the Tang period were gold and silver 
(cats. 60— 65). Among the peoples of ancient Central 
and West Asia glittering precious metals had long 
held pride of place, and their prestige at the Tang 
court was a direct result of prolonged contact with 
these peoples along the Silk Road. 57 Two caches 
recovered in recent years in Xi'an illustrate the best 
of this new medium in Tang times. The treasures 
sealed in the foundation of the Famen Temple 
pagoda in 874 reveal the exalted status of gold and 
silver in religious and imperial rituals (cats. 64, 65). 5S 
The rich assortment of tea utensils from the trove 
illustrate that tea drinking and its associated rituals 
and ceremonies had noble connotations in Tang 
imperial, literati, and Buddhist circles (fig. n). The 
rarified custom of storing processed tea in the form 
of hardened cakes is revealed by the openwork 
basket (cat. 64) used to keep the cakes dry until 
they were ground for brewing. Among the tea 
utensils, articles like the salt caddy (cat. 65) confirm 
practices previously known only from texts, such as 
adding salt and spices to tea to reduce its bitterness. 

The three gilded silver plates (cats. 60—62) were 
part of a cache of 270 gold and silver objects, 
foreign coins, and jades (cat. 20) stuffed into two 
large pottery urns and buried at Hejia village, south 
of Xi'an, perhaps by a noble family fleeing the Tang 
capital to escape the rebel An Lushan in 755. 59 The 

Fig. 11. Group of gilded silver tea utensils and Buddhist 
ritual objects, gth century CB. Famen Temple, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province. 

animals highlighted inside these plates came from a 
variety of cultural backgrounds: the fabulous, 
single-horned winged horse (cat. 60) recalls the 
similar creature of West Asian myths; the bear (cat. 
61) belongs to the northern forests; and the foxes 
(cat. 62) may have been inspired by Chinese folk 
tales. These repousse motifs and hammered shapes 
came to China with foreign silversmiths and their 
wares, but they left a lasting influence on China's 
native lacquer and ceramic industries. Their metallic 
shapes and relief decoration were adopted on 
Tang and Song lacquers and glazed ceramics 
(cats. 133, 138). 

During the two thousand years from the creation 
ot the first crudely made cast-bronze vessels of the 
early second millennium bce to the exquisite 
bronze and silver objects of the Tang dynasty, 
China's metalworkers invented, developed, and 
perfected the casting of bronzes using section 
molds, exploited as necessary new casting (lost-wax) 
and decorative techniques (inlaying, gilding), and 
eventually also acquired and mastered the foreign 
techniques of cold-working silver and gold. A 
multitude of forces — political, cultural, social, and 
religious — contributed to these changes and 
developments over time. The cornucopia of 
beautiful objects they produced remains as evidence 
of their remarkable achievements. 




Fig. i. After Cream of the 
Pottery from Erlitou (Beijing: 
Social Sciences Press, 1995), 
no. 161. 

Fig. 2. After WTIiomas Chase, 
Ancient Chinese Bronze Art: 
Casting the Precious Vessel 
(New York: China House Gallery, 
*9to)>M l ■ 

Fig. 3. After Zhongguo wenwu 
jinghua (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1990), no. 30, 

Fig. 4. After Houma zhutong 
yizhi (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1993), pi. 153:3- 

Fig. 9. After Hebei sheng chutu 
wenwu xuanji (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1980), no. 159. 

Fig. 10. After Henry Hodges, 
Artifacts (London: 1976), p. 72, 
fig. 10. 

Fig, 11. After Xi' an: Legacies of 
Ancient Chinese Civilization 
(Beijing: Morning Glory Press, 
1992), p. 176. 


1. 5 (1975), pi. 9, 

p. 2; and Henan sheng wenwu 
yanjiusuo, ed., Henan kaogu 
sislunian (1952-1992) 
(Zhengzhou: Henan renmin 
chubanshe, 1994), p. 176. For 
calibrated carbon- 14 dates 
ranging between 1900 and 
1500 bce obtained from wood 
remains at the site, see Kaogu, 
no. 10 (1983), pp. 923-28; and 
Institute of Archaeology, ed., 
Radiocarbon Dates in Chinese 
Archaeology (1965-1991) 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 

2. Henan sheng wenwu, Henan 
kaogu sishinian, p. 174. 

3. Much of the discussion here 
and in subsequent sections 
regarding the relationship 
between early bronze casting 
and the pottery industry is 
treated in greater detail in 
Robert Bagley, Shang Ritual 
Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler 
Collection Ancient Chinese 
Bronzes from the Arthur M. 
Sacklcr Collections, vol. 1 
(Washington, D.C. and 
Cambridge, Mass.: Arthur M. 
Sacklcr Foundation and Arthur 
M. Sacklcr Museum, Harvard 

University Press, 1987); and 
Robert Bagley, "Shang Ritual 
Bronzes: Casting Technique 
and Vessel Design," Archives of 
Asian Art 43 (1990), pp. 6-20. 

4. A detailed periodization, based 
on increasing ornateness of 
surface decoration, was first 
proposed by Max Loehr in"The 
Bronze Styles of the Anyang 
Period," Archives of the Chinese 
Art Society of America 7 (1953), 
pp. 42-53; it was further 
developed by Bagley in Shang 
Ritual Bronzes in the Sackler 
Collections, sees. 1.3— 1.8,, 

5. Wenwu jikan, no. 1 (1992), 
pp. 18-19. 

6. Henan sheng wenwu 
yanjiusuo, ed., Zhengzhou Shang 
kaogu xin faxian yu yanjiu 
(1985-1992) (Zhengzhou: 
Zhongzhou guji chubanshe, 
!993); discussions regarding the 
historical significance of the 
site are summarized in Henan 
sheng wenwu, Henan kaogu 
sishininan, pp. 201—4. 

7. Of these eight fang ding, 
two are published in Wenwu, 
no. 6 (1975), pp. 64-68, the 
larger of which is also 
illustrated and discussed in Wen 
Fong, ed.. The Great Bronze Age 
of China (New York: 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 
1980), no. 11; two more, 
identical in size and recovered 
in 1982, are published in 
Wenwu, no. 3 (1983), pp. 49-59; 
and the remaining four (83, 75, 
64, and 59 cm. high, 
respectively), found in 1996, are 
published in Zhongguo 
wenwubao,2i April 1996. All, 
including the present example 
(cat. 22), were discovered in 
caches, not burials. 

8. One vessel showed only 0.1 
percent lead, while another 
contained 17 percent lead; see 
Wenwu, no. 3 (1983), p. 59. 

9. For cat. 29, see Zhongguo 
wenwu jinghua (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1993), no. 70; for 
cat. 23, a chance find in 1938 at 
Yueshangpu, Ningxiang county, 
Hunan Province, see Kaogu, 
no. 12 (1963), p. 648. For a 
detailed discussion, including 
arguments for its likely local 
manufacture, see Fong. ed.. 
Great Bronze Age, no. 20, 

chap. 3. 

10. Hunan kaogu jikan, no. 1 
(1982), pp. 19-20. 

11. For cat. 25, see Wenwu, no. 7 
(1976), pp. 49-50; both 
examples are discussed in Fong, 
ed.. Great Bronze Age, no. 24. 

12. Wenwu, no. 7 (i960), pp. 
50-52; the find is also discussed 
in connection with Fong, ed.. 
Great Bronze Age, no. 21. 

13. The excavation is reported 
in full in Yinxu Fu Hao mu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1980); this vessel, the tomb, and 
some of the other bronzes are 
also discussed in detail in Fong, 
ed.. Great Bronze Age, 
pp. 177-81, nos. 28-33; and in 
Jessica Rawson, ed.. Mysteries of 
Ancient China (London: British 
Museum Press, 1996), pp. 

14. Wenwu, no. I (1972), 

pp. 6—7; also discussed in Fong, 
ed.. Great Bronze Age, no. 25. 

15. Wemvu, no. 4 (1978), p. 94; 
also in Fong, ed.. Great Bronze 
Age, no. 18. The other, in the 
Sen'oku Hakkokan, Kyoto, is 
discussed in Fong, ed., Great 
Bronze Age, no. 18. 

16. For earthenware drums, see 
Rawson, ed.. Mysteries of 
Ancient China, no. 8; for 
evidence of wooden drums, see 
Kaogu, no. 1 {1983), pi. 6:5, 

PP- 37~39- A pictographic 
inscription on a fang lei from 
Luoyang, Henan Province, 
shows two hands, each holding 
up a club to a drum on a 
stand: see Luoyang Cultural 
Relics Team, ed., Luoyang chutu 
wenwu jisui (Beijing: Zhaohua 
chubanshe, 1990), no. 3, 
indicating that the type, in 
bronze or another material, was 
certainly not unknown along 
the Yellow River basin. 

17. See Robert Bagley, "A 
Shang City in Sichuan 
Province." Orientations 
(November 1990), pp. 52-67. 
Selected bronzes from the 
Guanghan cache are also 
discussed m Rawson, ed., 
Mysteries of Ancient China, 

nos. 22-32. A general discussion 
of southern bronzes is 111 
Robert Bagley, "C Ihangjiang 
Bronzes and Shang 
Archaeology," Proa edings, 
International Colloquium on 
Chinese Art History, to.01. 

Antiquities, Pt. 1 (Taipei: 
National Palace Museum, 
1992), pp. 209-55. 

18. Rawson, ed.. Mysteries of 
Ancient China, no. 25. 

19. Fong, ed.. Great Bronze Age, 

chap. 5. 

20. Jessica Rawson, Western 
Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the 
Arthur M. Sackler Collections, 
Ancient Chinese Bronzes from 
the Arthur M. Sackler 
Collections, vols. I1A, IIB (New 
York and Cambridge: Arthur 
M. Sackler Foundation and 
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 
Harvard University, 1990), sect. 

2r. This lei was found with 
three other similar vessels and 
fifteen bronze weapons inside a 
large pottery urn without signs 
of an accompanying burial: see 
Kaogu, no. 6 (1981), pp. 496-99; 
also published in Zhongguo 
wenwu jinghua (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1990). no. 47. An 
earlier cache, likewise with no 
signs of accompanying burial, 
found in 1959, contained five 
similar lei, two other bronze 
vessels, and thirteen weapons; 
see Wenwu, no. n (1961), 
pp. 2S-31. 

22. Found in 1963 in Baoji 
county, Shaanxi Province; 
Wenwu, no. 1 (1966), p. 4; 
Wenwu, no. 1 (1976), pp. 60, 66, 
93; see also Fong, ed.. Great 
Bronze Age, no. 42. 

23. A detailed report of the 
tomb that yielded this vessel is 
in Lu Liancheng and Hu 
Zhisheng, Baoji Yu Guo mudi, 

2 vols. (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1988); see also 
Zhongguo wenwu jinghua 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe. 
1993). no. 74- 

24.Thc,\yN lv ' is part of a cache 
of 103 bronzes discovered in 
1976 .it Zhuangbai, Fufeng 
county, Sh.uiiM Province. Sec 
Wenwu, no. ; 1 1978), pp. 1-24. 
42; see also Fong. ed 1 
Bronze Age, no. 45. 

25. For .1 discussion of the 
"ritual revolution" during the 
Zhou period, sec Raw sou, 
Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes, 
chip 4; and Jessica Rawson and 
i G Bunker, Ancient 

Chinese ati.l i >>.. 

(Hong Kong: The Oriental 
Society of Hong Kong, 1990), 
PP- 32-38. 

26. The other two vessels in the 
set — a zun and a fang yi — are 
illustrated in Shaanxi chutu 
Shang Zhou qingtongqi: 2 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1980), nos. 15-16. 

27. This set and three additional 
bronzes formed part of a cache 
discovered at Qijiacun, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province, in 
1964; see Shaanxi chutu Shang, 
nos. 120—25. 

28. The pair is published in 
Shaanxi chutu Shang, nos. 
31-32. Part of a cache of 103 
bronzes unearthed in 1976 at 
Zhuangbai, Fufeng county, 
Shaanxi Province, the name 
"Xing" mentioned in the 
inscription of this hu also 
occurs on 32 other bronzes 
from the hoard; see Wenwu, 
no. 3 (1978), pp. 1-24; 
and Shaanxi chutu Shang. 
nos. 27-43. 

29. The finds at Pingdingshan. 
made over a period in the late 
1980s, have yet to be 
systematically published. For 
the he, see Zttongguo wenwu 
jinghua, no. 49; for the gui, see 
Zhongguo wenwu jinghua, no. 79; 
both are also published in the 
brief report on the excavations 
in Zhongguo wenwubao, 
1 September 1996. 

30. For examples of bronzes 
associated with various states. 
see Rawson, Western Zhou 
Ritual Bronzes, chap. 4; Jenny F. 
So, Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronze* 
from the Arthur M. Sacklcr 
Collections, Ancient Chinese 
Bronzes from the Arthur M 
Sackler Collections. 
(New York and Washington, 
D.< \i thin M Sackler 
Foundation and Arthur M. 
Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian 
Institution. 1995 , chaps. - -3; 
and Ja\ \u." ["he Cemetery of 
the Western Zhou Lords of 
Jin," Artibtts Asiae $6, nos. 3 4 
pp. 193-231. 

So, Eastern Zhou Ritual 
for an 

account of the site and its 
excavation nearly forty years 
ago; also 1 1 Xuting and Liang 
ng, l'h, .Iff of the Houma 
■;■ (bilingual), with 
introduction and English text 



by Jay Xu, ed. Robert Bagley 
(Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1996). 

32. More detailed discussions 
of these new foundry 
techniques are in So, Eastern 
Zhou Ritual Bronzes, chap. 4.2; 
and Robert Bagley, 
"Replication Techniques in 
Eastern Chou Bronze Casting," 
in Steven Lubar and W. David 
Kingery, eds., History from 
Tilings: Essays on Material 
Culture (Washington, D.C. and 
London: Smithsonian 
Institution, 1993), pp. 234-41. 

33. Wenwu, no. 9 (1989), 

cpl. 2:1; see also no. 213. 1; So, 
Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes, 
chap. 4.2 and app. i:4G for a 
detailed discussion of the 

34. See Barbara W. Keyser, 
"Decor Replication in Two 
Late Chou Bronze Chien," Ars 
Orientalis n (1979), pp. 127-62; 
and Robert Bagley, "What the 
Bronzes from Hunyuan TelJ Us 
about the Foundry at Houma" 
Orientations (July 1995), 

pp. 20-36. 

35. Zhongguo wenwu jinghua, 
no. 49; for a similar type from 
Jiangsu Province, see Wenwu, 
no. 5 (1984), pi.: left. 

^6. Lu Liancheng and Hu 
Zhisheng, Baoji Yu Guo mudi, 2 
vols. (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1988), cpl. 18; the 
same tomb also yielded two 
bird-shaped vessels (ibid., 
cpl. 19). 

37. Wenum, no. 5 (1966), p. 70; 
similar bells in the Shanghai 
Museum, the Sen'oku 
Hakkokan, Kyoto, and the 
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 
Smithsonian Institution, are 
discussed in Fong, ed., Great 
Bronze Age, no. 58; Rawson, 
Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes, 
no. 129; and Lothar von 
Falkenhausen and Thomas D 
Rossing, "Acoustical and 
Musical Studies on the Sackler 
Bells," in So, Eastern Zhou 
Ritual Bronzes, p. 440. 

38. For Shang dynasty 
prototypes, see Bagley, Shang 
Ritual Bronzes in the Sackler 
Collections, no. 104; also Lothar 
von Falkenhausen, Suspended 
Musk: Chime-bells in the Culture 
of Bronze Age China (Berkeley 
and Los Angeles: University of 
California Press, 1993); and 
Falkenhausen and Rossing, 
"Acoustical and Musical 

39. Wenwu, no. 9 (19S9), pi. 2:2. 

40. For a detailed discussion of 

the type, see So, Eastern Zhou 
Ritual Bronzes, nos. 39-40; and 
Jenny F. So and Emma C. 
Bunker, Traders and Raiders on 
Chinas Northern Frontier 
(Washington, D.C. and Seattle: 
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 
Smithsonian Institution and 
University ofWashington 
Press, 1995), no. 20, chap. 3. 

41. So, Eastern Zhou Ritual 
Bronzes, chap. 6.2, app. i:6D. 

42. For cat. 28, see Wu Hung, 
"A Sampan Shan Chariot 
Ornament and the Xiangrui 
Design in Western Han Art " 
Archives of Asian Art 37 (1984), 
pp. 38-59- 

43. This is discussed in Emma 
C. Bunker, "Sources of Foreign 
Elements in the Culture of 
Eastern Zhou," in George 
Kuwayama, ed.. The Great 
Bronze Age of China: A 
Symposium (Los Angeles: Los 
Angeles County Museum of 
Art, 1983). 

44. This is discussed in greater 
detail in Jenny F. So, "Hu 
Vessels from Xinzheng: Toward 
a Definition of Chu Style," in 
Kuwayama, Symposium, 

pp. 64-71. 

45. For cat. 6, see Fong, ed., 
Great Bronze Age, no. 67; So, 
Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes, 
chap. 3.2, app. i:3D; for cat. 11, 
see Zhongguo wenwu jinghua, 
no. 83, where the pair is 
shown; and Rawson, ed., 
Mysteries of Ancient China, 

no. 61. 

46. For a discussion of lost-wax 

casting, see Bagley, Shang Ritual 
Bronzes in the Sackler Collections, 
chap. 2.6; and So, Eastern Zhou 
Ritual Bronzes, pp. 35, 53—54. 

47. Fong, ed., Great Bronze Age, 
no. 95. 

48. Fong, ed., Great Bronze Age, 
no. 97; the find is reported in 
Yunnan finning Shizhaishan 
gumuqunfajue baogao, 2 vols. 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 

49. So and Bunker, Traders and 
Raiders, pp. 23, 34-35; also 
nos. 1, 3, 11. 

50. For these later trends and 
developments, see So, Eastern 
Zhou Ritual Bronzes, chaps. 3.2, 
4—6; and Fong, ed., Great 
Bronze Age, chaps. 8—9. 

51. For a prototype, see an 
example in the Asian Art 
Museum of San Francisco: 
Rene-Yvon Lefebvre 
d'Argence, Bronze Vessels of 
Ancient China in the Avery 

Brundage Collection (San 
Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 
1977), pi. 43: top left. 

52. For examples of such 
"archaisms," see So, Eastern 
Zhou Ritual Bronzes, nos. 1, 5, 
62, 80; Jenny F. So, "The Many 
Faces of the Past in Eastern 
Zhou Bronzes" (paper 
presented at the "Mysteries of 
Ancient China" conference, 
British Museum, London, 6-8 
December 1996); and Li and 
Liang, Art of the Houma 
Foundr)', pp. 13—14 (English 
summary on p. 83). 

53. Shaanxi chutu Sluing, no. 52; 
and Sanjin kaogu, no. 1 (1994), 
PP- r 7- 

54. For cat. 9, see Zhongguo 
kaogu wenwu zhi mei (6): 
Zhanguo Xianyu lingmu qizhen, 
Hebci Pingshau Zhongshan 
guowang mu (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1994}, cpl. 56 and 
drawings on pp. 156—57 for a 
wide range of examples; one of 
these is discussed in Fong, ed., 
Great Bronze Age, no. 94. 

55. For a study of exotics in 
Tang society, see Edward H. 
Schafer, The Golden Peaches of 
Samarkand: A Study of Tang 
Exotics (Berkeley and Los 
Angeles: University of 
California Press, 1963). 

56. Wenbo, no. 5 (1987), 

PP- 79 — 80, pi. 4: top. This is one 
of two identical dragons 
recovered in a chance find in 
the southern suburb of XTan. 
Its mate is damaged beyond 

57. For discussions of gold and 
silver as foreign materials in 
ancient China, see Emma C. 
Bunker, "Gold in the Ancient 
Chinese World: A Cultural 
Puzzle," Artibus Asiae 53, 

nos. 1/2 (1993), pp. 27-50; and 
Emma C. Bunker, "The 
Enigmatic Role of Silver in 
China," Orientations 
(November 1994), pp. 73-74. 

58. Reported in Kaogu yu 
wenwu, no. 2 (1988), pp. 94-106; 
and Wenwu, no. 10 (1988), 

pp. 1-43. 

59. See Wenwu, no. 1 (1972), 
pp. 30-42; and Kaogu, no. 6 

(1980), pp. 536-41. 



So Fine a Luster: 

Chinese Lacquerwares 

The objects grouped together as lacquers 
{qiqi) share the common feature of being 
coated with a durable substance derived 
from the sap of the tree rims verniciflua, a 
native of China. The Chinese have lon«; 
valued the durability of this material and 
admired its inherent beauty. Its sumptu- 
ous surfaces and broad range of applica- 
tions have made it a favorite of members 

Michael Knight 

Curator of Chinese Art, Asian Art 
Museum of San Francisco 


of the court, the aristocracy, religious groups, and 
wealthy merchants. Lacquers have also served as 
valued objects of trade. And yet lacquer, for all its 
lustrousness and durability, has never been translated 
into symbol, a curious omission in China, where so 
many other materials have acquired symbolic 

In the writings of the scholar-gentry, many forms 
of lacquer were associated with excessive wealth 
and extravagance, with the women's quarters, and 
with the imperial court; therefore only select types 
of the medium are found in objects made for the 
scholar class. 1 The primary exception is furniture. 
For most furniture, a single coat or a few thin coats 
were applied to protect a softwood core. Only the 
most expensive pieces of lacquered furniture, such 
as the examples from the imperial workshops, were 
covered with multiple layers and decorated in 
techniques discussed below.- This attitude has also 
affected the study of the material, which, until 
recent decades, has been viewed primarily as a 
minor decorative art. For certain periods in 
Chinese history, however, and for the social classes 
who patronized it, lacquer was a medium of great 
value and significance. 

Lacquer production is a long process, beginning 
with gathering the sap of the lacquer tree by 
making small slits in the bark and collecting the 
secretion. The raw sap is a thick, creamy substance 
filled with impurities; initial steps in preparing the 
material include filtering through cloth of varying 
fineness until the desired purity is achieved and 
allowing excess water to evaporate. Once purified, 
the clear, viscous, amber liquid is ready to be 
applied to a core. These cores have traditionally 
been wood or fabric, but sometimes are made from 
other materials such as leather, ceramic, or even 
bronze. 3 

Raw lacquer contains very high concentrations of 
urushiol. 4 Under the right conditions, including 
high humidity and temperatures between 60 and 85 
degrees Fahrenheit, urushiol undergoes a chemical 
change and forms a natural polymer having many 
of the properties of modern plastics: it is 
impervious to water and to many chemicals, and 
stable throughout a range of temperatures; 
depending on the material used for the core, the 
lacquered object can also be extremely lightweight. 

In its raw state urushiol is very caustic, therefore 
only a limited number of stable pigments can be 
used to color it. The most common colors for 
lacquer are red, black, brown, and yellow. Certain of 
these colors, such as red, had their own significance 
in Chinese culture, and considerable effort was 
expended in mining and refining them. 

Cinnabar, the pigment used to color red lacquer, is 
a crystalline form of mercuric sulfide. Deposits of 
this mineral are found in many parts of China, and 
its ubiquity along with its stability makes it an ideal 
pigment for use in lacquer. Red was also an 
auspicious color for the Chinese, and cinnabar was 
sprinkled in tombs as early as the Neolithic period 
(ca. 7000— ca. 2000 bce). Cinnabar was also thought 
to have magical powers and was one of the main 
ingredients in "elixirs of immortality" concocted 
during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 bce— 220 
Ce). Once suspended in the matrix of the lacquer 
polymer, this substance becomes a stable pigment. 

During much of the Bronze Age in China cinnabar 
red lacquer was applied to the interiors of wood 
coffins and vessels, a further indication of its special 

Carbon was the primary pigment for black in early 
lacquers; because it is not entirely stable in urushiol, 
it often yielded a dull and brownish hue. The desire 
for a pure and glossy black surface led later lacquer 
artists to employ pickled iron, often mixed with 
arsenic. Yellow was accomplished through the use of 
orpiment. Brown, in a range of tones, is the natural 
color of lacquered wood; other more opaque 
browns can be obtained through the addition of 

To enlarge the available palette, methods were 
developed to add pigments to the surface of 
lacquer. Among these was suspending pigments in 
oils from the tong tree and painting them onto the 
lacquered surface. Inlays of sheets of precious 
metals, shells, mother-of-pearl, colored stones, glass, 
and a broad range of other materials as well as the 
suspension of powdered metals in lacquer were also 
important decorative techniques. 

There are five principal applications for lacquer: as 
a protective coating; as a paint to apply two- 
dimensional decoration; as an adhesive; as a resin 
that, in combination with other mediums, creates a 
product of superior strength and durability; and as a 
medium for carving. These applications are not 
mutually exclusive, and it is common to find two 
or more present in any given object. 

The earliest use of lacquer must have been as a 
protective coating, and this remained one of its 
primary functions. Thick and viscous, lacquer is 
difficult to paint with. Nevertheless, Chinese 
lacquer artisans achieved remarkable results, and 
some of the earliest surviving evidence of Chinese 
attempts at painting are in this medium. 

Use as an adhesive was another early and enduring 
application of lacquer. Because it is sticky when 
wet, adheres to most materials, and cures to create a 



durable bond, lacquer is ideal for this purpose. By 
exploiting these qualities, artisans working in 
lacquer are able to inlay or adhere a range of 
materials to surfaces, thus vastly expanding the 
decorative potential of their medium. 

Like modern fiberglass resin, wet lacquer is 
absorbed by wood and fabrics; when it has cured, it 
creates a material that is much stronger than either 
of the two substances separately. Fabric can be 
soaked in lacquer and molded, creating a vessel or 
sculpture that will retain the molded shape. Applied 
to a wood core, lacquer will form a lightweight, 
strong, and, if desired, elaborately shaped vessel or 
object of considerable strength and durability. 

A sophisticated understanding of the medium was 
required before carved lacquers could be created. In 
order to undergo the chemical change required for 
curing, lacquer must be applied in very thin coats. 
The thick coverings necessary for carving are 
achieved by applying multiple coats. The most 
complex carved lacquers might have a thin wood 
core reinforced with a layer of lacquer-impregnated 
cloth; over that, base coats created by adding 
combinations of ash, rice paste, wood powder, or 
fine clay to lacquer; and multiple finish coats of 
refined lacquer. Each coat has special qualities of 
sealing, filling, leveling, and finishing, and must be 
applied in the proper conditions and in proper 
sequence. Since each coat must cure and be 
mechanically smoothed before another is added, the 
thickest applications can require as much as a year 
from the initial coat to the final finish. 5 

EARLY CHINA (CA. 3000 BCE-220 CE) 

In the past, much of the study of early Chinese art 
has been focused on the nonperishable materials of 
bronze, jade, and ceramics. In part this was due to 
the interest of Chinese antiquarians, who were 
most interested in those materials mentioned in 
their Classics — bronzes (particularly those with 
inscriptions) and jades. Early Western studies of 
bronzes and jades followed similar lines, with a 
greater emphasis on surface decoration and form. 
Their advanced technologies and intrinsic beauty 
have long made Chinese ceramics a focus of 
Western scholarship. Rarely did objects of 
lacquered wood or other perishable substances 
survive to enter a museum or a private collection 
and allow a glance into their early development. 

During the past few decades, however, archaeology 
has provided a more complete record of these 
perishable materials. Lacquered objects have been 
found in considerable numbers in tombs dating as 
early as 3000 BCE and have provided indications of 
some of the developments in use and style in a 
medium employed primarily as a paint. Combined 
with a number of textiles dating between the late 

fourth and early second century bce, these lacquers 
have provided a far broader understanding of 
artistic endeavors in two-dimensional mediums 
during this period of China's history. 

In early China lacquer trees, and therefore the 
production centers of lacquers, were most common 
along the Changjiang (Yangzi River) from Sichuan 
to Zhejiang provinces. Unlike bronze foundries and 
ceramic kilns, which required substantial industrial 
equipment and left many traces where they were 
set up, lacquer required only areas for refining the 
raw material and brushes and other perishable tools 
for its application. No sites of early lacquer 
production have been located. 

A cup excavated in 1978 from a site of the 
Neolithic Weizhi culture atYuyaohe, Zhejiang 
Province, is the earliest known Chinese lacquered 
vessel. 6 Made of a wood core coated with red 
lacquer, it dates between 5000 and 3000 bce. The 
application of colored lacquer to a wooden base 
attests to an advanced technique; it is likely that 
lacquer had been in use for some time before this 
cup was created. The remains of early Bronze Age 
lacquers found in Shang dynasty sites in Anyang, 
Henan Province, and elsewhere indicate that 
lacquer technology advanced rapidly during this 
period. Most Shang dynasty lacquers have a red 
ground with designs of taotie (abstract zoomorphic 
masks), leiwen ("thunder patterns," which take the 
form of squared spirals), and other motifs derived 
from bronze decor of the time. 

The use of lacquer as an adhesive was also known 
during the Shang dynasty, as attested by surviving 
objects inlaid with the shell of fresh-water clams, 
turquoise, ivory, and sheets of gold foil. Western 
Zhou (ca. 1 100— 771 bce) lacquers from north China 
show that lacquer continued to be used extensively 
as an adhesive during this period as well. 7 

Two major artistic developments from the sixth to 
the third century bce were the creation of a 
painterly style and ot a representational art; lacquers 
are among the major surviving examples of both. 
Lacquered vessels with smooth, curved surfaces 
devoid of relief or other three-dimensional 
patterns, and large lacquered wood objects with Hat 
surfaces, such as tomb chambers and coffins, relied 
exclusively upon contrasts in lacquer colors tor 

The majority of surviving lacquers dating from the 
Spring and Autumn (770-476 bce) and Warring 
Si. lies (475-221 BCE) periods come from what was 
then the kingdom of Chu. 1 OCated along the 
central Changjiang basin. Chu enjoyed .1 favorable 
climate, advanced agricultural techniques, an 
abundance of natural resources, and .1 network of 



commerce and trade. It was a wealthy state, and this 
wealth supported a flourishing of arts and crafts in a 
pronounced regional style. Happily, the realm of 
Chu coincided with the area of distribution of rhus 
vemkifiua, making it possible for the artists of Chu 
to paint in lacquer. The flexibility of painting (as 
compared, say, to casting in bronze) gave the artists 
of Chu greater freedom to express the unique 
nature of their culture; many of their lacquerwares 
are powerful and evocative, others approach the 

Changsha in Hunan Province has long been 
associated with early lacquers. From at least the 
ninth century bce to the time of the fall of the 
state in 221 bce, Changsha was an important Chu 
city. It was located at the very southern reaches of 
the state's territory, far from the capitals along the 
banks of the Changjiang. Excavated materials and 
contemporary texts confirm its importance to Chu 
as a center of trade with regions even farther south. 
Many of the Chu tombs found there belong to 
members of the lower aristocracy and perhaps even 
of the merchant class. 

Changsha remained an influential political center in 
southern China during the Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) and served as the capital for a state 
that, while under Han rule, retained a great deal of 
autonomy and local leadership. In 1972 a series of 
tombs belonging to the ruling family of the state 
centered at Changsha was excavated at the suburb 
of Mawangdui.The arts found in them reveal a 
continuity with earlier Chu materials combined 
with an awareness of Han philosophical and 
religious practices. 

The Han period residents of Changsha used 
lacquer in a very wide variety of forms. The vast 
majority, if not all, of these objects have wood 
cores. By far the largest existing pieces are three 
lacquered coffins (fig. 1) that formed a nested set. 
Their very scale, together with the descriptions 
found in contemporary or slightly earlier texts such 
as the Churi ("Songs of the South"), hint at the 
extensive use of lacquer in architecture as well. 8 

Only a small number of bronze vessels in traditional 
shapes were found in the Mawangdui tombs; rather, 
sets of these vessels were created in lacquer (cat. 
66). 9 This clearly reflects changing attitudes toward 
these two materials and the rising status of lacquer. 
Early Western Han writings indicate that a lacquer 
vessel might cost ten times as much as a comparable 
piece in bronze. 

Also found in the tombs at Mawangdui were 
lacquer boxes in great variety, including picnic sets 
(cat. 67), toiletries boxes (cat. 68), and document 
boxes, among others. Nested containers (cat. 67) 

■ AY. ■.*■ .*:' ,'■> i: > K~. 

Fig. 1. Set of lacquered wood coffins from Mawangdui 
tomb No. 1 . 

and matched sets of vessels were enormously 
popular, and great precision was required to create 
outer boxes that would exactly fit their contents. 

During the Western Han dynasty the Chinese lived 
at floor level: all seated activities customarily took 
place on platforms or on mat-covered platforms; 
large-scale raised chairs and tables and other 
furniture of corresponding scale were not yet in 
vogue. The impact of this custom on the 
preparation and presentation of food is quite 
apparent in the lacquers found in the Mawangdui 
tombs. Food for the deceased had been laid out in 
a variety ot dishes (fig. 2) assembled on large trays 
(cats. 69, 70). The large rectangular tray (cat. 70) 
could well have served as a small portable table. 
Low screens found in the Mawangdui tombs (fig. 3) 
are the ideal height to have deflected drafts and 
preserved privacy for the floor-sitting occupants of 
Han interiors. 

Swirling abstract patterns compose most of the 
designs on the lacquers from the Mawangdui 
tombs. The sources for these designs can be found 
in the curvilinear designs on lacquers and inlaid 
bronzes of the late Warring States period. By the 
Western Han dynasty, however, these patterns had 
come to resemble clouds and served religious as 
well as decorative purposes. On the surface of one 
of the coffins from Mawangdui tomb Number 1 
(fig. 4), these clouds are occupied by a multitude of 
strange and wonderful beasts. Beliefs in paradises 
inhabited by immortals became increasingly 
widespread during the early Western Han. The 
Chuci ("Songs of the South"), a collection largely of 
late Warring States date, describes these paradises; 
many of them exist in the sky among just such 
clouds and are occupied by just such fantastic 
creatures as are depicted on this coffin. 10 

Magical clouds were also thought to be omens of 
good fortune and, as such, played an important role 



in xiangrui, a constellation of beliefs that was well 
developed by the Western Han. In simple terms, the 
Han Chinese believed that, by surrounding oneself 
with auspicious omens and designs, one could 
attract good fortune and, perhaps more important, 
ward off bad fortune. Thus cloud patterns are 
common on eating utensils, burial goods, textiles, 
and any number of other objects of the time. 

Most of the lacquers at Mawangdui were decorated 
in the traditional palette of red and black, using 
relatively few coats of lacquer. Some of the more 
finely finished works (cats. 66, 69, 70) are decorated 
with alternating bands of solid red and patterned 
black, with cloud patterns appearing in red on the 
black bands. The narrow borders also hold abstract 
patterns executed in red on black, but these tend to 
be simple and rather broadly conceived, clearly 
distinguishable from the cloud patterns that serve as 
the main decor in the black bands. 

Among the exceptions to the red-and-black color 
scheme are one of the coffins (fig. 4) and a small 
number of boxes (cat. 68). These share a black 
lacquer ground on which raised lines of lacquer 
outline multicolored cloud patterns. The palette of 
the clouds includes ochers, reds, gray-greens, and 

Also found in limited numbers at Mawangdui are 
boxes and other objects with decoration created by 
incising (zhuihua), a relatively new technique; the 
earliest excavated examples known to date come 
from the Warring States period. The decoration was 
created by scratching the surface of the outermost 
lacquer layer with a sharp burin. Although the 
incisions are not deep enough to reveal underlying 
layers, they create very fine, crisp, linear patterns. 
Zhuihua might be seen as the beginnings of the 
carved lacquer tradition, which reached full 
maturity over a millennium later. Most of the 
designs on this group of lacquers consist of xiangrui 
patterns and depictions of immortal paradises or 
hunting scenes. The covered box (cat. 71) is a 
typical example. In many cases the incised 
decoration is found on the inside surfaces of the 
piece, while the exterior is decorated in more 
traditional techniques. 

Inscriptions on lacquers of the third and second 
century bce include makers' names, numbers, and 
other information from which we may deduce that 
many lacquers of this period were produced near 
Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Similar inscribed 
lacquers as well as records in historical documents 
confirm the contemporaneous production of 
lacquers in Shandong, Henan, Guangdong, and 
Guangxj provinces." These areas continued to be 
important centers of lacquer production for most of 
China's history. 

Fig. 2. Lacquered wood tray, vessels, and utensils from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1 . 

Fig. 3. Lacquered wood screen from Mawangdui tomb 

No. 1. 


Very few lacquers dating from the Eastern Han 
dynasty (25-220 ce) to the end of the Tang dynasty 
(618-907) have survived in China. Only indirect 
evidence from materials found in Japan and from 
scattered Chinese border sites indicates that lacquer 
technology continued to develop and that new 
processes were introduced for the production of 
luxury goods, vessels, and furniture. During this 
period various sects of Buddhism became 
important institutional patrons for the lacquer arts; 
their demands for lightweight sculpture, implements 
for worship, and specialized storage containers 
contributed to such innovations as dry-lacquer 
(tuolai) sculpture. 

Ting power extended far into Central Asia, and the 
Tang hereditary elite, from the north of China, had 
both blood and political ties to the cultures of that 
region, foreign luxury goods, .ill the more desirable 
for being exotic, provided still competition for 
native luxuries such .is lacquerwares.The artisans 
working in lacquer responded with .1 wide range ol 



Fig. 4. Lacquered wood coffin from Mawangdui tomb 

No. 1. 

new effects: cutwork designs of precious metal leaf 
or foil might be applied to the surface of the 
lacquerware, covered with several layers of lacquer, 
then the whole rubbed just till the gleaming metal 
emerged flush with the surrounding lacquer, a 
technique called pingtuo; or patterns might be created 
in the lacquerware by inlaying thin sheets of mother- 
of-pearl or other iridescent shells. Both these 
techniques are found on mirror backs, mirror cases, 
musical instruments, and a variety of other objects. 

During the middle and late Tang dynasty a series of 
events occurred that profoundly affected lacquer 
production and attitudes toward it and a variety of 
other materials. The An Lushan rebellion of 755 
vastly diminished the political and economic power 
of the Tang hereditary elite. During the remainder 
of the Tang dynasty other societal groups emerged 
as the principal arbiters of taste. They often showed 
a preference for native materials, including lacquer 
in more traditional forms. 

As the political fortunes of the Tang ruling clans 
declined, China's borders contracted and the 
Central Asian trade routes were interrupted by 
foreign conquest. This encouraged the resurgence 
of native traditions in the arts, which continued 
through the Five Dynasties period (907-960) and 
on into the Song dynasty (960-1279). An increased 
emphasis on the tenets of Confucianism, a rise in 
Daoism and certain forms of Buddhism, and the 
development of strong regional patronage for a 

variety of arts marked this long period of time. 

During this period tea became a national obsession. 
The need for vessels and implements to prepare, 
present, and drink this beverage, along with those 
for the foods that came to be associated with it, also 
had a broad-ranging impact on such mediums as 
ceramics and lacquers. 

The artistic movements brought about by these 
changes in attitude and patronage were fully 
realized during the Song dynasty. Influenced by 
Confucian principles and inspired by conscious 
archaism, the people of the Song took renewed 
interest in the arts and philosophies of the Han 
dynasty and earlier. Cut off by hostile neighbors 
from the foreign influences that had been so strong 
during the earlier centuries of the Tang dynasty, 
Song dynasty artists innovated within traditional 
Chinese mediums. Among these was lacquer. 

Song dynasty innovations in lacquer included 
making lighter and stronger cores, rendering details 
of the decoration in relief by means of a moldable 
paste made by adding materials such as fine clay or 
ash to liquid lacquer, and applying sufficient 
numbers of layers to allow deep carving in the 
lacquer. Many of the pieces created during this 
period were elegant utilitarian vessels and domestic 
furniture. Others were specially designed to serve in 
Buddhist ritual practices. 

The lacquer cup stand (fig. 5) illustrates many of 
these patronage and artistic issues. Designed for the 
display or presentation of a cup, it is a prime 
example of the group of objects that were created 


for the service of tea. Its pleasing shape and 
decoration in subtle shades of brownish red lacquer 
are typical of the ceramics and other wares that 
were designed for tea enthusiasts. 

Among other motives, the need for elegant, 
portable, yet sturdy implements for serving tea and 
displaying tea wares inspired considerable 
experimentation with new core forms during the 
Song dynasty. X-rays of a six-petaled dish in the 
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a pair of five- 
lobed dishes on loan to the Asian Art Museum of 
San Francisco, and a five-lobed dish in the Freer 
Gallery of Art reveal that their cores consist of 
single or multiple pieces of wood for the center, to 
which woven wood sides are joined. This allowed 
enough thickness in the sides to carve decoration 
and made a light yet strong object. 12 In basic body 
type and thickness the cup stand (fig. 5) is similar to 
this group. 

Because they have long been removed from their 
original context, the use and patrons for this type 
of lacquer are subject to conjecture. In shape the 
cup stand in figure 5 relates to ceramics such as 
Ding ware, which was made for the imperial court 
during the Northern Song. Chan Buddhism 
influenced many of the arts of the Song dynasty, 
and lacquer was no exception. It is likely that this 
piece was created for the Chan-influenced tea 
ceremony that became prevalent in China during 
the Song dynasty, perhaps to hold a small tea bowl. 
The costly materials establish that the patrons were 
among the wealthy elite of the time. 

Lacquered wood also proved to be the perfect 
medium for creating elaborate and decorative 
storage boxes for sutras and other Buddhist 
paraphernalia. A vertical box (cat. 72) and a sutra 
container in the form of nested boxes (cat. 73), all 
quite large, have been found at the site of the 
Huiguang Pagoda, built in 1043 at Ruian, Zhejiang 
Province. They have been identified as products of 
Wenzhou in the same province, one of the most 
famous centers for lacquer production during the 
Song dynasty. The vertical box (cat. 72), identified as 
a reliquary, is decorated on all four sides with 
Buddhist scenes. The pair of nested boxes (cat. 73), 
also ornate, held Buddhist scriptures. Although all 
three are relatively simple shapes, they represent 
some new departures in decoration and decorative 

The overall base color of both the reliquary and the 
outer sutra box is light brown, with a band of red 
on the top section of the reliquary. Applied to the 
surface of both are extensive areas of floral 
decoration, auspicious animals, and Buddhist figures 
created from raised areas of molded or embossed 
lacquer. Portions of the molded floral designs were 

Fig. 5 . Lacquered wood cup stand. Northern Song 
dynasty (960-1127). H. 6.5 cm, cup diam. 8.4 cm, 
saucer diam. 14.2 cm. Unearthed at Hanyang, Shilipu, 
Wuhan county, Hubei Province. Hubei Provincial 
Museum, Wuhan. 

originally highlighted by applications of gold dust 
suspended in lacquer. In addition, seed pearls were 
inlaid into the lacquer to emphasize certain aspects 
of the design. The beginnings of the raised lacquer 
technique can be seen in the box from Mawangdui 
(cat. 68). We also know from materials preserved in 
the Shdso-in, in Japan, that both relief and inlaid 
designs were popular during the Tang dynasty. 1 -' On 
the Northern Song reliquary and sutra boxes these 
techniques are used in a very sophisticated manner 
to frame the areas of pictorial design and to create 
major decorative motifs in relief. 

On each vertical side of the reliquary floral scrolls 
frame a scene of Guanym, the Buddhist deity of 
mercy and attendant to Amitabha Buddha. These 
scenes are painted in lacquer pigmented with 
powdered gold. On the outer sutra box are images 
of Buddhist deities seated on lotus blossoms and a 
series of auspicious animals and birds, all in molded 
lacquer. The inner sutra box is elaborately decorated 
with scrolling floral designs painted in gold lacquer. 


Profound changes occurred during the brief 
Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) that had a 
deep impact on Chinese society and the art'-. 
Forced from their traditional role m the Confucian 
bureaucracy, many of the educated elite turned to 
the arts as .1 vocation and refuge. Patronage patterns 
also changed dramatically during this period. 
Although Chan and other forms of Buddhism 
remained strong supporters of the arts, the Yuan 



court did not patronize the arts in the same fashion 
as had the Song. Instead, the wealthy landed gentry, 
particularly those in the south, became the primary 
patrons of a broad range of artistic activities. 

Many of the better-known literati artists became 
long-term house guests of these wealthy gentry, 
offering paintings in return for hospitality. The 
gentry also supported such endeavors as the 
immensely popular plays and novels of the time. 
Not surprisingly, the larger-than-life heroes and 
villains of these works, whether fictional or 
semihistorical, were the subject of many of the art 
objects commissioned by the wealthy. Some appear 
as topics of lacquer decoration. 

Several lacquer techniques initiated during the 
Song dynasty were fully developed during the Yuan 
dynasty. Following Song precedents, the cores of 
many Yuan dynasty plates were made in several 
sections, out of very thin wood. In Yuan examples, 
the pieces that made up the well of the plate were 
laid with their grain perpendicular to the grain of 
the pieces making up the cavetto and rim. ' 4 This 
technique strengthened the very thin, lightweight 
core so that it did not check or shrink as easily as 
the thicker, single-piece cores of the Warring States 
period and Han dynasty. These complex cores were 
susceptible to warpage, however, a problem found 
in many of the large plates of the Yuan dynasty. 

Carved lacquer (diaoqi) was one of the more 
impressive developments in the medium during the 
late Song and on into the Yuan and Ming dynasties. 
Although a complex and time-consuming process, 
this technique offered a broader range of visual 
effects than the molded and applied lacquer 
decoration seen in the Buddhist reliquary and sutra 
boxes discussed above (cats. 72, 73). By the end of 
the Yuan dynasty carving in lacquer had almost 
entirely replaced molded and applied decoration. 

One of the most complex of the core types 
described above, cloaked to a considerable depth by 
multiple coats of lacquer, would be employed as the 
blank for a piece of carved lacquer. In most cases, 
the first several finish coats would be followed by 
two or three coats of a contrasting color of lacquer, 
which would serve as a depth guide for the carver, 
preventing him from carving through the finish 
coats into the core itself. 

<travagant amount of time and energy was 
required before the blank was even ready for 

ving. The finest carved lacquers of the Ming and 
Jing could have as many as two hundred coats of 
lacquer, each requiring a day or more to cure and 
to be buffed before another could be applied. 15 The 
cost in human terms for carved lacquer must also 
have been very high. Breathing the dust created 

while carving through layers of cinnabar red 
(mercuric sulfide) and orpiment (arsenic) must have 
devastated the artisans' health. But we know very 
little about the personal lives or working conditions 
of the artisan class. 

Many of the carved lacquers of the Yuan dynasty 
are large platters or plates. Many of these, like many 
of the Yuan dynasty blue-and- white porcelains, 
were too large for traditional Chinese use; 
furthermore, deeply carved designs rendered them 
less than ideal for any practical purpose. Most of 
them must have been meant for display. The large 
porcelains were often made for foreign markets, and 
this may also have been true for the lacquers. 
Flowers-and-birds or overall abstract cloud-like 
designs were the usual motifs. In general, these 
pieces are dark brown or black, although examples 
also exist in red. 

Figural scenes are relatively rare on the carved 
lacquers of the Yuan dynasty. The covered box 
(cat. 74) is a superb example of this type. Even rarer 
are dated examples, and this one bears a date 
corresponding to 1351. 16 Almost no other dated 
Yuan dynasty lacquers have survived. The scene on 
this box, like those on many of the underglaze 
decorated porcelains of the period, is drawn from a 
contemporary novel or play. Patrons of such 
lacquers must have included the wealthy gentry, the 
same people who would have sponsored the novels 
and plays and purchased the porcelains and other 
objects decorated with scenes from them. Not only 
are the designs different from those on the lacquers 
intended for the tea ceremony or for Buddhist uses, 
but the color of figural lacquers is almost always 
cinnabar red rather than black or brown. 

The popularity of deeply carved lacquer continued 
in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Beginning with 
the reign of the Yongle emperor (1403— 1424), boxes 
and other objects in deeply carved cinnabar lacquer 
began to be produced under imperial patronage. 
The covered box illustrated here (cat. 75) 
exemplifies fifteenth-century developments in 
carved lacquers either made at imperial workshops 
in the capital or commissioned by the court. Such 
lacquers served both as utilitarian items in the court 
and as luxury gifts bestowed by the emperor or his 
emissaries on special occasions. 

The subject of the scene on this box is similar to 
that on the Yuan dynasty box discussed above 
(cat. 74). It has a strong narrative content, with a 
main figure standing on an open terrace. His 
servant stands directly behind him, while another 
scholar busies himself in an open building. Pictorial 
space on this Ming box is more developed than on 
the Yuan dynasty piece: the number of elements has 
increased considerably, and their relationships are 



more rational. Other developments are the 
extensive use of diaper patterns as background or to 
indicate sky or water and the replacement of the 
abstract patterns on the sides of the Yuan box with 
various auspicious flowers. On a majority of 
fifteenth-century covered boxes the sides are 
similarly decorated. 

By the Ming dynasty the mil range of decorative 
techniques was employed in the creation of 
lacquers: painted lacquer, lacquer overpainted with 
other materials; carved lacquer (diaoqi); "engraved 
gold' 1 (qiangjin), a design consisting of incised 
outlines inlaid with gold dust over wet lacquer; 
incised and in-filled lacquer (tianqi or diaotian), a 
further development of qiangjin, in which the area 
within the gold-filled outline was painted with a 
contrasting-colored lacquer; and inlaid lacquer. 
Throughout the Ming dynasty the number of 
imperial commissions for lacquer varied with 
fluctuations in taste, economic conditions, and 
doubtless other factors. The reign of the Jiajing 
emperor (1522-1566) was a period of high 
production for all court-related arts, including 
lacquer. Dynastic power was in decline during the 
reign of this emperor, who abdicated almost all his 
authority to court eunuchs. The Jiajing emperor's 
fascination with Daoism distracted him further 
from affairs of state, but was a major influence on 
the arts commissioned by his court. This emperor 
spent great amounts of shrinking imperial funds on 
art. Production at imperially supervised factories 
and workshops was high, but quality often was not. 

A final burst of imperially commissioned artistic 
activity marked the reign of the Wanli emperor 
(1573— 1620). Like the Jiajing emperor, the Wanli 
emperor ignored the need to strengthen a 
government that had been weakened by decades of 
corruption and poor leadership and instead 
squandered time and resources on artistic 
production. By the final years of his reign the Ming 
court no longer had the financial resources to 
commission works of art in great numbers or of 
superior quality. By that time, however, other 
segments of the population had become significant 
patrons of the lacquer arts, chiefly members of the 
wealthy merchant class. Their particular social 
station and tastes created demands for a variety of 
lacquer types, often tending toward the highly 
ornate. Many of the spectacular examples of 
mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquers of the late Ming 
and early Qing were intended for them. 

THE QING DYNASTY (1644-1911) 
Under the Manchu rule of the Qing dynasty, 
imperial support for the lacquer arts resumed 
during the reign of the Kangxi emperor 
(1662-1722) and reached a peak during the reign of 
the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795)- Examples in 

the full range of techniques and of the highest 
quality were produced during this period. As with 
many court-supported arts, production of lacquer 
declined during the nineteenth century. Lacquer 
production for the merchant class and for a 
growing export market continued, and was the 
main source of support for the medium into the 
twentieth century. 


Fig. 1 . After Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
("Him tomb No. l at Mawangdui, 
Changsha") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1973), vol. 2, pi. 26. 

Fig. 2. After Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
("Han tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui, 
Changsha") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1973), vol. 2, pi. 160. 

Fig. 3. After Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
("Han tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui, 
Changsha ") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1973), vol. 2, pi. 192. 

Fig. 4. After Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
("Han tomb No. 1 at Mawangdui, 
Changsha") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1973), vol. 2, pi 27. 

Fig. 5. After Elizabeth Childs- 
Johnson, "Jades of the Hongshan 
Culture," Arts Asiariques 36. 


1. The main criterion for the 
scholar's appreciation ot lacquer 
was antiquity. See Craig 
Clunas, Superfluous Tilings: 
Materia! Culture and Social Status 
in Early Modem China 
(Cambridge: Polity Press. 1991), 
pp. 11, 136-37. 

2. The most expensive piece of 
furniture in the inventory of 
the material confiscated from 
the late Ming official Yan Song 
was a lacquered bed. Clunas, 
Superfluous Tilings, p. [31. 

3. Lacquered leather was used 
for armor throughout much of 
1 asi \m.i. Although the two 
materials are noi entirely suited 
for use together, lacquer has 
been used to dc< orate bronze 
sculpture and ritual objects 
from (he Bronze Age to recent 

4. Uruslnol is the material in 
the Huts rami!) (whi< h includes 
sumac .\nd poison ivy) that 
causes dermatitis, Special care is 
required in handling this 

material in all stages prior to 

5. The complexity of these 
applications are well described 
by Shogyo Ohba in "The 
Kyushitsu Technique 
Demonstrated on a Natsume," 
in N.S. Bromelle and Perry 
Smith, eds., Urushi: Proceedings 
of the Urushi Study Group, 10—27 
June, 1987, Tokyo (Marina Del 
Rey:The Getty' Conservation 
Institute, 1988), pp. 91-94. 

5. Wenwu, no. 4 (1982), p. 70. 

6. Kaogu, no. 5 (1984), 
pp. 405-17- 

7. David Hawkes, trans., Hie 
Songs of the South: An Anthology 
of Ancient Chinese Poems by 

Q11 Yuan and Other Poets 
(Harmondsworth: Penguin 
Books, 1985). 

8. For a full description of the 
materials in tomb Number 1 at 
Mawangdui, see Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 

9. Hawkes, 77ic Songs of the 

10. Wang Shixiang, Zhongguo 
gudai qiqi (Beijing: We nwu 
chubanshe, 1987), pp. 12-13. 

11. Billie Milam and Helene 
Gillette, "X-Ray Radiography 
in the Study ot Oriental 
Lacquerware Substructures," in 
Brommelle and Smith, eds.. 
Urushi, pp. 199—226. 

12. For examples, see Shoso-in 
Bureau of the Imperial 
Household (Konaicho zohan 
Shoso-in Jimusho hen), eds.. 
Treasures of the Sfioso-in, vol. 1 
(Shoso-in Homotsu I). North I 
[Kitakura D (Japan: Mainichi 
Shinbun, 1974), p\y 4°-43- 

4s-4-.-4-.S1. !3S-3<;. 

13. For X-rays of this type of 
core, sec Milam and Gillette. 
"X-Ray Radiography," pp. 

14. Sir Harry Garner. Chinese 
Lacquci (London and Boston: 
Faber and Fabci 

tv Wang. Zliongguo gudai qiqi, 

pi. 4^. p. 206, 



Art of Silk and 

Art on Silk in China 

Zhao Feng 

Sericulture and silk production are 
Chinese inventions whose profound 
impact on culture and civilization extend- 
ed far beyond China's borders. To most 
people, silk, however attractive, is merely 
the stuff of household draperies and 
clothing; they give no thought to the 

crucial functions of silk in Chinese art. 

But silk art, as an independent genre, 

Professor, China National Silk Museum, 

from its origin was closely related to the other 
traditional arts of China. The interrelationship is at 
least threefold: the processes of sericulture and silk 
production have been illustrated throughout 
Chinese history in other art objects; the designs 
developed for patterned silks have influenced and 
been influenced by other mediums in Chinese art; 
and silk, used as a ground for painting and 
calligraphy, interacts materially with the brush to 
affect the appearance of the created work of art. 

The life cycle of the silkworm is extraordinary. 
Bombyx mori begins as the minute egg of a small 
moth, from which emerges a tiny larva, or 
caterpillar. This is the silkworm, which by voracious 
feeding on mulberry leaves grows from about one 
millimeter to about seven centimeters; its ceaseless 
feeding is interrupted by four day-long dormancies, 
after each of which it molts, then continues eating. 
After some forty days, each worm is placed into an 
individual compartment, where it spins the cocoon 
within which it metamorphoses into a chrysalis, or 
pupa, and finally into a new moth. To emerge, the 
moth secretes an enzyme that softens and breaks 
the fibers or the cocoon. To preserve most of the 
cocoon intact for silk reeling, the pupa is killed 
before its final metamorphosis into a moth. 

From the number of very early renderings of 
silkworms and their life cycle, we may speculate 
that such a sequence of metamorphoses, with its 
alternations between stillness and motion, reminded 
the early Chinese vividly of the human life cycle, 
perhaps with the motionless chrysalis within the 
cocoon representing death and the emerging moth 
seen as an allegory of rebirth. 

Whatever the ancient interpretation, archaeologists 
have discovered many representations of caterpillar, 
chrysalis, and moth in many Neolithic sites in 
north and south China. A carved ivory from 
I [emudu, Zhejiang Province (sooo-4000 bce), 
shows four pairs of silkworm patterns; a black 
pottery shard from Meiyan.Jiangsu Province 

(ca. 3000—2500 bce) is carved with a silkworm 
pattern; and Xihuang village in Shanxi and 
Nanyangzhuang in Hebei have both revealed 
chrysalis-shaped ceramics. A stone carving from a 
Hongshan site (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) at Houwa, 
Liaoning Province, has a pair of small wings on the 
form of a chrysalis: we are being shown the 
metamorphosis of chrysalis into mature moth. 
Numerous Liangzhu culture (ca. 3600— ca. 2000 
bce) sites in southern China have disclosed similar 
carvings in jade. By their sheer numbers, these 
survivals suggest the lively importance of the 
silkworm to Neolithic Chinese. The most 
important find is the small half cocoon from 
Xiying village, Shanxi (ca. 3500-ca. 3000 bce); it is 
reasonable to assume that the cocoon had been cut 
open in order to observe the final metamorphosis 
and emergence of the moth — a form of augury 
that we might term seriomancy. 

Images of the fusang tree appear frequently in 
ancient art. Most texts explain the fusang tree as a 
giant mulberry tree that connects earth with 
Heaven, or as the Tree of the Sun. In Chinese 
legend there were once ten suns, one of which, 
carried by thejingwu bird, traverses the sky from 
east to west every day, then rests on the fusang tree 
all night. Therefore mulberry groves, the true 
habitats of the Jusang tree on earth, were places 
from which people could ascend to Heaven to 
communicate with the gods, and thus places 
of prayer. 

The fusang pattern probably appeared on Neolithic 
art objects, but the fust verifiable image is the 
bronze Jusang tree excavated from .1 Shang ritual 
site at Sanxingdui. Sichuan (ca. 1600-ea. 1100 Ben). 
A lacquer box with a design of i Jusang tree. 
unearthed from a tomb of the Warring States 
period U~s n\ bce) in Hubei Province, shows the 
archer Yi shooting at thejingwu bird. The modi' 
derives from .1 legend in which all ten suns 
appeared together in the sk\ one day, threatening to 
incinerate the earth; the heroYi saved the world by 



shooting nine of them out of the sky. On objects 
dating from the Warring States period through the 
Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE),fusang trees appear 
more frequently than before. We find it, albeit very 
small and much changed in shape, on the silk gauze 
embroidered with dragons and phoenixes found in 
the Chu state tomb at Mashan,Jiangling county, 
Hubei Province. On the famous silk painted banner 
from Mawangdui tomb Number 1 (ca. 168 bce), at 
Changsha, Hunan Province, we also find afusang 
tree with nine small suns and one large one. Relief 
carvings in stone tombs, especially, showfusang 
trees, sometimes with jingwu birds, sometimes with 
a horse tethered to the trunk, sometimes with a 
leaf-gathering basket or even with female leaf 
pickers. In that last depiction it very closely 
resembles a mulberry tree. 

Contemporary with Han stone reliefs bearing 
fusaiig designs are a number of reliefs illustrating silk 
production. According to archaeological reports, at 
least seventeen such reliefs exist, nine from 
Shandong, six from Jiangsu, one from Anhui, and 
one from Sichuan, including a stone relief depicting 
silk production now on display at the National 
Museum of Chinese History in Beijing. 

Sericulture and silk production became increasingly 
prominent art motifs in the Song (960—1279), 
reflecting the great importance of sericulture in the 
economy of that time. The best-known example is 
perhaps the Gengzhitu ("Pictures ofTilling and 
Weaving") of 1145, text and pictures by Lou Shou, 
administrator of Yuhang county near Hangzhou, 
then capital of the Southern Song (1127— 1279). In 
part two of this work twenty-four illustrations 
depict and describe the whole process of sericulture 
and silk weaving: hatching; gathering newly 
hatched larvae; silkworm feeding and raising; first, 
second, and third moltings; arrangement of feeding 
trays; gathering mulberry leaves; last molting; 
picking mature silkworms; cocooning; warming the 
cocoons; gathering the cocoons; selecting the 
cocoons; storing the cocoons; reeling the silk; silk 
moths laying eggs; making offerings to the gods of 
sericulture; winding; warping; wefting; patterning; 
cloth cutting. The earliest known version of Pictures 
of Sericulture and Weaving, in the Heilongjiang 
Provincial Museum, bears an inscription attributed 
to Empress Wu (ca. 1127—1162). A later version, 
attributed to Chen Qi of the Yuan dynasty 
(1279— 1368), now in the Freer Gallery of Art in 
Washington, was widely influential. But the most 
frequently reproduced version is that of the court 
painter Jiao Bingzhen (act. ca. 1680— 1720), whose 
illustrations accompany didactic verses attributed to 
the Kangxi emperor (r. i662-i722).Jiao's 
illustrations contain Western stylistic elements, 
learned from the Western missionaries with whom 
he had contact at the imperial court. Close copies 

of Jiao's illustrations appeared throughout the Qmg 
period (1644— 1911), in the most various mediums — 
wood carvings, stone reliefs, painted porcelains, 
molded ink sticks, and woodblock-printed book 
illustrations. Furthermore, the Pictures of Cotton 
Production by Fang Guanchen (ca. 1765) and the 
twelve pictures of sericulture done in relief carving 
on stone in the Guangyuan Temple in Sichuan 
Province are undoubtedly derived from the earlier 
works by Lou Shou and Jiao Bingzhen. 


A major evolutionary change is apparent in the 
decoration of early Chinese art, especially jades and 
bronzes. In the Neolithic and the earlier Bronze 
Age the zoomorphic patterns on jades and bronzes 
were simply rendered against relatively plain 
backgrounds. Increasing complexity became the 
rule during the middle and later Bronze Age, with 
the principal zoomorphic motifs set against 
geometric background figures such as S or T shapes 
or squared spirals. What inspired this change? The 
creation of design, of course, was the main reason. 
Silks featuring animal motifs embroidered on a 
damask ground woven with small geometric figures 
were the prototypes tor the later bronze art. 

From fragments of mats unearthed from Neolithic 
sites at Hemudu, Banpo, Qianshanyang, and 
Caoxishan, we know that patterns made from 
woven bamboo and braided £c-hemp threads were 
being executed long before patterns woven on the 
loom. Some traces of the earliest woven patterns on 
silk can be seen in the form of "ghost" impressions 
left by cloth or mats that were used to wrap 
jade and bronze objects of the Shang dynasty 
(ca. 1600-ca. 1100 bce). Although the cloth or mat 
wrapping have long since disintegrated, the patterns 
that remain include a lozenge pattern from silk 
tabby on a bronze ax excavated at Anyang and now 
in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 
Stockholm, noted by Vivi Sylwan; the S-shaped 
pattern from silk tabby on a jade knife now in the 
Palace Museum, Beijing, which was noted by Chen 
Juanjuan, and an S-shaped damask pattern on a 
bronze ritual vessel found at Anyang. Some carved 
jades and stone sculptures also manifest textile 
patterns, including T-shaped diaper patterns. 
Furthermore, we also find traces of silk embroidery 
on some of the woven figured silks in which the 
excavated bronzes have been found wrapped; 
although the complete pattern of most of these has 
been lost, the embroidered patterns on the 
fragments seem to be large-scale mythical animals 
on a damask ground with small geometric figures. 
Some jade figures from Shang sites show 
background patterns similar to those found on 
bronzes of the same period. Patterned silks of that 
time have two "layers" of design, the woven ground 



pattern and over it the embroidered principal motif. 
This style is consistent with ritual usage in all the 
arts of the time, because the small geometric figures 
suggest clouds, which would facilitate 
communication between the officiant at the 
ceremony and the gods. 

Silks with similar embroidered foreground and 
woven background patterns were made into the 
Han dynasty. The potpourri bag (cat. 76) from 
Mawangdui tomb Number 1 in Hunan Province 
contains examples of both types: a looped warp- 
faced compound tabby and an embroidered 
complex gauze. In one section of the potpourri we 
find a polychrome compound tabby, known as jin, 
with large woven geometric patterns forming the 
background and various smaller looped patterns 
forming the foreground. Another section of the 
potpourri is made of patterned gauze with 
embroidered cloud designs. Catalogue 77 is another 
example of silk gauze with woven lozenge patterns. 

Similar silks may have been made as early as the 
Shang dynasty. We know that the style persisted in 
later periods in a variant known as "brocade 
windows," a principal motif framed by a circle or 
roundel against a geometric or similarly figured 
woven ground. Such designs were also widely used 
in architecture, as is evident from architectural texts 
of the Song and from stamped bricks and carved 
wood of the Ming and Qing dynasties. 


Paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass are 
four Chinese inventions that greatly influenced the 
course of world civilization and the development of 
the various cultures. Joseph Needham has listed 
twenty-six great inventions of Chinese science and 
technology, one for each letter of the alphabet, 
including the horizontal treadle loom and pattern 
loom, silk reeling, the spinning and doubling wheel, 
paper making, and printing. Everyone recognizes 
the importance of paper and printing, but few 
people are aware of the significance of silk in the 
invention of paper making and printing. 

It is generally thought that printing originated in 
the use of stamps. Many stamps were in use in the 
Qin (221-207 BCE ) and Han dynasties, but most of 
them were employed as seals to make impressions 
on clay rather than as printing devices to make ink 
graphs on silk or paper. The first trace of a stamped 
graph on a textile is found on a piece of warp-faced 
compound silk tabby from a Warring States period 
tomb near Changsha, Hunan Province. The graph 
seems to be a mark of the weaver or the owner of 
the bolt of silk. Later finds include two famous 
printed silks from Mawangdui tomb Number 1. one 
in fine tabby, printed 111 three colors (two of them 

appear to be gold and silver), and a thin tabby 
printed with a floral pattern in six colors. On both, 
painting was added to enhance the design. The 
printing blocks can be identified as small bronze 
stamps, usually paired, of which examples about 
four and six centimeters wide were found in the 
tomb of the king of Nanyue in Guangzhou. Such 
stamped designs on silk were the prototypes for 
block printing on paper. 

Over time, the stamps became bigger, evolving into 
printing blocks to be used on silk or on paper; both 
types of printing developed contemporaneously in 
China. Some examples are three pieces of stamp- 
resist dyed silk bearing a portrait of Sakyamuni 
Buddha and a number of printed Buddhist 
scriptures, discovered in the underground treasury 
of the wooden pagoda inYingxian, Shanxi. Apart 
from tie dying, the Chinese generally created 
designs on fabric by means of printing blocks and 
the closely related stencil technique. For block 
printing, the pigment was spread on the relief 
portions of the carved block, and then the block 
was applied to the silk. In block-brush printing, the 
piece of silk was laid on the block and rubbed with 
a stone to receive an impression of the design on 
the block; this blind impression was then colored 
with a pigment-laden brush. Stencil printing, often 
used in north China to make New Year's pictures, 
creates the design by applying colors to the cloth 
through the holes in a stencil. All of these later 
techniques were derived from elementary stamped 
designs on silk. 


Silk, both woven and spun, was once the principal 
material for Chinese calligraphy and painting. 
Woven silk is usually unscoured tabby; many 
Chinese documents and paintings were written or 
drawn on this type of silk. Spun silk, sometimes 
known as cocoon paper, is formed directly by the 
silkworm spinning a flat sheet instead of a cocoon. 
Spun silk was used as a painting ground or even for 
clothes in south China. The renowned calligrapher 
Wang Xizhi's celebrated Lanting xu ("Preface to the 
Orchid Pavilion") of 353 was written using three 
treasures of the calligrapher: an ivory brush pot. a 
mousehair brush, and cocoon paper, a splendid 
medium still used by modern-day painters and 
calligraphers. Once invented, paper replaced silk to 
a considerable extent for painting. But in Chinese 
the character for "paper." :hi. refers to a kind ot 
paper-like silk, a sheet of short, scoured silk fibers 
By using vegetable fiber instead of silkworm fiber 
to make such a thin sheet, the Chinese invented 
true paper. 

During the Song dynasty, and especially the reign of 
Emperor Huizong (r. U00-II26), the arts ,>t 
painting and calligraphy were greatly in favor at 



court. And due to the emperor's interest and favor, 
silks were exquisitely woven and embroidered to 
mimic contemporaneous paintings, especially 
flower-and-bird paintings. Silk art tapestry (kesi ) 
developed at that time to answer the demand for 
fabric designs as naturalistic in style as the works of 
favorite painters. The resulting woven paintings 
were regarded not as patterned fabrics but as works 
of art. 

Silk tapestry is a kind of tabby, whose distinguishing 
technical feature is the use of discontinuous weft 
threads instead of weft threads that run the whole 
width of the fabric, as they do in ordinary woven 
silks. In kesi, the weft is introduced only at the 
point where its particular color is required in the 
design, which allows the weaver enormous freedom 
in the shape of the design elements. 

Zhuang Chou, a scholar of Northern Song, pointed 
out this feature in his book Jilei pian:" At Dingzhou 
they weave kesi. But they do not employ big looms, 
and they use natural-colored silk. They string the 
warps on wood and thorns. As desired, they make 
figures of flowers, plants, birds and animals, using 
small spools. When they weave the wefts, they first 
reserve their places [for spools of each color], then 
they take variously colored silk threads and 
interlace them into the warps. Along the weft 
direction, [the individual masses of color] combine 
to form a finished pattern, as if they were not 
connected. When the completed kesi is held up to 
the light, [due to the slits between adjoining colors] 
it gives the appearance of engraving; hence the 
Chinese name kesi, meaning 'carved silk.' A 
woman's robe of kesi takes a whole year to 
complete; but although they execute 'a hundred- 
flowers' or other motifs on it, it is still possible to 
make them all different, because in working with 
the small spools, the weft threads do not pass all the 
way across the fabric." 

exemplified by the album leaf of Camellias by the 
famous weaver Zhu Kerou (cat. 82), or the 
anonymous Garden Rocks with High Mallow and 
Begonia, after a painting by Cm Bai (act. 
ca. 1060-1085) (cat. 83), and many others of the 
flower-and-bird genre. During the Yuan dynasty kesi 
and embroidery also served to make Buddhist 
icons, such as the King of Blight Wisdom Budong 
(cat. 85), the Heavenly King of the West (cat. 84), and 
Sdkyanwni Buddha (cat. 86). 

In southern China, the principal area of sericulture 
and silk production during the Ming and Qing 
dynasties, kesi and silk embroidery continued to be 
heavily influenced by literati painting, which 
flourished in the Jiangnan region, heart of the 
Ming dynasty textile industry. Women of 
aristocratic households, most famously the women 
of the Gu family of Shanghai and Ni Renji in 
Zhejiang, became expert at mimicking paintings in 
many varieties of embroidery, usually with finishing 
touches added with brush and pigments. This 
practice of enhancing kesi or embroidery with paint 
was prevalent during the Ming and Qing dynasties, 
as seen in the Qmg dynasty kesi tapestry of Li Bai's 
"Evening in the Peach and Plum Garden" (cat. 87). 

In summary, silk, in addition to all its "practical" 
uses, has served as a ground for painting and 
calligraphy, as a medium in which paintings were 
superbly imitated in weaving or needlework, and as 
an inspiration for the invention of paper. 

Examples of wool tapestry are known from as early 
as the second century bce in western China; silk 
tapestry (kesi ) dating from the late Tang period 
(618-907) has been found in eastern Central Asia 
and Mongolia. During the Song dynasty the 
techniques of kesi were adopted in China proper to 
ornament objects of daily use: a shoe "upper" with 
a phoenix pattern and a coverlet with a dragon 
design (cat. 81) were unearthed in a Liao dynasty 
(916-1125) tomb, and robes and other garments are 
mentioned in written records of the period. Kesi 
was also used as mountings of important paintings, 
some of which have survived. Silk embroidery 
might also be used for the same purposes as kesi. 
Increasingly, however, from the Song on, kesi and 
embroidery were devoted to making copies of 
paintings, meticulously exact in every detail of 
composition, form, and color. Such works are 



Realities of Life after 
Death: Constructing a 
Posthumous World in 
Funerary Art 

"Realities of life after death," from the 

perspective of art history, means represen- 
tations of life inside a tomb. In China the 
emergence of such representations coin- 
cided with a powerful artistic movement 

that reinvented Chinese art: during the 

Eastern Zhou period (770-256 bce), 
sacrificial bronzes — the privileged form 
of traditional ritual art of the Xia, Shang, 

Wu Hung 

Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished 
Service Professor in Chinese Art History, 
University of Chicago 


Fig. l. Diagram of tomb No. 7, Niiqiapo, Changzi, 
Shanxi Province. Eastern Zhou period. 

Fig. 2. Unfired day tomb figurines. Warring States period. 
Niilangslian , Zhangqiu, Shandong Province. 

and Zhou dynasties — gradually declined, and the 
center of ancestral worship shifted from the lineage 
temple to the family graveyard, generating new 
rites and ritual paraphernalia. Increasingly, tombs 
were furnished not only with sacrificed humans 
and animals and articles taken direcdy from the 
world of the living, but also with replicas and 
representations made specifically for burial. The 
variety of forms manufactured for the afterlife were 

known collectively as "spirit articles" (mingqi). 
Among these forms were grave figurines (muyong), 
which increasingly became a regular component of 
tomb furnishings during the middle and late 
Eastern Zhou period, from the sixth to third 
century bce. 1 

This was a change with profound implications for 
art: the human bodies staffing the tomb were no 


longer provided by nature but had to be created, 
instead, through artistic observation and 
production. From this time on, the artifacts 
contained in a tomb comprised not only things — 
vessels and other kinds of grave goods — but also 
figures or characters essential for imagining and 
constructing a posthumous world. 

Four kinds of archaeological evidence allow us to 
hypothesize that grave figurines were first used as 
substitutes for the human sacrifices found in earlier 
and contemporary tombs. First, figurines were often 
placed next to or around the deceased, an 
arrangement following the burial pattern of human 
sacrifices. Second, we know that figurines and 
human sacrifices were used in combination to 
furnish tombs: for example, Niujiapo tomb 
Number 7, in Changzi, Shanxi Province, contained 
three human victims along the east and south walls 
and four figurines near the west and north walls 
(fig. 1). Together, these seven "figures" surrounded 
and protected the dead person in the middle. 2 
Third, figurines were sometimes identified by 
inscriptions as "dead servants" {wangtong or 
mingtong) who would serve their master in the 
underworld. 3 And fourth, the increasing popularity 

Fig. 3. Wooden tomb figurine. Warring States period. 
Tomb No. 2, Baoshan, Hubei Province. 

Fig. 4. ( Underground army o/Qin Shihuangdi. Qin 
dynasty. Lishan necropolis, Untong Xian, Shaanxi 



Fig. 5. Scale drawings of a Warring States figurine from 
Zhangqiu, Shandong Province (right), and a warrior 
figure from the Lishan necropolis of Qin Shihtiangdi. 

of tomb figurines was concurrent with the decline 
and final extinction of human sacrifices. 

Archaeology also enables us to develop this 
"substitution" theory further. It is possible that 
figurines substituted for some but not all kinds of 
human sacrifices. Scholars have distinguished two 
main types of human victims in early China: 
"companions in death" (renxun) and "human 
offerings" (rensheng).* "Companions in death" 
included relatives, consorts, subordinates, guards, 
and servants, who followed the deceased to the 
afterlife. "Human offerings," on the other hand, 
were considered a particular kind of "sacrificial 
animal" (sheng) and always suffered a violent death. 

Fig. 6. Clay tomb figurines. Ca. 141 BCE. Yangling, 
necropolis of Emperor Jing of the Western Han dynasty, 
Xianyang, Shaanxi Province. 

Most early figurines represented guardians, servants, 
and entertainers; and they clearly stood for human 
companions, not sacrificial offerings. 5 Moreover, it 
seems that during this transitional period, the burial 
of a prestigious nobleman could still have 
demanded real human victims, "whereas for the 
burial of a lower-ranking person figurines were 
sometimes used instead. In a fifth-century bce 
tomb at Langjiazhuang, in Shandong Province, for 
example, the deceased was accompanied by 
seventeen female "companions in death" 6 All these 
women had individual graves and personal 
belongings. Two were accompanied by their own 
human victims, and six of the women by pottery 
figurines. A similar arrangement was found in 
another Qi-state tomb, excavated recently at 
Zhangqiu and dating from the mid-Warring States 
period. 7 Here the main burial was surrounded by 
five smaller grave pits of young women; of these, pit 
Number 1 contained a group of thirty-eight 
pottery figurines (fig. 2). 

Warring States (475—221 bce) figurines are of two 
principal types, one generally found in the north 
and the other in the south. All figurines from the 
Chu region in the south are made of wood, 
whereas most examples from the northern states are 
of clay. The differences between the northern and 




Fig. 7. Diagram of tomb No. 1, Mawangdui, Changslia, 
Hunan Province. After 16S BCE. 

[■•■l^-i' 1 ' 1 ' j« ^f''^- ^m^,t^ji : ^prit\ K g— . 

F(g, S, Decoration on front panel of second coffin (from 
the outside), tomb No. 1, Mawangdui, Changslia, Hunan 
Province. After 168 BCE. 

southern figurines, however, go far beyond their 
materials to include their manner of representation 
and grouping. 

Fig. 9. Decoration on front and left panel oj third coffin 
(from the outside), tomb No. 1, Mawangdui, Changslia, 
Hunan Province. After 16S BCE. 

tombs such figurines were usually not clustered 
together in a group, apart from other tomb 
contents. Instead, one or more figurines were 
installed with each type ot tomb furnishing — some 
with horses and chariots, others with kitchenwares, 
yet others with writing equipment — in separate 
chambers of the tomb. In this way, the figurines 
resemble individual puppets in a series of stage sets 
that represent the various sections of a household. 

Northern figurines, on the other hand, were often 
grouped together in an extensive representation of 
a single social setting. For example, in the Zhangqiu 
tomb, arranged in a single tableau, were thirty-eight 
clay sculptures: twenty-six human figures (including 
dancers, musicians, and audience members); five 
musical instruments; and eight birds (fig. 2). The 
role of such a "set" as a self-contained tableau is 
reinforced by its miniature form. Almost all 
northern figurines of the Warring States period are 
hand-modeled from soft clay; their size — they arc 
often merely seven to ten centimeters tall — allowed 
only rudimentary representation ot faces and 
costumes. 8 

Most Chu figurines have brightly painted clothes 
and facial features, and some of the figurines attest 
to an intense effort to mimic live human beings. 
Two extraordinary specimens from Baoshan tomb 
Number 2, for example, are each more than a 
meter tall (fig. 3). Their ears, arms, hands, and feet 
were carved separately and then attached. Their 
mustaches and braids were made of real hair, and 
silk robes originally covered their bodies. In Chu 

We wonder why such tiny figures were given wide 
currency in funerary art. The answer must be found 
in the specific artistic goals of the miniature. It has 
been suggested that miniature representations most 
consciously create an interior space and time 111 a 
fictional world. Unlike realism, which attempts to 
map art upon life, the metaphoric world ot the 
immature skews the temporal and spatial relations 
of the everyday world. Buried in a tomb, "the 



miniature," in Susan Stewart's words, "finds its 'use 
value' transformed into the infinite time of 
reverie." 9 The tiny Warring States figurines thus not 
only "substituted" for human beings but also 
extended life in perpetuity. 

These early figurines provided antecedents for the 
famous terra-cotta army of Qin Shihuangdi, the 
First Emperor of Qin (cats. 88-92; fig. 4). Ladislav 
Kesner has argued that these Qin dynasty figures, 
instead of replicating real Qin soldiers or abstract 
figurative types, have "the goal of creating a reality 
of a different order, a self-conscious 
representation." 10 This goal, as well as the figures' 
clay substance and decorative method, reveals their 
debt to the northern tradition of pre-Qin figurines. 
But instead of forming a miniature universe, the 
project signified the First Emperor's desire for the 
gigantic. Here the concept of the gigantic can be 
understood in two senses: it refers to the scale ot a 
Qin figure compared with a Warring States clay 
figurine (fig. 5); and it also refers to the scale of the 
army relative to a human observer. A visitor to the 
site is surrounded by the army, engulted by it, 
encompassed within its shadow (fig. 4)." 

Miniature figurines regained their popularity 
during the early Han period (206 BCE-220 ce). 12 
Like the northern miniatures of the Warring States 
period, these construct a fictional interior space, but 
the Han figurines demonstrate a stronger effort to 
mimic life forms and an intense interest in the 
human body. The naked figures from the 
mausoleums of Emperor Jing (r. 156— 141 bce) and 
other Han royalty show sensitively observed and 
modeled torsos and faces (fig. 6). Although these 
clay sculptures basically followed the northern 
tradition, they also integrated features of southern 
figurines: their naked bodies were originally 
clothed, and their wooden arms, which have 
completely decomposed, could have been 
manipulated into various positions. Typical southern 
figurines of the second century bce, still made of 
wood, are exemplified by those from the famous 
Mawangdui tomb Number 1 , whose discovery in 
1972 near Changsha, in Hunan Province, was one 
of the most spectacular archaeological finds in 
Chinese history. 13 The tomb's undisturbed condition 
further enables us to explore the belief in the 
afterlife, an ideological system that must have 
underlain the structure and furnishing of this 
burial.' 4 

The Mawangdui tomb belonged to an aristocrat, 
Lady Dai, who died shortly after 168 bce: it yielded 
more than a thousand objects, figurines, clothes, 
and documents in perfect condition; even the 
woman's corpse had miraculously survived.' 5 
Following the typical structure of a "vertical pit" 
grave, the tomb consisted of a cluster of wooden 

Fig. 10. Painted silk banner from tomb No. 1, 
Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan Province. 
After 168 bce. 

structures constructed at the bottom of a deep 
shaft. The outer wooden encasement (guo) was 
divided into five rectangular compartments, or 
chambers (fig. 7). The middle chamber, called gucm, 
contained the woman's body inside nested painted 
coffins. Numerous household articles and food 
were stored in the four surrounding compartments, 
identifying these chambers as a replica of the 
deceased's former residence. 

Most of the wooden figurines were found within 
the four peripheral chambers of the guo. Some ot 
them, including a group of five musicians (cat. 94), 
were in the northern chamber, which imitated the 
"retiring hall" (qin) in a traditional household. Silk 
curtains were hung on its four walls and a bamboo 
mat covered its floor. Eating and drinking vessels 
and a low table were displayed in the middle. The 
western section of the qin was equipped with 
bedroom articles and furniture, including cosmetic 
boxes, an embroidered pillow, incense containers, 
and a painted screen; in the eastern part of the qin, 
clothed figurines represented Lady Dai's personal 





Fig. u. Cross sections of tomb No. 1, Shaogou, Luoyang, 
Henan Province. Late Western Han dynasty. 

Fig. 12. Drawing of heavenly realm, ceiling mural and 
detail from tomb of Bo Qianqiu, Luoyang, Henan 
Province. Late Western Han dynasty. 

attendants, as well as dancers and musicians. Quite 
different figurines were found in the guo's eastern 
and southern chambers. Images in this second 
group, exemplified by a male figure in the 
exhibition (cat. 95), represent the household's 
servants. These rigidly shaped standing figures were 
not arranged to form a large tableau; they were 
packed tightly in multiple layers along with cases of 
household articles and food in the chambers. The 
servant figurines thus symbolized a particular kind 
of household property, whereas the dancers and 
musicians placed in the qin helped compose a self- 
contained representation of social life and space 
inside the tomb. 

In the Mawangdui tomb the guo forms the 
outermost of three encasements. Within the guo, the 
central compartment is made up of a nest of three 
outer coffins (fig. 7); these enclose the innermost 
compartment, which is the coffin containing the 
woman's body. A painted silk banner overlies this 
innermost coffin. All three outer coffins are 
lacquered differently, signifying their different ritual 
symbolism and forming a coherent pictorial 
program. The outermost coffin, solid black, 
separates the dead from the living (as well as from 
the four outer compartments of the guo, which 
imitate the world of the living). The second, also 
black, is decorated on all four sides with human, 
semihuman, and animal figures amid swirling cloud 
patterns symbolizing qi ("universal energy"); the 
deceased woman appears on the lower edge of the 
front panel, half entered into this mysterious world 
inhabited by strange beasts and spirits (fig. 8). The 

innermost of the three outer coffins, lacquered a 
shining red, is painted with a divine mountain 
centered on the front panel and on one side, 
flanked by auspicious animals and a heavenly being 
(fig. 9). Inside this third coffin is the "inner unit" 
of the burial, which preserved the woman's body 
both physically and symbolically: while the corpse 
was carefully wrapped in layers of cloth and tightly- 
sealed in the innermost coffin, the likeness of the 
dead was preserved on the painted silk banner 
(fig. 10). 

What we find in the Mawangdui tomb, therefore, is 
a profound impulse to synthesize divergent beliefs 
and desires into a single mortuary setting and hence 
into a single reality after death. Instead of 
establishing logical connections between these 
beliefs, however, this synthesis was accomplished by 
multiplying the layers of nested boxes inside the 
tomb. The result is an essentially "polycentric" 
tomb, in which are represented four different realms 
of the dead: the Universe (as shown in the silk 
banner), the underworld (as shown on the 
patterned black coffin), the immortal paradise (as 
shown on the patterned red coffin), and the 
underground household (as symbolized by the four 
peripheral chambers and their contents). The 
relationship between these realms is by no means 
clear. It seems (hat in their eagerness to express 
their filial piety and to please the dead, the tomb 
builders provided all the answers they knew to 
questions about tiie afterlife, 

But this polycentrism is exactly what makes ancient 



Chinese funerary art intriguing. Although the 
Chinese ancestral cult never produced a systematic 
theological interpretation of the afterlife, tomb 
decoration during the four hundred years from the 
second century bce to the second century ce 
became increasingly systematic: by unifying the 
multiple layers of the Mawangdui tomb into a 
single pictorial program, tomb designers were able 
to give the afterlife a more coherent, though not 
necessarily standardized, image. Such effort was 
greatly advanced by the emerging fashion for tomb 
murals, which implies a crucial change in mortuary 
structure: "horizontal burials," which flourished in 
the first century bce, more faithfully imitated an 
actual dwelling (fig. n). Built of large and small 
bricks, a tomb of this type often had a main 
chamber, with a gate separating it from the outside, 
and a number of side chambers for storing coffins 
and funerary goods. Murals painted in prescribed 
locations transformed the tomb into a symbolic 
structure and ritual space. 

One of the earliest known examples of painted 
burials, the Western Han (206 bce-8 ce) tomb of 
Bo Qianqiu near Luoyang, Henan Province, has 
been dated to the mid-first century bce. 16 The 
demon-queller Fangxiang and accompanying White 
Tiger and Blue Dragon are portrayed on the back 
wall; the opposite wall bears the image of a huge 
bird with a human head, possibly an auspicious 
symbol or an immortal, above a magic mountain. 
The painting on the central beam of the ceiling is 
the most complex. Two groups of images frame this 
horizontal composition: the male deity Fuxi with 
the sun, and the female deity Niiwa with the moon 
(fig. 12); together, they symbolize the opposite yet 
complementary universal forces of yang (the male 
principle) and yin (the female principle). Heavenly 
beasts, birds, and immortals fill this cosmic 
structure. Most interestingly, a scene close to the 
yang group at the far right illustrates the journey of 
the deceased couple to the lands of immortality: the 
wife rides on a three-headed phoenix and the 
husband on a snake-like creature; they are traveling 
to the abode of the Queen Mother of the West 
(Xiwangmu), a goddess in Han popular religion 
who is shown here seated on wave -like clouds. 

The themes and images of these murals are not 
unfamiliar: paintings in the Mawangdui tombs 
expressed the same desire for underground 
protection, immortality, and divine blessing. But 
instead of being associated with individual objects, 
as in the earlier burials, in the Bo Qianqiu tomb 
these themes and images were reorganized into an 
architectural space: the ceiling provided a logical 
location for images of celestial bodies and the 
heavenly journey; the murals on the front and back 
walls complemented each other with their 
respective subjects of divine blessing and demon 


Fig. 13. "Three Gentlemen Killed by Two Peaches," 
mural from tomb No. 1, Shaogou, Luoyang, Henan 
Province. Late Western Han dynasty. 

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^^i^^^^^^^^tssszasSras^;?*^? 1 ". ■*££ 

Fig. 14. Funerary procession over a river. Relief carving, 
west wall of main chamber of tomb at Cangshan, 
Shandong Province. Mid-second century CE. 


Fig. 25. Funerary procession to the inn. Relief carving, 
east wall of main chamber of tomb at Cangshan, 
Shandong Province. Mid-second century CE. 

quelling. Thus, the significance of these wall 
paintings lay not only in the pictures themselves, 
but also in their transformation ot the tomb's 
architecture into a coherent symbolic universe for 
the dead. 

A nearby tomb at Shaogou (tomb No. 61; fig. 11) 
was built at about the same time, but its wall 
paintings signified another trend in tomb 
decoration: the illustration of traditional stories and 
morality tales. 17 For example, at Shaogou one 
composition on the inner side of the partition lintel 
depicts the story of "Three Gentlemen Killed by 
Two Peaches," exemplifying the ethic of loyalty and 
mutual friendship (fig. 13). A second composition 
depicts the visit of Confucius and Laozi to the 
child prodigy Xiang Tuo, encouraging Confucian 




SVBS&g^&t&t&Seii yig$?%S 

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Kg. 17. Entertainment in the afterlife. Relief carving, 
inside jace of facade-lintel of tomb at Cangshan, 
Shandong Province. Mid-second century CE. 

Fig. 16. Banquet in the afterlife. Relief carving, niche in 
east wall of main chamber of tomb at Cangshan, 
Shandong Province. Mid-second century CE. 

Fig. 18. Driving outdoors in the afterlife. Relief carving, 
outside face of facade-lintel of tomb at Cangshan, 
Shandong Province. Mid-second century CE. 

learning. These and other such images entered the 
stock of funerary painting themes, persisting 
through Eastern Han. The world of the dead was 
therefore continually enriched. At the same time 
that new pictorial motifs were invented and 
integrated into tomb decoration, new art mediums 
were employed; burials embellished with stone bas- 
reliefs or pictorial tiles became fashionable in the 
first and second century CE (cats. 103— 04). An 
Eastern Han tomb often combined two- 
dimensional pictorial images with sculptured spirit 
articles — often vivid miniature representations of 
servants, dancers, storytellers, musicians, buildings, 
wells, pigpens, livestock, and household furnishings 
and equipment of all kinds (cats. 96—102). 

Scholars have tried to explore the symbolic 
"program" constituted by the various forms of 
funerary art found in a tomb. A long inscription 
excavated recently in an Eastern Han tomb of the 
mid-second century CE in Cangshan, Shandong 
Province, describes the pictorial carving inside the 
tomb in a coherent narrative.' 8 The writer begins 
his description with the rear chamber, which held 
the physical remains of the dead person. The images 
carved in this chamber are all mythical: directional 
animals and heavenly beasts transform the solid 
stone room into a microcosm, while intertwining 
dragons guard the entrance of the burial chamber 
to keep the corpse safe. The front chamber is 
decorated with two horizontal reliefs on the lintels. 
The first relief, on the west wall (tig. 14). shows a 
chariot procession of local officials crossing a bridge- 
over a river that symbolizes death; below them, the 

wives of the deceased are taking a boat across the 
river, since female (yin) had to be separated from 
male (yang) and water embodies the yin principle. 

The funerary procession continues on the east wall, 
its members limited now to the close family of the 
deceased. The wives get into special carriages for 
women and escort the hearse outside the city 
(fig. 15). Arriving at an inn, they are greeted by an 
official. With its half-open door, this inn symbolizes 
the tomb: entering it symbolizes the burial of the 
deceased and the beginning of his underworld life. 
This is why, in the next scene, the deceased is no 
longer represented by a hearse but appears in 
human form as the honored guest at an elaborate 
banquet. This "portrait," engraved in a special niche, 
announces his rebirth: having regained his human 
desires, he is now living in his underground home. 
The scenes that follow represent the fulfillment of 
all his desires in the afterlife. He is accompanied by 
the fairies called Jade Maidens (fig. 16); he is 
entertained by musicians and dancers (fig. 17); and 
he takes a grand outdoor tour (fig. iS). These last 
two scenes, engraved respectively on the inside and 
outside faces of the tomb's facade-lintel, represent 
the two major diversions that the tomb occupant 
would forever enjoy. 

The Cangshan tomb inscription provides a specific 
vision of the reality of life after death, focusing on 
the soul's transformation and underground pleasure; 
pictures in some other Eastern Han tombs 
emphasize the social status and moral worth of the 
deceased. Each pictorial program reflects the beliefs 


and tastes of the patrons who commissioned it. But 
generally speaking, these different tomb designs 
were all variations of a homogeneous funerary art 
tradition in ancient China; and the three major 
categories of images found in the tombs 
correspond to the three major conceptual elements 
for constructing the afterlife. 

The first element is a cosmological model: pictures 
of heavenly bodies and clouds, often appearing on 
the ceiling, transform the underground chamber 
into a miniature universe. A posthumous paradise is 
the second element: various symbols of immortality 
in a tomb reflect the desire to transport the 
deceased to an eternal land after death. The final 
element is an idealized secular world. The world of 
the dead person is depicted as an extension and 
idealization of his former life: death would permit 
him to enjoy all that he had most valued during his 
lifetime. The deceased (or his posthumous soul) 
would live in elaborate halls served by numerous 
attendants and feast on delicacies while delighting 
in colorful entertainments. In death, too, an ideal 
society would be realized, a society regulated by the 
highest social and moral values of Confucian 
teachings. The elaborate banquet scenes, carriage 
processions, and Confucian morality tales illustrated 
in funerary art enact such earthly desires. 

First established in Han funerary art, these three 
elements — the cosmological model, the 
posthumous paradise, and the idealized secular 
world — continued to inspire tomb designers and 
builders of later ages to create new architectural, 
sculptural, and pictorial forms such as those so 
vividly exemplified by the Tang funerary horses 
(cat. 106) and Yuan tomb tiles (cat. 112) in this 


Fig. 1. After Kaogu xuebao, 
'984-4, fig- 2 - 

Fig. 2. After Wenwu, 19933, 
pi. 2. 

Fig. 3. After Hubei Provincial 
Jingsha Railroad A rchaeologkal 
Team, Baoshan Chu mu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1992), p. 169. 

Fig. 4. After Zhongguo Kaogu 
wenwu zhimei, vol. 7 (Beijing: 

Wenwu chubanshe, 1994), pi. 11. 

Fig. 6. After Archaeological Team of 
Han Mausoleums of Archaeological 
Institute of Shaanxi Province, 

Zhongguo HanYangling 
caiyong (Xi'an: Shaanxi liiyou 
chubanshe, 1992), p. 50. 

Fig. 7. After Hunan Provincial 
Museum and Archaeological 
Institute, CASS, Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
W3)>fig 36- 

Fig. S. After Hunan Provincial 
Museum and Archaeological 
Institute, CASS, Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1971), 
fig 18 • 

Fig. 9. After Hunan Provincial 
Museum and Archaeological 
Institute, CASS, Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1973), 
figs. 23, 25. 

Fig. 10. After Hunan Provincial 
Museum and Archaeological 
Institute, CASS, Changsha 
Mawangdui yihao Hanmu 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1973), 
fig 38. 

Fig. 11. After Kaogu xuebao, 
1964.2, p. 110. 

Fig. 12. After Wenwu, 1977.6, pp. 

Fig. 13. After Kaogu xuebao, 

1962.2, pi 1. 

Fig. 14. After Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early 
Chinese Art and Architecture 
(Stanford: Stanford University 
Press, 1995). fig 4-49- 

Fig. 15. After Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early 
Chinese Art and Architecture 
(Stanford: Stanford University 
Press, 1995), fig 4 >o 

Fig. 16. After Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early 
Chinese Art and Architecture 
(Stanford: Stanford University 
Press, I99S), fig 4-5i- 

Fig. 17. After Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early 
Chinese Art and Architecture 
(Stanford: Stanford University 
Press, 1995J, fig. 4.53. 

Fig. 18. After Wu Hung, 
Monumentality in Early 
Chinese Art and Architecture 
(Stanford: Stanford University 
Press, 199s), fig 4-5^. 


1. Among the 84 tombs 
discovered at Deshan in 
Changde, Hunan Province, 
none dating from the early 
Warring States and only 2 
dating from the middle 
Warring States period 
contained figurines (7 in all). 
By contrast, 5 tombs of the late 
Warring States period 
contained a total of 23 
figurines. See Kaogu, no. 9 
(1963), pp. 461-73. 

2. Kaogu xuebao, no. 4 {1984), 
pp. 504-7- 

l.fiangling Wangshan Shazhong 
chunut ("Chu Tombs at 
Wangshan and Shazhong in 
Jiangling") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1996), p. 278. 
Similar inscriptions have also 
been found in Chu tombs at 
Xinyang and in Mawangdui 
tomb No. 3 of the Western 

4. See Huang Zhanyue, 
Zhongguo gudai dc rensheng he 
renxun ("Human offerings and 
companions in death in ancient 
China") (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1990), 

pp. 1-12. 

5. Not all early figurines 
represent "companions in 
death." The features of a small 
number of examples implied 
specific ritual or magical 
functions. Changtaiguan tomb 
No. i, for example, contained a 
room at the rear center directly 
behind the coffin chamber, in 
which a long-tongued "tomb 
guardian beast" (zhenmushou) is 
surrounded by four human- 
shaped figurines at the four 
corners. Unlike other figurines 
in the tomb, the four figures 
have no robes and their bodies 
are crudely carved. Most 
intnguingly, one of them has a 
bamboo needle piercing the 
chest. It is possible that these 
are human sacrifices dedicated 
to a deity represented by the 
statue in the center. See 
Xinyang Chu mu ("Tombs of 
the State ot Chu at Xinyang") 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
1986), pp. 18-20. 

6. In addition to these 17 
"companions in death," 9 other 

human victims in the tomb, 
both men and women, had 
suffered violent deaths, either 
decapitation or live burial. 

These were clearly "human 

offerings " Kaogu xuebao, no. 1 
( T 977)- 

7. Wenwu, no. 3 (1993), pp. 1-7. 
Li Rixun, "Shandong 
Zhangqiu Nulangshan 
Zhanguo damu yueqi 
zongkao" ("A Systematic 
Examination of the Musical 
Instruments in a Large Warring 
States Tomb at Nulangshan in 
Zhangqiu, Shandong 
Province"), Zhongguo wenwu 
shijie ("The World of Chinese 
Art"), no. 127 (March 1996), 
pp, 86-107. 

8. In addition to examples from 
Qi tombs, figurines of similar 
sizes have also been found at 
Fenshuilmg in Shanxi and at 
Huixian and Luoyang in 
Henan. See Kaogu xuebao, no. 1 
(1957), P- n6; Huixian fajue 
baogao ("A Report of 
Archaeological Excavations at 
Huixian") (Beijing: Kexue 
chubanshe, 1956), p. 45; Kaogu, 
no. 12 (1959), p. 656; Kaogu, 

no. 7 (i960), p. 71; and Kaogu, 
no. 10 (1962), p. 516. 

9. Susan Stewart, On Longing: 

Narratives of the Miniature, the 
Gigantic, the Souvenir, the 
Collection (Durham: Duke 
University Press, 1993), p. 65. 

ro. Ladislav Kesner, "Likeness 
of No One: (Re)presentmg the 
First Emperor's Army," Art 
Bulletin 77, no. 1 (March 1995), 
p. 126. 

11. Again citing Stewart, 
"Whereas the miniature 
represents closure, inferiority, 
[and] the domestic . . . the 
gigantic represents infinity, 
exteriority, [and] the public. . ." 
(On Longing, p. 70). It is in this 
sense that we can link the 
army with the concept of 
monumentality and the First 
Emperor's political ambitions. 
See Wu Hung, Monumentality 
in Early Chinese Art and 
Architecture (Stanford: Stanford 
University Press, 1995), 

pp. 115-17- 

12. From 20 to 50 centimeters 

tall, early Han figurines are 
much larger than pre-Qin 
northern figurines. I call them 
"miniatures" partly because 
they reflect the effort to reduce 
the scale of funerary sculptures. 
The memory of creating 
hundreds of life-size Qin 



warriors must have been quite 
vivid in the Chang'an area 
during the early second 
century bce, so that this "re- 
miniaturization" must have 
been a conscious effort. 

13. The most complete report 
of this excavation is the Hunan 
Provincial Museum and 
Archaeological Institute, CASS, 
Changsha Mawangdui yihao 
Hanmu ("The Mawangdui 
Tomb No. 1 in Changsha"), 2 
vols. (Beijing: Wenwu 
chubanshe, 1973). For an 
English summary, see David 
Buck, "The Han Dynasty 
Tomb at Mawangdui," World 
Archaeology 7, no. 1 (1975), 

pp. 30-45. 

14. For a detailed discussion of 
the architectural structure of 
the Mawangdui tomb and its 
ritual function and symbolism, 
see Wu Hung, "Art in Ritual 
Context: Rethinking 
Mawangdui," Early China 17 
(1992), pp. rn-44. 

Bo Qianqiu'sTomb of the 
Former Han in Luoyang"), 
Wenwu, no. 6 (1977), pp. 17—22. 

17. The tomb's excavation is 
reported in Kaogu xuebao, no. 2 
(1964), pp. 107-25. General 
introductions to the tomb 
include Jonathan Chaves, "A 
Han Painted Tomb at 
Luoyang," Artibus Asiae 30 
(1968), pp. 5-27; and Jan 
Fontein and Wu Tung, Han and 
Tang Murals (Boston: Museum 
of Fine Arts, 1976), p. 22. 

18. For a detailed discussion of 
this inscription and the 
carvings, see Wu Hung, 
"Beyond the Great Boundary: 
Funerary Narrative in Early 
Chinese Art," in John Hay, ed.. 
Boundaries in China (London: 
Reaktion Books, 1994), 

pp. 81-104. 

15. According to archaeological 
evidence, Mawangdui tomb 
No. 1 was constructed after 
Mawangdui tomb No. 3, which 
belonged to Lady Dai's son 

(d. 168 bce). See Hunan 
Provincial Museum and 
Archaeological Institute, CASS, 
"Mawangdui ersanhao Han- 
mu fajue de zhuyao shouhuo" 
("The Mam Achievements 
from the Excavation of 
Mawangdui Tomb Nos. 2 
and 3"), Kaogu, no. 1 (1975), 
p. 47. Li Cang, Lady Dai's 
husband, died in 186 BCE. 

16. Paintings have been found 
on the walls of a second- 
century bce tomb in 
Guangzhou, which belonged 
to a king of Southern Yue. But 
these include only decorative 
patterns, thus differing from 
the pictorial compositions in 
first-century bce tombs near 
Luoyang. The excavation of the 
Ho Qianqiu tomb is reported 
in Wenwu, no. 6 (1977), 

pp. 1-12. Discussions of the 
tomb murals include Chen 
Shaofeng and 'Gong Dazhong, 
"Luoyang Xi Han Bo Qianqiu 
11111 bihua yishu" ("The Murals 
in the Western Han Tomb of 
Bo Qianqiu in Luoyang"), 
Wenwu, no. 6 (1977), pp. 13-16; 
and Sun Zuoyuu, "Luoyang 
Qian Han Bo Qianqiu mil 
bihua kaoshi" ("An 
Interpretation of the Murals in 



The Development 
of Chinese Ceramics 
A Brief Survey 

Wang Qingzheng 

Deputy Director, 

The Shanghai Museum 

Pottery is common to the entire human 
race, but porcelain was a Chinese 

Although pottery making might have 
been unknown during the early 
Neolithic era, the mature Neolithic era 
was everywhere characterized by the 
appearance of pottery. The date when 
pottery first appeared in China remains to 

be determined, but it is certain that it was already 
widely produced some six to seven thousand 
years ago. 

The successful firing of pottery signified the ability 
of humans to transmute natural substances for their 
own advantage. In studying the techniques of 
pottery making during the Neolithic period, we 
need to examine the choice of clays, the practice of 
washing the clay, the mixture of materials, the 
evolution of vessel shapes, firing temperatures, and 
the relation between firing conditions and color of 
the fired vessel. 

On pottery produced by theYangshao culture of 
the Yellow River basin, the decorative impulse 
found expression primarily in painted designs, 
whereas in theYangzi basin, during both the 
Hemudu culture and the slightly later Majiabang 
through Liangzhu cultures, incised decorations were 
prominent. Whether the origins of the incised 
decorations of the Longshan culture can be traced 
to southern influences is a question worth 
pondering. A typology of the incised decorations 
on Neolithic pottery reveals clearly that these were 
the origins of the later bronze decoration (figs. I, 2). 

The appearance of white pottery marks a technical 
advance, the discovery of the potential of kaolin 
clay, which by virtue of its extremely high AhO.i 
content fires to a white body. But since the 
technology of the time did not allow firing 
temperatures high enough to sinter the kaolin, these 
vessels, though white-bodied, are nevertheless 
"pottery." White pottery has been found in both 
Yangshao and Majiayao culture sites. The Shang 
dynasty double-eared white jar in this exhibition 
(cat. 117) was decorated with patterns taken from 
the bronze repertory; it was made solely for 
aristocratic appreciation. This type of white pottery 
comes mainly from the Shang ruins at Anyang in 
Henan Province, and it exemplifies the great skill in 
pottery carving achieved during the last phase of 
the Shang period. 

Fig. 1. Pottery shard with incised design. Longshan 
culture (2400-2000 bce). Shanghai Museum. 

Fig. 2. Pottery shard with incised design. Liangzhu 
culture (ca. 3600-ca. 2000 BCE). Unearthed at Tinglin 
site,Jinshan, Shanghai. Shanghai Museum. 

Some three thousand years ago, during the late 
Shang dynasty, a type of green-glazed ware, different 
from pottery, appeared. Known as "protoporcelain," 
it was made from clay with an iron content under 
3 percent, glazed, and then fired at approximately 
I200°C. (By contrast, the clay used in pottery had 
an iron content over 3 percent, the early pottery 
was all unglazed, and it was usually fired at 
temperatures under iooo^C.) Probably [200°C was 
the highest temperature achievable anywhere .11 thai 
time (not just in China): even bronze casting — the 
defining technology of the Shang — only required 
temperatures under [ioo°C. Protoporcelain was 
highly regarded from the late Shang dynasty, some 
three thousand years ago. through the Warring 
States era, which ended in the late third century 
bce. Its characteristic thin greenish glazes had iron 
oxides as their colorant. The green-glazed :nn 
(cat. 11. S") in this exhibition is a typical piece of 
Shang protoporcelain. 



Protoporcelain has been found only in certain 
regions and appears to have been used only by 
upper classes. It did not take the place of pottery; 
everyday utensils and tomb furniture were still 
made mainly of pottery. 

The Han pottery sculptures in this exhibition 
amply illustrate the widespread popularity of 
pottery burial objects. These lifelike pottery figures 
demonstrate the superb artistry of Han pottery 
sculpting, and at the same time they illuminate, in 
differing degrees, various social phenomena. For 
example, most earlier scholarship conjectured that 
China's oral literature owed its burgeoning mainly 
to the practice of reciting and singing Buddhist 
texts during the Tang and Five Dynasties. But the 
reciting/singing pottery figures exhibited here 
(cats. 96, 97) show that the tradition of oral 
literature was already strong during the Han. 

The high-temperature glaze applied to the 
protoporcelains mentioned above was fired at 
I200°C. High-temperature glazes were first used in 
China, but low-temperature pottery glazes, fired at 
roughly 700— 900°C, were in use even earlier in the 
Middle East. Low-temperature lead glazes were 
probably not used in China before the fourth 
century BCE, and they were not in widespread use 
until the Han dynasty. Lead-glazed pottery burial 
objects were very popular during the Han, with a 
limited palette of colors created by the addition of 
different colorants to the glazes. The principal 
colors used in the Han were rust browns (some 
with a reddish tint) with iron as the colorant, and a 
green for which copper was the colorant. The 
reddish-glazed pottery dog (cat. 101) in this 
exhibition is lifelike and appealing, and the green- 
glazed waterside pavilion (cat. 100) affords a vivid 
example of Han architecture. 

Mature porcelain appeared initially in the mid- 
Eastern Han, and continued to be made during the 
Three Kingdoms, with early green-glazed ware 
reaching its apogee during the Western Jin. The best 
wares of this era had glazes of a consistent greenish 
gray or a slightly yellowish green, with a rather 
lustrous surface. Beauty of shape and ornamentation 
was prized in vessels. Animal forms were widely 
used, and vessels of all types were decorated with 
stamped, incised, or applied patterns. Openwork 
and modeling were also very highly developed. 

Green glazes were developed much later in 
northern China than in the south. To date, not a 
single kiln making green-glazed porcelain during 
the Western Jin period has been found north of the 
Yangzi River. It is believed that green-glazed 
porcelains gradually appeared north of the Yellow 
River around the sixth century CE.The Northern 
Qi incised jar with six lugs and the chicken-headed 

Fig. 3. Wliite-glazed box, inscribed with character ying. 
Tang dynasty (618— goy). Xing ware; h. 7.2 cm, diam. at 
mouth JJ5. 7 cm. Shanghai Museum. 

ewer with dragon handle (cats. 121, 122) have the 
exuberant forms unique to the north, and are 
typical of green-glazed porcelain produced in 
the north. 

Tang polychrome-glazed pottery ware developed 
out of Han lead-glazed pottery. The more extensive 
Tang palette comprised primarily green (from 
copper oxide), blue (cobalt oxide), and a range of 
ferruginous hues from cream through yellow and 
amber to dark brown (ferric oxide); it also included 
a near-black, purple, and white. The famous Tang 
three-color (sancai) wares were generally decorated 
with overlapping splashes of different-colored 
glazes, which were allowed to flow together in the 
kiln. This created a richly mottled, harmonious, 
resplendent effect. At the same time, various 
techniques such as molding, incising, applique, and 
hand modeling were used to create decoration. 
Yellow-and-green as well as blue lead-glazed pieces 
were found in the tomb of Zheng Rentai (664 CE) 
at Liquan county in Shaanxi Province, proving that 
polychromes were being manufactured by the early 
Tang, and they were produced on an even greater 
scale by the reign of Empress Wu (r. 684— 704). The 
polychrome braying camel with monster-mask 
saddle (cat. 107) is a representative work of this 

In the history of Chinese porcelain making potters 
of the Tang dynasty accomplished the transition 
from the production of green-glazed wares alone to 
an equally significant production of white porcelain 
as well; they also advanced the development of 
black, brown, multicolored, and painted porcelains. 


The Tang expression "green-glazed ware in the 
south and white-glazed ware in the north" refers to 
the regional predominance of these two types: 
white porcelain, as typified by the Xing ware of 
Neiqiu in Hebei Province, and green-glazed ware, 
as typified by theYue ware of eastern Zhejiang. 
Among northern white porcelains, Ding ware from 
Quyang in Hebei Province later displaced Xing 
ware (fig. 3). 

This exhibition includes a variety of green-glazed 
wares, among them mise (or bise) ware, denoting a 
hue once "reserved" to the use of local rulers in 
Zhejiang Province. Two such pieces, discovered in 
1987 in the underground chamber of the Famen 
Temple in Fufeng county, and an octagonal bottle 
from the collection of the Palace Museum in 
Beijing (cats. 123-25), are representative of Yue 
ware of the Tang dynasty. ' 

Although green-glazed ware has a long history in 
China, prior to the Tang dynasty porcelains were 
merely utilitarian, not objets d'art for the elite. It 
was not until the successful firing of mise Yue ware 
during the Tang that such ceramics began to be 
admired by the gentry. For the last millennium, 
however, scholars have failed to agree on the 
identity of mise Yue ware, on the actual dates of its 
production, and on the location of the kilns. In 
1995, an international symposium on mweYue ware 
was held in Shanghai. Participants discussed the 
porcelains found in 1987 in the underground palace 
of the Famen Temple pagoda, the efforts in recent 
years to locate and classify theYue ware kilns in 
Zhejiang, and both Yue wares and presumably mise 
Yue wares from various sites. 2 A rough consensus 
was reached. Regarding the definition of the term 
mise: the most common glaze color of Tang dynasty 
Yue ware is a yellowish green, like mugwort; the 
Yue wares found at the Famen Temple site, 
however, are a much different and rarer hue of 
green. Therefore we may assume, provisionally, that 
mise refers specifically to the hue of these Famen 
Temple green-glazed wares. 

Two pieces of white porcelain, marked with the 
character guan, were unearthed in 1985 at 
Huoshaobi in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province (cats. 126, 
127). They are probably late Tang Ding ware. Many 
pieces of white porcelain unearthed in recent years 
trom late Tang, Five Dynasties, and Northern Song 
sites have been marked with the character guan, and 
the majority of these are Ding ware. The same 
character also appears on Yaozhou ware and Yue 
ware (fig. 4). This guan cannot denote the fabled 
Guan ware, because many superb pieces of Ding, 
Yue, and Yaozhou ware are not marked guan; 
moreover, not .ill the pieces so marked are 
outstanding. During the Tang dynasty a 
"Yinguanshu" Office served the court.' One of its 

Fig. 4. Celadon jar with two lugs, inscribed with charactei 
guan. Five Dynasties (907—960). Yue u>are;h. 28.6 an, 
diam. >it mouth p.j an. I 'nearthed in 1970 from .1 Five 
Dynasties tomb in Banqiao, Un'an, Zhejiang Province. 
Zhejiang Provincial Museum. 



functions was to supply the imperial court with 
pottery utensils, as well as to provide burial objects 
for the court to bestow on deceased officials at 
their funerals. Burial objects could be made of 
wood as well as pottery. Many of the pieces of 
white porcelain marked with the word guan have 
been unearthed from the tombs of high officials 
and aristocrats. Hence Ding pieces inscribed guan 
might very well have been ordered from the Ding 
kilns by theYinguanshu to serve as burial objects. 
Reinforcing this hypothesis, we know that during 
the Tang, Five Dynasties, and Northern Song many 
pieces of porcelain were marked with the name of 
the agency that had ordered them. 

Although the Five Dynasties lasted altogether only 
fifty brief years, they have an important place in the 
history of ceramics. During these years Ding ware, 

Fig. 5. Five-footed brush washer. Southern Song dynasty 
(1127— 1279). Ge ware; h. 9.2 cm, diam. at mouth S.8 cm. 
Shanghai Museum. 

Fig. 6. Footed brush washer. Northern Song dynasty 
(960— 1127). Jun ware; h. 9 cm, diam. at mouth 24.3 cm. 
Shanghai Museum. 

in the north, developed toward its apex in the 
Northern Song. In the south, Yue ware reached its 
peak. In the northwest, potters of the Yaozhou kilns 
in Shaanxi, building on the successes of Yue ware, 
worked toward the creation of a truer green glaze; 
these Five Dynasties potters accomplished the 
transition from the varied green glazes of the Tang 
to the more uniform blue-green of the Northern 
Song. It was also during the Five Dynasties that the 


production of white- and green-glazed porcelains 
at Jingdezhen in Jiangxi laid the foundation for 
major development ofYingqing ("shadow blue" 
glaze, also called Qingbai) during the Northern 

In the history of Chinese ceramics many wares 
reached their florescence during the Song dynasty, 
whose so-called "five great wares" were Ru, Guan, 
Ge, Ding, and Jun. 

There surely must be some significance in the fact 
that of these five wares, the organizers of this 
exhibition chose to display only Ru, Guan, and 
Ding wares, and not Ge or Jun wares. In fact, the 
site and period of production of Ge ware remain 
major topics for exploration in the history of 
Chinese ceramics. Although an international 
symposium on Ge ware was held in Shanghai in 
October 1992, 4 no answers were to be had (fig. 5). 
As for Jun ware (fig. 6), it exists in some quantity in 
the United States and Europe. The Art Institute of 
Chicago, in particular, owns a collection of 
Northern Song Jun ware unequaled in China 
except in the Beijing Palace Museum and the 
Taibei Palace Museum. In the first half of the 
twentieth century some European and American 
collectors and scholars had regarded these 
specimens ot Northern Song Jun ware as Yuan or 
Ming products. But excavation of the site of the 
Northern Song kilns at Diaotai in Yu county, 
I lenan Province, 5 completely verified the existence 
of Northern Song Jun ware. 

For the past thousand years Ru ware has been 

Fig. 7. Brush washer. Northern Song dynasty (960—1127). 
Ru ware; h. 2.9 an, diatn. at mouth iy.1 cm, diam. at 
base 9.1 cm. Shanghai Museum. 

renowned for its ash-colored body, its sky blue 
glaze with fine crackling, and for being wholly 
glazed and fired on tiny sesame seed-shaped spurs 
(fig. 7). Of all the great Chinese porcelain wares, 
Ru ware has survived in the smallest numbers and 
is perhaps the most prized. For a long time, the 
location of the Ru kilns could not be confirmed, 
but in the winter of 19S6 two studies made by staff 
from the Shanghai Museum verified the site ot the 
Northern Song Ru kilns at Qingliangsi in Baofeng 
county, Henan Province.'' The kilns were then 
excavated by archaeologists from Henan Province. 
Ru ware was produced only for an extremely brief 
time, and in very limited quantities. Some pieces 
found at the kiln site lack the above-mentioned 
defining characteristics; these clearly are not 
Ru ware. 

Song dynasty Guan ware is ,m even more 
controversial subject in the history of Chinese 
ceramics. Historical documents indicate that there 
were three types of Guan ware, one made in the 
Northern Song capita] of Bianliang (present-day 
Kaifeng, in Henan Province), one .11 the Xiuneisi 
("Palace Works Bureau'") of the Southern Song 
capital at Hangzhou, and one at the Jiaotanxia kilns 
of Southern Song Hangzhou. To date, only the 
Jiaotanxia site, at Wuguishan in Hangzhou 
Municipality, / Province, has been verified. 
1 'he Northern Song Guan kilns and those of the 



Southern Song Xiuneisi have yet to be confirmed, 
and among existing pieces there is no way to 
distinguish those made at the Northern Song Guan 
kilns from those made at the Southern Song 
Xiuneisi. Some scholars of Chinese ceramics have 
recently questioned whether the Northern Song 
and Xiuneisi Guan kilns in fact even existed. 7 In 
1997 an ancient kiln site was discovered at 
Fenghuangshan in Hangzhou Municipality, 
Zhejiang Province, but further scientific excavation 
is needed before it can be determined if this is 
indeed the Xiuneisi kiln. 

However exquisite and acclaimed, the "five great 
wares" of Ru, Guan, Ge, Ding, and Jun do not 
encompass the total achievement of Chinese 
ceramics during the Northern and Southern Song, 
Liao, and Jin dynasties. Yaozhou wares of the north 
and Longquan wares of the south, both green- 
glazed, were enormously significant both in the 
quantity produced for use by society and in the 
quality of individual pieces. 

Only in the past few decades has Yaozhou ware 
achieved wide recognition. Prior to the 1950s little 
was known about ancient green-glazed wares from 
northern China, and except for Ru ware and Jun 
ware, all pieces produced during the Northern 
Song and Jin dynasties were called northern 
Longquan or northern Chuzhou ware. Since 1984 
large-scale scientific excavations of the Yaozhou 
kilns have fully revealed their nature. Although the 
Yaozhou kilns of the Northern Song also produced 
white-glazed, black-glazed, and brown-glazed 
porcelain, green-glazed porcelains were, of course, 
their principal output. These were decorated by 
carving, incising, molding, appliqueing, and 
modeling, and the powerfully carved pieces are 
particularly noteworthy. 

Longquan wares of the Song were of two types — 
thick-bodied with thin glaze, and thin-bodied with 
thick glaze. The first had a slightly yellow-hued 
green glaze, highly transparent, and sometimes 
carved or incised designs; the other was the world- 
famous powder-green or "plum'-green (meizi) 
Longquan ware. The thick-bodied, thin-glazed 
Longquan with relatively rough carving or incising 
was made mostly from the mid-to-late Northern 
Song until the early Southern Song, whereas the 
thin-bodied, thick-glazed powder-green celadon 
was popular during the late twelfth and early 
thirteenth centuries. The peak period for powder- 
green and metei-green celadons was the thirteenth 
century. The jar with everted mouth and molded 
bowstring pattern in this exhibition is a classic 
example of powder-green Longquan ware (cat. 134). 

Cizhou ware derives its name from what is now Ci 
county in Hebei Province (formerly a part of 

Cizhou), and kilns that made typical Cizhou ware 
have been located at Guantai township andYezi 
village in Ci county. In fact, a network of many 
kilns, from Henan westward into Shanxi and 
eastward into Shandong, were producing similar 
wares. Mostly they made white and black 
stonewares, but also polychrome- and green-glazed 
pieces, and during the Jin dynasty they even created 
underglaze painted porcelains. Most of their output 
was sold to the mass market. Cizhou ware was 
decorated in a variety of ways, most often with 
underglaze black or brown designs painted on a 
white slip-covered ground. More laboriously, 
designs might be carved or incised through the 
white slip to the buff-colored body fabric, then 
clear-glazed — another way of creating two-tone 
decoration. Sometimes an allover pattern of small 
circles, called pearl-dotting or ring-matting, would 
be stamped on the ground. Green-painted and 
polychromed Cizhou pieces have also been found. 

During the Ming and Qing dynasties Jingdezhen 
was the Chinese porcelain capital, supplying vast 
orders to the imperial court, the domestic market, 
and an avid foreign trade. (It should be 
remembered that the technique of making 
porcelain was unknown in the West until the 
eighteenth century.) Long known for its many 
superb wares, the most immediate and 
consequential cause of its ascendancy was the 
development there in the mid-fourteenth century 
of underglaze blue and underglaze red porcelain. 
Blue-and-white, red-and-white, and all the 
polychrome variants descended from these, swept 
the public taste, ousting monochrome green-glazed 
ware from its millennia-long supremacy. 

Porcelain manufacture in Jingdezhen entered its 
peak period during theYongle and Xuande eras of 
the Ming dynasty in the first half of the fifteenth 

During the preceding Yuan dynasty Jingdezhen was 
already producing blue-and-white porcelains and 
selling them by the batch to other East Asian 
countries and in the Middle East, but they were 
relatively insignificant in the domestic market. In 
records from the late Yuan and early Ming, there is 
no endorsement of blue-and-white, nor did the 
gentry consider blue-and-white to be aesthetically 
important. Beginning in the Yongle era, however, 
blue-and-white began to make its way into the 
palaces and houses of the social elite. Relative to 
the Yuan dynasty, there was major progress in the 
production of both body and glaze. Potters in the 
imperial kilns during theYongle and Xuande 
periods perfected blue-and-white wares beyond 
anything seen during the Yuan dynasty, achieving a 
finely textured and pure white body, bright and 
lustrous glaze, and rich, well-controlled blue color. 


Zheng He's seven expeditions to the southwest 
further promoted trade links with central and west 
Asia, and brought back cobalt ore for "Somali" 
blue. This imported blue colorant had a high iron 
and low manganese content. The low manganese 
content reduced the grayish tint in the blue, and 
with proper firing it could produce a sapphire blue 
color. At the same time, due to the high iron 
content, black iron flecks often appeared in the 
blue, and these naturally occurring black iron flecks 
yielded an interesting contrast with the rich blue 
color. The three Yongle and Xuande blue-and- 
white pieces in this exhibition (cats. 142-44) are 
excellent examples of well-made blue-and-white 
works of this period. 

Although blue-and-white dominated production, 
the Yongle and Xuande eras also saw the 
manufacture of a small number of extraordinary 
monochrome-glazed pieces, including red, brown, 
jade green, shadow blue, yellow, yellow-green, blue, 
Ge-type, Ru-type, and low-temperature green 

From the late 1430s through the early 1460s, 
political turmoil in the Ming court caused 
porcelain production at the official (i.e., court- 
controlled) kilns in Jingdezhen to decline. Orders 
from the court revived with the start of the 
Chenghua era in 1465. Doucai porcelains of the 
Chenghua era, whose decoration combines blue 
painting under a clear glaze with polychrome 
enamels over the glaze, are works unmatched before 
or since. The Doucai vase with the floral pattern in 
this exhibition (cat. 146), though of the Yongzheng 
period, exemplifies the delicacy and soft, 
harmonious palette of Doucai designs. 


1 . Archaeology team of the 
Famen Temple, Shaanxi 
Province. "Brief Report on the 
Excavation of a Tang Dynasty 
Underground Palace at the 
Famen Temple Pagoda in 
Fufeng," Wenunt, 1988:10. 

2. Wang Qingzheng, Ytte Ware 
Mise Porcelain (Shanghai Classics 
Publishing House, 1996). 

3. Li Linfu et al., comp., Tang 
liudian, vol. 23 . 

4. Shelagh Vainker, "Ge Ware 
Conference Report — 
Symposium on Ge Ware, 
Shanghai Museum, October 
1992," Oriental Arc, Summer 

5. Zhao Qingyun, "Excavation 
of a Kiln Site at Diaotai.Yu 
County, Henan Province," 
Wenuni, 1975:6. 

6. Wang Qingzheng, Fan 
Donqing, and Zhou Lili, The 
Discovery of Ru Kilns (The 
Woods Publishing Company, 

7. Wang Qingzheng, "Some 
Issues in the Study of Song 
Dynasty Guan Wire," Essays 
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary 
of the Minqin Jingshe (Liangmu 
Publishing House, 1995), p. 124. 

Under Qing patronage Jingdezhen continued to 
thrive and its output to increase. The Ming 
repertoire continued in production, with the 
favored blue-and-white underglaze porcelains 
refined to a somewhat chilly perfection. Unflagging 
demand at home and abroad spurred technical 
innovation, producing a range of exquisitely subtle 
monochromes for the court and, to a very different 
taste, a huge variety of polychrome-enameled 
vessels (cat. 145) and figures of breathtaking 
virtuosity. The pieces 111 this show include choice 
items that embody five thousand years of Chinese 
history, and may leave viewers who are partial to 
Ming and Qing porcelains hungry for more. 
Perhaps this will provide the Guggenheim Museum 
with reason to organize a future exhibition of Ming 
and Qing treasures. 

Translated, from the Chinese, by June Mci. 



Ceramics in China 
Making Treasures 
from Earth 

Earth is one of the most 
ubiquitous materials, and thus, in 
most cultures, one of the earliest 
from which vessels were made. 
Usually in plentiful supply, it 
tends to be versatile, easy to handle, 
and therefore very practical. 
It was used in most Neolithic 
cultures as it still is today. 

Regina Krahl 

Independent Scholar, 

Affiliated with the Royal Museums 

of Art and History, Brussels 


China is particularly rich in resources of earth, clay, 
and rock from which ceramics can be made. 
Chinese ceramics vary immensely in quality but 
basically divide into two types: low-fired 
earthenware (also called "pottery") and high-fired 
stoneware and porcelain. Simple, rough earthenware 
clay can be baked at low temperatures (up to about 
iooo° C) to a modest, fairly soft, porous brown or 
gray pottery. High-quality porcelain stone, when 
fired at high temperatures (to about 1200° C), turns 
into hard, dense, and usually gray stoneware; refined 
and upgraded and fired at even higher temperatures 
(to about 1350° C), it becomes a vitrified, 
translucent, hard, and dense glass-like white 
matter — which we call porcelain. 

Fig. 1. Bottle. Sui dynasty (581-618). High-fired white 
stoneware with translucent glaze; h. 21 cm. Hebci area. 
Meiyintang collection. 

The fame of Chinese ceramics is built on these 
latter high-fired wares. Porcelain stone, or china 
stone, the raw material from which stoneware is 
made, is abundant in many areas of China, north 
and south. Very high quality porcelain stone can be 
used more or less as it is mined, without requiring 
any additions or much preparation. Stonewares have 
been made in China since the Shang dynasty 
(ca. 1600-ca. 1100 bce), and predate their Western 
counterparts by over two and a half millennia. 

called porcelain are some sixth-century white wares 
from the Northern Qi (550-77) or Sui (5S1-618) 
period (fig. 1). Between that period and the 
thirteenth century (Yuan dynasty; 1279— 1368), a 
great variety of more or less "porcelaneous" 
stonewares was made throughout China, until in 
the second half of the Yuan dynasty the continuous 
production ot nothing but porcelains began at the 
kilns of Jingdezhen and China's stoneware tradition 
came to an end.' 

The origin of porcelain is more difficult to specify, 
for it was not an invention but an evolution from 
stoneware, an advance along the continuum of 
high-fired wares. Where one ends and the other 
begins is a subjective decision. Distinguishing 
characteristics are body composition and firing 
temperature. Since these cannot easily be 
determined for ancient items, more superficial 
features have to be taken into account, such as the 
translucency and the whiteness of the body and the 
clarity of its sound when struck. The Chinese 
themselves do not distinguish at all between the 
two high-fired materials — stoneware and 
porcelain — and use the same name (ci) for both, as 
distinguished from low-fired earthenwares {tito). 

The earliest nieces that 

id by 

inv rcckomii! 



Only in prehistoric times was earthenware an 
important material in China. The most practical 
and versatile material available for vessels, 
earthenware served essential functions in many 
aspects of daily life. It was used throughout the vasl 
area that we call China, which, between the sixth 
and the second millennium net. was inhabited by 
many independent and distinctive cultures. The 
ceramics produced during the Neolithic period 
(ca. 7000-ca. 2000 bci ) .ue as varied and complex 
as the cultures themselves, but they do not vary 
greatly in material and workmanship. I he red or 
yellow pottery is often burnished and most 
frequently painted with abstract geometric designs 
111 brownish black, tones ot red. ami while 
(cat. [13); more rarely it bears anthropomorphic, 



zoomorphic, or other images, like the human heads 
and fish on a basin from Banpo near Xi'an, Shaanxi 
Province (cat. 114). Most of this pottery was probably 
made for practical use, although the more unusually 
painted pieces may have had a ritual function. 

More remarkable than the Neolithic potters' efforts 
at painting are their ways of forming the clay. 
Vessels in sculpted three-dimensional forms are very 
rare, but occur in many different cultures. They 
include human, animal, and bird figures (cats. 115, 
116), whose primary purpose does not seem to have 
been utilitarian. 

Utility was certainly not a major concern of the 
Longshan potters in the region of Shandong 
Province who made some of the most beautiful 
Neolithic vessels. Their tall black goblets in daring 
shapes, turned on the potter's wheel, shaved to 
eggshell thinness, burnished, and pierced with lace- 
like openwork patterns (fig. 2), seem to have been 
designed to overcome the solid, weighty quality of 
the material. This imaginative and accomplished 
handling of earthenware clay was never achieved 
again in later periods. Yet even these most advanced 
Neolithic pots are technically nowhere near as 
remarkable as contemporaneous jades. 


From the middle of the second millennium bce, 
earthenware was little used for quality crafts. It still 
had many other functions; all of them, however, 
were low in prestige. It was used at the building 
site, the foundry, and the tomb, for structural parts, 
models, molds, and replicas. Potters made 
earthenware roof tiles, wall tiles (cats. 103, 104), 
water pipes, bricks, and other structural parts; the 
wall tiles and bricks were mainly for underground 
structures, because Chinese buildings were held up 
by wooden pillars rather than supporting walls. 

During the Shang (ca. 1600— ca. 1100 bce) and 
Zhou (ca. 1100—256 bce) dynasties, China's Bronze 
Age, earthenware had the important but naturally 
unglamorous function of supplying models and 
molds for bronze casting. Bronze Age potters thus 
left an imprint on the crafts of their time, but their 
actual works were not meant to be preserved and 
have survived in only a very fragmentary state. 2 

Fig. 2. Goblet with eggshell walls and openwork stem. 
Neolithic period, Jrd millennium BCE. Burnished black 
earthenware; h. 26.$ cm. Unearthed at Donghaiyu, 
Rizhao, Shandong Province. Shandong Provincial 

represent an important step in the development of 
Chinese ceramics. 

From the Warring States period (475-221 bce) until 
the High Tang period (713—779) earthenware was in 
demand as an inexpensive, versatile, and attractive 
material for making replicas that played a vital role 
in funerary practices: figures of men and beasts 
(cats. 88-92, 96-97, 99-101, 105-7, 109). models of 
structures (cats. 100, 102), and copies of objects of 
daily life. These replicas were painted or glazed or 
both. The figures substituted for the living beings 
that previously had been sacrificed for important 
burials; the copies considerably reduced the costs of 
funerals by replacing more valuable goods. 

An exception is the white pottery jar from Anyang, 
in Henan Province (cat. 117) — a rare instance of a 
bronze vessel, presumably shaped after a pottery 
model, being in turn copied in clay. 3 Beautiful but 
impractical, it is made of white earthenware of finer 
quality and brighter color than that used for model 
making, yet is similarly soft, porous, and brittle. Not 
surprisingly, such pieces do not seem to have been 
made in any quantity, nor for long, and they do not 

The most remarkable aspect of this tomb pottery is 
the sculptural quality of some of the figures. Since 
burial goods were status symbols for both the 
deceased and the survivors, they became more and 
more ambitious over time. This trend reached its 
zenith in the High Tang period; grave figures of 
that time can be strikingly naturalistic and lively 
(cats. 105—7) or else highly imaginative and 
elaborate in their modeling (cats, no— 11). 4 They 


represent virtually the only type of secular sculpture 
ever made in China. 

Funerary pottery inspired little innovation in 
ceramic technology. Glazes were used on Chinese 
earthenwares beginning only in the Han dynasty 
(206 BCE-220 ce), almost a thousand years after 
they had appeared on Chinese stonewares. The 
glazes have a wider range of bright colors than the 
early stonewares, beginning with a leaf green 
(cat. 100) and a reddish brown (cat. 101) in the Han 
dynasty, followed by a blackish brown in the 
Northern Wei (386-534), various tones of yellow 
and amber from the Northern Qi on, and 
eventually blue and turquoise in the Tang. 5 

Because funerary ceramics were generally made of 
soft and porous clays and either cold-painted with 
unstable pigments or covered with poisonous lead 
glazes, they were decorative but of very limited use 
to the living. This made them even more desirable 
for burials, as they held no attraction for tomb 


In the production of these various earthenwares 
since the Neolithic period, China was no more 
advanced than most other countries. The important 
and unique development of Chinese ceramics 
toward the production of porcelain took a separate 
route. Its origins can be traced back to the Bronze 
Age, when stonewares began to be produced 
simultaneously with earthenwares, but at different 
kiln centers and for different purposes. 

The Shang dynasty gray-green jar in the exhibition 
(cat. 118) may have been considered less attractive 
than its white earthenware contemporary (cat. 117), 
but technically it is far more sophisticated. It has a 
stoneware body and a natural glaze derived from 
wood ash. Fired at a high temperature (over 
1200 C), its body became hard and completely 
dense and wood ash on its surface turned liquid, 
forming a glaze over part of the vessel. 

Since its properties are very similar to those of 
porcelain, even though it is neither white nor 
translucent, this type of ware is referred to as 
protoporcelain. It was by far the most advanced and 
practical ceramic ware of its period. Yet compared 
with contemporary bronzes, whose complex forms 
and intricate designs seem to have absorbed .ill 
artistic efforts of the time, it looks very modest 
indeed. Whether the porcelain stone that forms the 
body materia] was used in a pure state or enhanced 
by admixtures of kaolin (china clay) and other 
Substances, it always remained gray and rather 
co. use. The glaze might have been accidental. 

occurring when floating particles of ash in the 
wood-fired kiln landed on the vessel surface, or 
deliberate, achieved by dusting ash onto the vessel 
before firing. Whatever the process, the glaze was 
never smooth or even. 

Vessels of glazed stoneware were made throughout 
the Bronze Age (ca. 2100 bce— 220 ce) without 
major changes. Whereas in the Eastern Zhou 
period bronze vessels became more and more 
flamboyant in shape and design, their surfaces often 
enhanced by dramatic inlay in silver, gold, 
malachite, and other materials, and lacquerware 
provided an elegant alternative in the form of far 
more delicate vessels with intricate polychrome 
painted designs, the finest ceramics were still 
rather dull. 

After the Han dynasty fell, the empire fractured 
into a number of independent kingdoms. The 
kingdoms most important for the continuation of 
indigenous Chinese culture were all located in the 
southeast and all had their capitals in Nanjing. The 
manufacture of stonewares burgeoned in the south. 
Among the earliest ceramic centers to become 
famous by name are theYue kilns of Zhejiang 
Province, not far from Nanjing. They were the 
earliest kilns to make stonewares with glazes that 
were applied in a liquid state and therefore evenly 
covered the whole vessel (cats. 119, 120). In color 
these liquid glazes, whose yellowish olive tone was 
derived from oxidized iron, are similar to ash glazes; 
but they tend to be brighter and more intense since 
the contents of a liquid glaze can more easily be 
manipulated than those of wood ash.Yue ware was 
made in much greater quantities than earlier 
stonewares, both tor daily use and tor burial.'' 

During this multistate period China was more 
receptive than ever before to foreign goods and 
ideas. Probably the most significant influence came 
from Western Asia with the introduction of 
Buddhism. The southern kingdom ofWu (220-80), 
in whose domain theYue kilns were situated, was 
one of the first to embrace the new religion. Yue 
wares therefore show some of the earliest Chinese 
representations of the Buddha (cat. 120). 7 

As Buddhism spread throughout China it brought 
with it such foreign motifs as lotus flowers, 
palmettes, and applied decorations suggestive ol 
encrusted jewels and strings of pearls. These motifs 
began to appear on the green-glazed stonewares 
from north oftheYangzi River [22). Although 
these ceramics with their exotic ornamentation and 
shapes seem to embody the taste of their time and 
to represent precious artifacts in winch the period 
was otherwise poor, the most elaborate pieces were 
destined for burial; only the simpler ones were 
intended lor use. s 



Although Buddhism remained enormously 
influential until the end of the High Tang period, 
ceramics did not reflect its influence for long. In 
the early Tang dynasty and during the two brief 
periods that led up to it artistically, the Northern 
Qi (550-577) and the Sui (581-618), Chinese 
potters again became more inward-looking. At the 
Yue kilns in the south, which continued to make 
green-glazed stonewares, and at the Xing and other 
kilns in Hebei and Henan provinces in the north, 
which began to make white stonewares, quality 
quickly improved. By the second half of the Tang, 
potters were creating ceramics with most desirable 
features: a clear and clean color, a glossy sheen, a 
smooth tactile surface, and an even, flawless 
appearance. The sheer beauty of such material made 
ornament superfluous. 

Yue and Xing wares were more than merely 
practical; they were perhaps the first Chinese 
ceramics to be celebrated for their beauty. In the 
Chajing ("Classic ofTea"), an eighth-century text, 
bowls ofYue (cats. 123—25) and of Xing ware 
(cats. 126, 127) 9 are recommended for tea 
drinking — then an activity of almost ritual 
intricacy — and are compared, respectively, to jade 
and silver, two of the most highly prized materials 
of the time. 10 Although the delicate green glaze of 
Yue ware can evoke the beauty and tactile quality 
of jade and the brilliant clear glaze over a white 
body of Xing ware can be reminiscent ot silver, 
these ceramics were neither conceived nor regarded 
as substitutes for such elevated substances but rather 
as their equivalents. These early literary references 
signal the dawn of connoisseurship in Chinese 

In the early Tang dynasty. Buddhism had gripped 
not only the population at large but also the 
imperial household. Buddhist temples regularly 
received valuable offerings and thus became 
veritable treasure houses. One of the foremost 
temples of the time was the Famen Temple, not far 
from the Tang capital ot Chang'an (present-day 
Xi'an); it held one of the most sacred relics, a finger 
bone of the Buddha. In the mid-Tang period this 
relic was repeatedly borne in procession with great 
ceremony from the temple to the palace, and then 
returned with lavish donations from the court. The 
last donations might have been added in 874, when 
the relic was sealed in a repository (see essay by 
Helmut Brinker in this volume). 

When this repository was discovered in 1987 under 
the Famen Temple pagoda, the Buddha bone was 
round to be preserved among the most precious 
objects of gold and silver, the rarest pieces of rock 
crystal and glass, over seven thousand pieces of 

silk — and fourteen green-glazed Yue ware vessels 
(cats. 124, 125). With their very pale bodies, highly 
glossy light-green glazes, and surfaces as tactile as a 
well-polished gem, they are exceptional indeed, 
unmatched in quality by any other pieces surviving 
from that time, even if closely related (cat. 123)." In 
the repository's inventory, they were listed as mise 
("secret color") ware, a term well known from late 
Tang poetry, which tells us that mise ware was made 
at the Yue kilns. 12 

The fact that these green-glazed stonewares, 
produced far away in the south, should be included 
in one of the richest repositories, among the most 
exquisite and expensive gifts from the imperial 
court, clearly documents their elevated status. When 
the Tang empire began to break up into smaller 
kingdoms, not long after the Yue wares at the 
Famen Temple site were made, the kings of Wu- 
Yue, in whose domain the kilns were situated, 
reserved Yue ware for their own use. 

White wares from the Ding or Xing kilns may have 
played a similar role at another court. Some of 
them are inscribed on the base with the character 
guan ("official") (cats. 126, 127) or with similar 
identifications. The significance of this inscription 
cannot yet be explained with any confidence, since 
such pieces have been discovered in Tang, Five 
Dynasties (907-960), Liao (916-1125), and 
Northern Song (960—1127) contexts. 13 One can 
therefore only speculate about what special status 
ceramics singled out in this way might have had. 
The only other Tang stonewares besides clear- and 
green-glazed ones were those with black glazes, 
often with light blue splashes, but for those no 
elevated status can be claimed.' 4 


Stylistically, these undecorated monochrome wares 
of the Tang are completely indigenous Chinese 
products. They initiated a taste in ceramics that 
found its fullest expression only during the Song 
dynasty (960—1279). Both aesthetically and 
technically, the Song dynasty represents a high 
point of Chinese culture and particularly of 
Chinese ceramics. It was a time when exquisite 
materials and sophisticated workmanship were 
combined with a calculated simplicity in form and 

In contrast to the few workshops making fine 
ceramics in the Tang, dozens of kiln centers had 
mastered the basic principles by the early Song. 
Kilns that during the Tang had made only basic 
utensils which were not known by the kiln names, 
refined their body and glaze materials and 
improved potting and firing techniques to such a 
degree that by the tenth century they were able to 



produce beautiful and flawless wares. Technological 
mastery gave free rein to creativity and allowed the 
potters to concentrate on detail and subtle 
variation. The most important ceramic wares ot the 
Song all developed from the three basic types of 
stoneware made in the Tang: those with green, 
clear, and black glazes. 

Song shapes are almost invariably simple, functional, 
and well proportioned. Song vessels tend to be 
monochrome-glazed in subtle, rarely seen shades 
rather than bright primary colors. Often they are 
wholly undecorated, or have surfaces modestly 
enlivened by the faint tonal gradations created by 
incised or carved designs, or by the random 
patterns formed by a crackle, the decorative crazing 
of the glaze that can occur during the cooling 
process after firing. 

Henan Province (cat. 132), close to the capital at 
Kaifeng. They were made for the court for only 
some twenty years in the last two decades of the 
eleventh and first years of the twelfth century. Only 
some sixty examples have survived today, but 
collectors have lamented their rarity for centuries. 
Most Ru wares are accessories for the scholar's 
desk, such as brush washers (low bowls for cleaning 
the writing or painting brush). They are extremely 
simple, evenly and thinly potted, and almost 
invariably undecorated. Ru wares are fully glazed 
(including foot and base), having been placed in the 
kiln on supports that left only minute so-called 
sesame-seed marks on the glaze. The ware is 
celebrated above all for its tactile glaze in varying 
evocative shades of bluish and grayish green, usually 
with a crackle. The comparison with well-polished, 
well-colored, slightly veined jade is inevitable. 

The most admired features of Song ceramics look 
as if they had come about naturally, without all the 
effort and precision work that they in fact require. 
Only an intimate familiarity with the properties of 
all raw materials and a thorough understanding of 
their reactions during the firing cycle enabled 
potters to manipulate them as they wished. 

The appeal of perfected simplicity achieved 
through exquisite craftsmanship is very subtle 
indeed. Ceramic masterpieces of the Song were not 
made for ostentatious display, but for handling by 
connoisseurs in an intimate, private setting. It was 
in the literati circles of the Song that ceramics were 
first appreciated as works of art, that they were 
deemed worth collecting, whether antique or new, 
and worth handing down trom one generation to 
the next. 

Although the preference for artifacts made of clay 
over precious metals or stones probably emanated 
from the literati circles of the Song, where 
understatement was a celebrated virtue, the 
imperial court manifested a similar taste. Of course, 
not all the vast and varied Song wares were 
officially appreciated, but some were made 
exclusively for the court. No comparable 
production of goods worked from gold or silver, or 
from jade or other stones exists for this period. 

Through their absolute mastery of the technical 
process and their acute sense of aesthetic principles 
the potters, none of whom is known by name, were 
able to manipulate their medium so sensitively and 
intelligently that they turned one of the most basic 
raw materials — earth — into one of the most 
precious commodities. 

By tar the rarest and most desirable Chinese 
ceramics of all times were and are the green-glazed 
stonewares from the Ru kilns in Baofene county. 

When the northern capital was captured by the Jin 
invaders and the Song fled south in 1127, they set 
up kilns at their new capital in present-day 
Hangzhou to make an "official" (guan) ware 
(cat. 133) modeled on Ru. Using the different raw 
materials of the south, the potters came up with a 
ware that appeals for the same reasons but looks 
different, having a thicker, clearer glaze and a more 
pronounced crackle. Guan and Ru wares represent 
the epitome of Chinese ceramics — the 
transformation of earth as a medium into a 
substance deemed more beautiful and more 
precious than the most valuable materials. 

Since these two wares could not easily be obtained 
except by the imperial palace, their beauty was 
emulated by other kilns. "Celadon," as green-glazed 
stonewares are usually called in the West, was in fact 
in seemingly limitless supply. IS The Yaozhou kilns in 
Shaanxi Province in the north were stylistically less 
immediately dependent on Ru; their wares bear 
swiftly incised, carved, or combed designs (cat. 130). 
But the Longquan kilns in Zhejiang Province in 
the south clearly aimed at imitating Guan (cat. 134). 
Some Longquan celadons do this so successfully 
that they were, and sometimes still are. mistaken for 
Guan ware."' 

Among the white wares are two remarkable types 
of similar quality and style: both have .1 finely 
potted white body; clear, translucent glaze: and 
accomplished, swiftly carved designs. Ding ware 
(cat. 131 and its predecessors, cats. [28, [29), from 
Hebei Province in the north, has a characteristic 
ivory-tinged glaze and was used at the court. But 
the so-called qingbai ("bluish white'") ware, whu li 
has a blue-tinged clear glaze (cat. 135) and came 
from fingdezhen injiangxi Province in the south, 
was never highly appreciated, h was the Jingdezhen 
kilns, however, that were lo establish a virtual 
monopoly on Chinese ceramics with their 



production of blue-and-white porcelain from the 
Yuan dynasty on. 

During the Song dynasty the black-glazed, blue- 
splashed stonewares of the Tang developed in two 
directions: light blue-glazed wares, sometimes with 
purple suffusions, made by the Jun kilns of Henan 
Province (fig. 3),' 7 which belong to the wares 
acclaimed at court, and black-glazed wares from 
kilns all over China, 18 which achieved no such 

All these wares, which emanated from the traditions 
of Tang green-, white-, and black-glazed wares, 
embody the Song ideals of highly refined materials, 
exquisite workmanship, an unerring sense of 
proportion, and a judicious use of subtle decorative 
devices that contribute to the overall effect without 
compromising the general impression ot simplicity. 

The great exception to that aesthetic among Song 
dynasty ceramics are the wares from the Cizhou 
and related kilns of north China (cats. 136-38). 
They followed a different tradition, in which the 
potters were less concerned with the refinement of 
their materials than with producing striking 
decorations of calligraphic or painterly quality. 
Cizhou-type wares, which became particularly 
popular during the foreign-ruled fin and Yuan 
periods, can be seen as foreshadowing a new 
direction in Chinese ceramics. 


For some time the Jingdezhen kilns of Jiangxi 
Province had been able to create a clean, white, and 
translucent porcelain. Perhaps the most valuable 
aspect of this material is that it is totally neutral. A 
pristine ground such as this provides an ideal 
surface for painted decoration. The introduction of 
fine cobalt from the Middle East and experiments 
with copper in China suddenly introduced two 
striking pigments, a bright blue and a deep red, for 
painting with a brush on the dried but still unfired 
and unglazed porcelain body, very much like 
painting in ink on paper or silk. Sealed with glaze 
and fired at high temperatures, the colors are 
permanent. With this innovation, the stylistic 
concept of fine ceramics underwent a fundamental 

The Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) therefore forms 
something like a watershed in the history of 
Chinese ceramics. The underglaze painting of 
cobalt and other pigments on porcelain represents 
the last great evolutionary step, after which no 
further dramatic innovations took place. 19 The 
development of Chinese ceramics during the last 
six hundred years could therefore be seen as a long 
sequence of variations on a single theme. 

Fig. 3. Basin. Jin dynasty; 12th c. Bine-glazed stoneware 
with purple suffusions. Jnn kilns, Henan Province, diam. 
32.4 cm. Meiyintang collection. 

In this respect, Chinese ceramics differ little from 
Chinese painting, and what James Cahill (q.v.) has 
stressed about later Chinese painting is equally true 
for later Chinese ceramics: the groundbreaking 
discoveries, both technical and conceptual, took 
place so remarkably early in China that all later 
craftsmen had to battle against a "near- 
overpowering weight of the past" to maintain their 
originality. Cahill's admiration for the "stratagems" 
the painters of the Ming and Qing period devised 
"for escaping repetition and stagnation" could 
equally be extended to the potters of the period, 
even though their ways of working were in no way 
comparable. In fact, the phases in which Chinese 
ceramics had the greatest impact on ceramics 
worldwide were yet to come. 

From the early fourteenth century the most 
important aspect of a ceramic vessel was its 
decoration. A most spectacular early example of this 
emphasis is the covered jar (cat. 139) unearthed 
from a Yuan dynasty hoard at Baoding, Hebei 
Province: this jar combines painting in underglaze 
cobalt blue and underglaze copper red with applied 
openwork and pearl beading. A tour de force such 
as this vessel did not find immediate favor with 
Chinese connoisseurs, whose taste was much more 
restrained. Early blue-and-white and related 
porcelains were largely exported to the Middle East 
and Southeast Asia and were used, to a lesser 


Fig. 4. "Chicken" cup. Ming dynasty, Chenghua mark 
and period (1465-1487). Porcelain with Doncai 
decoration, Jingdezhen kilns; diam. 8.2 an. 

degree, by the ruling Mongols. But since no other 
kiln could equal the striking visual appeal of these 
porcelains, Jingdezhen soon eclipsed all other 
kiln centers. 

At first, however, the native Chinese Ming court, 
still influenced by Song aesthetics, preferred the 
more sober monochrome porcelains from 
Jingdezhen (cats. 140, 141). Blue-and-white found 
favor only gradually. The large and impressive blue- 
and-white porcelains made during theYongle 
period (1403-1424) (cats. 142, 143) still went mainly 
abroad. Small, delicately potted and painted pieces 
such as the stem bowl from the Xuande reign 
(1426-1435) (cat. 144) may have been among the 
first blue-and-white porcelains to appeal at the 
Chinese court, about one hundred years after the 
ware was first made. 

Once the court had "discovered" blue-and-white 
porcelain, it instantly monopolized the entire 
output of the Jingdezhen kilns. At the same time, 
virtually everything made for the imperial 
household was inscribed with a reign mark — that 
is, the auspiciously worded designation of the 
current emperor's reign period. To begin with, the 
reign mark truly indicated ,1 ware made exclusively 
for court use; in later periods such marks were also 
inscribed on nonimperial porcelains and earlier 
reign marks were copied on later pieces. The palace 
required large numbers of identical objects. 
Stringent quality controls assured that shapes and 
patterns were precise and materials absolutely 

*3 'J 

Fig. 5. Vase with design of golden pheasants and 
calligraphy. Qing dynasty. Qianlong mark and period 
(1736-1795). Porcelain from Jingdezhen kilns, enamel 
painting by imperial workshops in Forbidden ( ~ny. 
Beijing; h. 20. J cm. Private collection. 

flawless. Uniformity was more appreciated than 

Although the porcelains of the Ming and Qing 
(1644-iyn) are rarely unique, their painted 
decoration remained spirited. I'.imting 111 overglaze 



enamel colors, applied on the glazed, fired porcelain 
which is then refired, was perfected in the 
Chenghua period (1465-1487). Enamel colors such 
as red, green, yellow, aubergine, and turquoise were 
used first in the doucai ("matched" or "clashing" 
colors) technique, in which those overglaze colors 
were combined with underglaze blue outlines and 
sometimes washes. Later, enamels were used in 
varying wucai ("five-color") combinations, for 
which underglaze blue outlines were considered 
unnecessary. The doucai "chicken cups" of the 
Chenghua period, with their charmingly painted 
scenes of chickens and chicks (fig. 4), were and 
still are deemed the most desirable of all Ming 
porcelains. Both doucai and wucai continued to 
be popular throughout the Qing dynasty 
(cats. 145, 146). 

Porcelain painting that approached the quality of 
traditional ink painting was an achievement of the 
Qing dynasty. It can be credited to a man named 
TangYing, who supervised the imperial porcelain 
production in theYongzheng (1723— 1735) and early 
Qianlong (1736— 1795) periods, when it reached its 
greatest heights. It required not only more highly 
trained artists but also a much larger palette of 
suitable pigments to achieve a flexible range of 
colors and shades. 

Imperial workshops had been set up within the 
palace precincts in the Forbidden City under the 
Kangxi emperor (1662-1722), for painting enamels 
on copper, porcelain, and glass. For this purpose the 
most accomplished porcelain painters were sent 
from Jingdezhen to Beijing together with ready- 
made plain white porcelains suitable for enameling. 
In addition, some of the Jesuits residing at the 
court, valued for their knowledge of Western 
science and technology, were assigned to these 
workshops from time to time, to their great 
chagrin. Among these artists it was Giuseppe 
Castiglione (1698-1766), known to the Chinese as 
Lang Shining, who greatly influenced the 
decorative arts through his naturalistic painting 
style, with its sharply defined contrasts between 
light and shade and emphasis on three- 
dimensionality and perspective. 

At about the same time, the palette of enamel 
colors was enlarged by the introduction of two new 
pigments developed in Europe, whose use on 
porcelain was rapidly perfected in China: a rose 
pink and, more important, an opaque white enamel 
which, mixed with other colors, could create whole 
new ranges of opaque pastel shades. 

The flower-and-bird or landscape scenes from the 
palace workshops are academic but exquisite little 
paintings. To emphasize their close connection with 

painting, they are generally accompanied by a 
poetic colophon written in black in a calligraphic 
hand, followed by (painted) "seals" (fig. 5). The 
subtly nuanced color and the microscopic precision 
with which minute details are rendered make this 
the most sophisticated porcelain painting ever 

Fig. 1. Copyright Azimuth 

Fig. 2. After Zhongguo meishu 
Quanji, Vol. I, Arts and Crafts 
Edition (Shanghai: People's Arts 
Publishing Company, igSS). 

Fig. 3. Copyright Sotheby's. 

Fig. 4. Copyright Sotheby's. 

Fig. 5. Copyright Sotheby's. 


1. For the purpose of this 
exhibition, the term 
"porcelain" has been used very 
conservatively — that is, only for 
wares from the Yuan dynasty or 
later, even though some earlier 
pieces may also seem to qualify 
for that designation. 

2. Fragments of pottery molds 
have been discovered at many 
Shang and Zhou dynasty sites, 
particularly at the Eastern 
Zhou bronze foundry at 
Houma, Shanxi Province; see 
Institute of Archaeology of 
Shanxi Province, ed.. Art of the 
Houma Foundry (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 
1996); and Robert Bagley 
"Debris from the Houma 
Foundry," Orientations (October 
1996), pp. 50-58. 

3. Compare a very similar 
Shang dynasty bronze jar {you), 
complete with cover and swing 
handle, excavated from a hoard 
in Zhengzhou, Henan 
Province, published in Quanguo 
chutu wenwu zhenpin xuan 

{A Selection of the Treasure of 
Archaeological Finds of the 
Peoples' Republic of China) 
(Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 
•987). pi- 166. 

4. For a good selection of fine 
tomb hgures excavated in 
China, see Zhongguo wenwu 
jinghua daquan: Taoci juan 
{"Complete Series on the 

Finest Cultural Relics of 
China: Ceramics Volume") 
(Taipei: Shangwu ymshuguan, 
1993). PP- 76-163. 

5. For an early example of a 
blackish brown glaze, see the 
figure of a horse from a 
Northern Wei tomb dated to 
4S4, in Zhongguo meishu quanji; 
Gongyi meishu bian 1; Taoci 
("Complete Series on Chinese 
Art; Crafts Section i: 
Ceramics"), vol. 1 (Shanghai: 
Shanghai renmin meishu 
chubanshe, 1988), pi. 238; for a 
pale yellow and an amber 
glaze, see a covered bottle and 
a pilgrim flask from two 
Northern Qi tombs, the latter 
dated to 575, ibid., pis. 236, 237. 
One of the most impressive 
blue-glazed pieces is a large jar 
and cover from the Anthony de 
Rothschild collection at Ascott 
House, Buckinghamshire; see 
Margaret Medley, T'ang Pottery 
and Porcelain (London: Faber, 
1981), cpl. B; and for a rare 
example ot a Tang turquoise 
glaze, see the figure of an earth 
spirit in The Tsui Museum of 
Art: Chinese Ceramics I, Neolithic 
to Liao (Hong Kong: The Tsui 
Museum of Art, 1993), pi. 121. 

6. In addition to functional 
containers, Yue wares of the Six 
Dynasties include unmistakable 
funerary wares such as plates 
with permanently affixed cups 
and spoons, and burial figures. 

7. For Yue wares with Buddha 
figures predating the Western 
Jin bowl in the exhibition 
(cat. 120), see Fojiao chuchuan 
iianfang zhi hi ("The Southern 
Route of the Dissemination of 
the Buddhist Faith") {Beijing: 
Wenwu chubanshe, 1993), 

8. A series of the most lavishly 
embellished funerary vases of 
the Northern Qi dynasty is 
illustrated mYutaka Mino and 
Kathenne R.Tsiang, Ice and 
Green Clouds: Traditions of 
Chinese Celadon (Indianapolis: 
Indiana University Press, 1986), 
no. 38. 

9. The white wares of the Xing 
and the Ding kilns, both in 
Hebei Province, are extremely 
difficult to distinguish. 
Generally speaking, the Xing 
kiln centers were more 
advanced during the Tang and 
Five Dynasties periods, but by 
the Northern Song period 
were outshone by the Ding 


kilns and eventually eclipsed. 
Individual pieces are not always 
easy to attribute, however. 
White wares inscribed with the 
character guan ("official") are 
generally associated with the 
Ding kilns, but are not 
exclusive to them. 

10. For a translation of Lu Yu's 
Chajing ("Classic of Tea"), see 
Francis Ross Carpenter, The 
Classic of Tea by Lu Yii (Boston 
and Toronto: Little, Brown, 
1974), where this discussion 
appears on pp. 90-93- 

11. The two octagonal bottles 
(cats. 123, 125), which 
superficially look very similar, 
are in fact very different. The 
bottle from Famen Temple 
(cat. 125) shows a much whiter 
clay and glossier glaze and has 
more elegant proportions than 
the one in the Palace Museum, 
Beijing, whose history is not 
recorded (cat. 123). The Famen 
Temple Yue wares are of 
unmatched quality and at 
present seem to be the only 
ones to qualify for the 
distinction of being called mise 
ware. The Palace Museum 
bottle represents what used to 
be considered fine Yue ware of 
the period. Fragments of such 
bottles have been found at 
Shanglinhu, the main Yue kiln 
site, and one such piece comes 
from a burial datable to 871; 
see Ho Chuimei, ed., Netv 
Light on Chinese Yue and 
Longquan Wares, Centre of 
Asian Studies Occasional 
Papers and Monographs, 

no, no (Hong Kong: The 
University of Hong Kong, 
[994). P- 34i. pi- iG.The two 
types therefore appear to be 
contemporary products of the 
same kilns; why they should be 
so different cannot yet be 

12. For discussions on mise 
(formerly called bise) ware, see 
S.W. Bushell, Description of 
Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, 
living a Translation of the T'ao 
Shuo (Oxford, 1910), pp. 37, 
131; and Sir Percival David, 
"Some Notes on Pi-seYao," 
Eastern Art 1 (January 1929), 
PP- 137-43- 

13. White wares inscribed with 
the character guan have come 
to light in many tombs and 
pagoda foundations in 

Zhejiang, Beijing, Liaoning, 
and Hebei, some of which are 
datable to the years 895—900, 
958, 959, 977, and 1031, 
respectively: see Wenwu, no. 12 
(1979), pp. 18-23; and Wenunt, 
no. 12 (1975), p. 41. 

14. For a representative 
selection ofTang black wares 
from kilns in Henan Province, 
with and without light blue 
glaze splashes, see Regina 
Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the 
Meiyintang Collection, vol. 1 
(London; Azimuth Editions, 
1994), pp. 126— 35. The only 
other important Tang 
stoneware kilns not represented 
here are those of Changsha in 
Hunan Province, which made 
green wares, partly with 
designs painted under the 
glaze; see Timothy See- Yin 
Lam, Tang Ceramics: Changsha 
Kilns (Hong Kong: Lammett 
Arts, 1990). 

15. "Celadon" is a Western 
collectors term that refers to 
green-glazed stonewares, 
usually those from the Song 
dynasty on. The origin of the 
term is not absolutely clear. It 
may derive either from Saladin, 
a twelfth-century sultan of 
Syria and Egypt, where the 
ware was popular, or from a 
seventeenth-century play by 
Honore d'Urfe.The play, in 
which a young shepherd 
named Celadon appears dressed 
in pale green, was fashionable 
in nineteenth-century France, 
as was the ware. 

16. Several of the most 
exquisite Longquan copies of 
Guan ware presented as 
tributes to the court during the 
first Qing reigns were included 
in the National Palace 
Museum exhibition Song 
guanyao tezhan (Special 
Exhibition of Song Dynasty Kuan 
Ware) (Taipei: National Palace 
Museum, 1989); three of 
them — cats. 33, 84, "0 — were 
identified as such byTs'ai 
Ho-pi in the catalogue, p. 31. 

17. Two types ofjun ware can 
be distinguished whose dating 
and thus importance for the 
court is still much debated; .1 
group of vessels of simple 
rounded forms characteristic ot 
the Song and Jm dynasties, 
with even-toned blue glazes 
with or without distinct purpk- 

splashes; and a group of 
flowerpots and vases in a range 
of sizes (marked from 1 to 10), 
made in complicated bronze 
shapes characteristic of the 
Yuan and Ming dynasties, with 
shaded blue and purple glazes. 
An attribution to the Northern 
Song is undisputed for the 
former; on the basis of 
controversial archaeological 
evidence some scholars also 
attribute the latter to that 
period. For examples of the 
two types, see Zhao Qingyun, 
Henan taoci shi ("History of 
Henan Ceramics") (Beijing: 
Zijincheng chubanshe, 1993), 
pi. 18 and cpl. 11, nos. 42, 43, 
45 for the former, and pi. 19 
and cpl. 11, no. 44 for the latter. 

18. For a representative 
selection of Song black wares, 
see the exhibition catalogue by 
Robert D. Mowry, Hare's Fur, 
Tortoiseshell, and Partridge 
Leathers: Chinese Brown- and 
Black-Glazed Ceramics, 400—1400 
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard 
University Art Museums, 

19. Isolated experiments with 
underglaze painting in cobalt 
blue on white stonewares that 
could be called porcelains had 
already been made in the Tang 
dynasty. The beginnings of 
blue-and-white porcelain are 
therefore by some scholars 
associated with the Tang. But 
these Tang wares appear to be 
totally unconnected with the 
continuous production of blue- 
and-white porcelain at 
Jingdezhen injiangxi Province, 
which can be traced back no 
earlier than the first quarter of 
the fourteenth century. 



Origins and Trends in the 
Depiction of Human Figures 
in China of the Fifth and 
Sixth Centuries 

Su Bai 

Professor, Beijing University 

In the sculpture and painting of central 
and northern China two successive 
changes occurred in the fifth and sixth 
centuries that were particularly evident 
in the depiction of human figures. These 
two changes were directly related to a 
deliberate attempt on the part of the 
non-Han ruling classes in central and 
northern China to adopt Han culture 

Fig. l. Buddha Amitabha. Dated to 420. Rock carving. 
Bingling Temple, Cave i6g:6, Liujiaxia city, Gansu 

Fig. 2. Buddha Amitabha. Ca. 420. Cave painting. 
Bingling Temple, Cave i6g:i2, Liujiaxia city, Gansu 

and copy the native institutions of southern 
China. Hence, the origins of these changes must 
be traced back to the southern dynasties of Eastern 
Jin (317-420), Liu Song (420-479), and Liang 


In April 1963 a work team from the Gansu 
Provincial Bureau of Relics discovered a grotto 
containing a sculpture of Buddha Amitabha 
(numbered 169:6 in the archaeologists' report) in 
Cave 169 of the Bingling Temple inYongjing 
(present-day Liujiaxia city, about fifty miles 
southwest of Lanzhou) (fig. i).This bore an 
inscription dated to the year 420, making it the 
earliest known cave sculpture in China with an 
explicit date. The grotto contains a configuration 
consisting of a Buddha sitting in meditation and 
attendant bodhisattvas; to the lower left of the 
grotto is a group of murals of similar date and 
subject matter (169:12; fig. 2). Both groups of 
Buddha images are characterized by broad 
shoulders, large torsos, and a sense of geometric 
solidity and weightiness.The same features recur in 
Tanyao's Caves 16-20 at Yungang in Datong, Sh.iuxi 
Province. These were carved at the urging of 
Tanyao, overseer of monks under the Northern Wei 
dynasty, in 460. Among these images, the large 
seated Buddha in Cave 20 is the most typical 
(fig. 3). In 1949 a Buddha seated cross-legged in 
meditation was unearthed in Xingping county, 
Shaanxi Province, which dates from 471 (cat. 147). 

Fig. 3. Seated Buddha. Dated to 460. Rock carving. 
Cave 20, Yungang, Shauxi Province. 

Although it retains vestiges of the features 
mentioned above, it also shows changes in the 
direction of simpler and stronger lines. This 
transformation may have occurred during the 
period when the dowager empress Peng, widow 
of Emperor Wencheng. exerted great influence 
at court. 


According to the History of the Northern Dynasties. 
in 47(1 the dowager empress I eng " in Court and 
held all power."' During her ascendancy the 



..-■ ■.-*:-v :-■ 

-"■CxI^- -. ■ s 

Fig. 4. Buddha Sakydmuni (below); Buddhas Sakyaniuni 
and Prabhutaratna (above). Rock carvings. Cave 11, 
Yungang, Shanxi Province. 

Northern Wei policy of adopting Han culture 
intensified, and was reflected in Buddhist sculpture: 
the previously common garment that draped both 
shoulders or bared the right shoulder was no longer 
Sakyamuni's attire; rather, he was portrayed wearing 
the Confucian scholar's loose gown and wide sash. 
The face and torso also were transformed 
increasingly from square and powerful to thin and 
elongated. The earliest dated example of this new 
type of Buddha statue is found on the upper east 
side outside Cave 11 atYungang (No. 11:14, which 
is numbered lid by Mizuno Seiichi and Nagahiro 
Toshio in ThcYungang Caves). An inscription dated 
to 489 is carved below the grotto. Thereafter, 
elaborate flowing drapery and elongated faces and 
figures became the vogue and spread throughout 
the Northern Wei domains (fig. 4).TheYungang 
cave sculptures from 489 to 524 are the most 
representative of this style. In 493 the capital was 
moved from Datong in Shanxi Province, near the 
Yungang caves, to Luoyang in Henan Province. The 
various sculptures from the Guyang Cave at 
Longmen near Luoyang similarly display the 
characteristics of this era. During the late Qing 
dynasty a carved stone panel donated by one Liu 
Gen, dated to 524, was unearthed in Dongyipu, 
Luoyang (cat. 152). Some of the figures in the 
middle of the tablet exquisitely exemplify the 
slender, linearly rendered figures of relatively late 
date. Buddhist icons were not the only images in 
this style: good examples of the same style are 

Fig. 5. Biographies of Virtuous Women. Dated to 
484. Painted lacquer screen. Tomb oj Sima Jinlong and his 
wife, Shijiazhai village, Datong, Shanxi Province. 

found among the figures of worshipers in the 
above-mentioned Yungang and Longmen caves, as 
well as among the earthen burial figures and the 
paintings and stone carvings in Northern Wei 
tombs of the Luoyang years. Among these secular 
figures, the earliest known examples from the north 
are the persons painted on a lacquer screen found 
in the tomb of Sima Jinlong and his wife. The 
screen, discovered in the village of Shijiazhai in 
Datong, dates from 474—484 (fig. 5). 1 There is some 
speculation that this screen may have been 
imported from southern China at about that time. 

The scholar's loose robe and sash, elegant 
physiognomy, and purity of image characterize 
human figures of the Eastern Jin and Liu Song eras. 
In 847 Zhang Yanyuan of the Tang dynasty 
(61S— 907) compiled the Lidai ji ("Record 
of Famous Painters of Successive Dynasties"). 2 In it, 
the Jin and Liu Song dynasties are referred to as the 
Era of Middle Antiquity, and in volume 2 of this 
work the painters of the Era of Middle Antiquity 
are thus critiqued: 


Those of Middle Antiquity who can compare 
with those of High Antiquity are Gu and Lu. 

Gu Kaizhi (ca. 344-ca. 406) and Lu Tanwei 
(ca. 440-ca. 500) are cited as representative painters 
of Middle Antiquity. In volume 6 Zhang Yanyuan 
explicitly endorses the high assessment of Lu 
Tanwei by Zhang Huaiguan' during the Kaiyuan 
years of the Tang dynasty (713—741): 

Lu infuses his soul marvelously into his work. 
He combines motion with spirit, and his brush 
strokes are powerful as if chiseled with a knife. 
The elegant bones of his figures seem almost 
alive; they leave one in awe, as if in the presence 
of a god, yet though the image is wondrous it is 
conceived in nothing more than ink. In 
painting figures . . . Lu gets the bones right, 
while Gu [Kaizhi] gets the spirit. . . .Yanyuan 
considers this an appropriate assessment. 

From this we know that representative painters of 
the Jin and Liu Song dynasties strove for an artistic 
style that stressed "spirit," or a sense of life, and 
"bones," or refined physiognomy. The human 
figures in the extant Song copies of Gu Kaizhi's 
Admonitions to the Court Ladies (fig. 6) and Goddess 
of the Luo River* do indeed emphasize "spirit and 
bone." Other figures with elegant physiognomy are 
the Pure Land (school of Buddhism) stone carvings 
of 425, which were found at the Wanfo Temple site 
in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and the two extant 
gilded bronze seated Buddhas of 437 (fig. 7) and 
45 1. These typical stylizations are similarly found in 
depictions of people from contemporary tombs of 
the Six Dynasties in the lower Yangzi BJver basin, 
such as images of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo 
Grove and Rong Qiqi, painted on bricks embedded 
in the walls of a tomb beneath the north face of 
Mt. Gong in Xishanqiao, Nanjing. These, as well as 
earthern figures of men and women from this 
tomb, probably date from the Liu Song dynasty, and 
their style is markedly refined and attenuated (fig. 
8). s Such figures were particularly in vogue during 
the Liu Song and Southern Qi dynasties. Hence 
the contemporary writer Xie He of Wu, in his 
Giihuti pinlu ("Classification of Ancient Painters"), 
ranks Lu Tanwei first among painters: 

He goes to the limits of understanding and 
nature, and there are no words to describe his 
achievements; he encompasses the past and 
bears the seeds of the future, yet stands out 
among both past and present; he cannot be 
praised by mere effusiveness, yet (his work) is of 
the greatest value. There is nothing to say 
except that he is the best of the best, but the 
most I can do is place him in the first rank.' 1 

Slender images were even more popular in the 

fill ~ rf 

Fig. 6. Gu Kaizhi (ca. 344-ca. 406). Admonitions to 
the Court Ladies (last section). Song dynasty copy. 
Handscroll, ink and color on silk. British Museum. 

Fig. 7. Seated Buddha. Dated to 437. Gill bronze. Wanjo 
Temple site, Chengdu, Sichuan Province. 

central Yangzi River basin during the period of the 
Liang dynasty. For instance, the images in the wall 
paintings and the earthen tomb figures from the 
brick tomb in Xuezhuang village of I )eng county, 
I lenan Province, which is on the west bank of the 
Tuan tributary of the Flan River, are primarily of 
the slender type (fig. 9).' Hut some of the pottery 
tomb figures from a slightly later painted brick 




Fig. 8. Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong 
Qiqi. Six Dynasties (222- 5Sg). Tomb mural of painted 
bricks. Mt. Gong, Xislianqiao, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. 

tomb in Jiajiachong in Xiangfan, Hubei Province, 
are markedly fuller (fig. 10). The amplitude ot the 
earthen figures from that tomb is especially 
noticeable. 8 


Xiao Yan (r. 502—549), who founded the Liang 
dynasty, adapted many institutions of the Southern 
Qi dynasty, 9 and "for fifty years the south was 
uneventful." 10 A change in fashion at the southern 
courts was reflected in artistic styles, namely, the 
popularity of Zhang Sengyou's (act. ca. 500— ca. 550) 
school of painting. Zhang Yanyuan praised Zhang 
Sengyou's paintings of people as "marvelous" and 
"wonderful," and he noted that "the Zhangs, father 
and sons [Sengyou's sons Shanguo and Rutong] are 

Fig. 9. Figures. Liang dynasty (502—557). Stamped brick 
with traces of pigment. Xuezhang village, Deng county, 
Henan Province. 

Fig. 10. Figure of a civil official. Liang dynasty 
(502—557). Pottery. Painted brick tomb, Jiajiachong, 
Xiangfan, Hubei Province. 

in the ultimate rank" (vol. 9, Lidai ji). He 
also cites this comment from the Duoyisliu 
("Enumeration of the Myriad Arts") of Gao 
Zongshi (649-683)" and from Li Sizhen (d. 696), 
who compiled Paintings: 11 

Gu and Lu are now gone, and in terms of being 
the best, only Sengyou can claim to be a 
worthy successor. Scholars of today look up to 
him as they would to the Duke of Zhou and 
Confucius. . . .Also, the attire of people drawn 
by Gu and Lu is incomparable, to the point 
where you notice little else. As for the 
marvelous sense of bones in Zhang, he has 
studied everything, so he is not only adept in 
the Six Methods, he is actually marvelous in 
every way. He has infinite variety, and an 
abundance of forms, which are seen by his eye 
and shaped in his palm; his hand responds to 
every thought in his mind, till you sense that 
here is a sage sent by heaven who can create as 


Fig. 11. Buddha Amitabha and Buddha Maitreya. Dated 
to 483. Rock carvings. Mao county, Sichuan Province. 

wondrously as a magician. So I suggest ranking 
him at the top with Gu and Lu (preface to 
vol. 7, Lidai minghua ji). 

Li and Zhang are both certainly unstinting' 3 in 
their praise of Sengyou, but for a specific 
description of Zhang's style we have only Li's 
remark about his marvelous sense of bones. What 
should we make of this phrase? After the previous 
passage, the Lidai minghua ji goes on to quote 
Zhang Huaiguan: 

In the subtleties of drawing people, Zhang gets 
the flesh right. 

This is most crucial. Elsewhere, the Lidai minghua ji 
is even more explicit: 

In drawing the bones of people, Zhang falls 


(vol. 6). 

behind Gu and Lu. Zhang gets the flesh right 

In contrast to the styles of the great masters who 
preceded Sengyou, the main point about Sengyou's 
"marvelous sense of bones" is his shift in emphasis 
from spirit and bones to "getting the flesh right," 
that is, the shift from slender to ample. Hence, the 
terms used in temple inscriptions of the time to 
describe the Buddha's image included "a relaxed 
moon face" 1 ' and "a face like a full moon." 1 ' These 
round faces are very different from the narrow faces 
so highly regarded before. Early signs of this change 
from the slender style, and of the gradual 
emergence of the fuller-bodied figures that "tret the 

flesh right," can be seen in the two stone carvings 
of Amitabha and Maitreya Buddha from Mao 
county, Sichuan Province, dating from 483 (fig. 11). 
Fuller and rounder figures can also be seen clearly 
in the stone carvings from the Wanfo Temple in 
Chengdu, which date from 523 (cat. 150), 529, 537, 
and 548, all bearing inscriptions from the Wuji 
period of the Liang dynasty. (The above are all in 
the collection of the Sichuan Provincial Museum.) 
These same traits are also evident in the carved 
images of female attendants from the painted brick 
tomb of the late Southern dynasties period in Qijia 
village of Changzhou,Jiangsu Province. ' 6 And as 
the bodies grew fleshier, the garments became 

By about the second quarter of the sixth century 
the new Southern style represented by Zhang 
Sengyou had probably diffused all the way north to 
Luoyang, the new capital of the Northern Wei, 
which was again turning avidly to southern China 
for models in conduct and in art. According to the 
"Biography of the monk Fazhen": 

The monk Fazhen . . . was well wised in the 
Chengshilun, and had a profound grasp ot its 
meaning. His lectures were brilliant and 
original, and he was peerless between tlu-Yi 
and 1 110 rivers. His tame was as great as that o\ 
the monk Jian. At the time the virtues of the 
Wei were in decline, women were in the 
ascendant, predictions of doom were 
increasingly common, suspicions were rampant. 
envy was excessive — this is whal the world was 



Fig. 12. Fragments of sculptures. Dated to 5ig (Northern 
Wei dynasty). Stone. Pagoda oftheYongning Temple, 
Luoyang, Henan Province. 

coming to. Zhen said to Jian, "The Liang is a 
nation which follows the rites, they have 
bodhisattvas and observe the rules and customs, 
and they preach the correct ways. Let us go 
there." . . .Jian said, "The moment is not to be 
lost. I have also had the same intention." So in 
the second year of the Putong period of the 
Liang (521) they headed south together. 
Zhen was overtaken by pursuing cavalry and 
killed. . . . [Jian then] travelled to the kingdom 
in the south and reached Jiangyin, where he 
lived in the Heyuan Temple. 17 

Given that the polities of southern China were 
perceived as authentically Chinese and admirable, it 
naturally became the fashion among artistic circles 
in central and northern China to emulate the new 
styles of the south. Thus, after the eighth month of 
519 a group of sculptures was made and placed 
within the pagoda of the Yongning Temple, built by 
the Northern Wei royal family at Luoyang. lS The 
surviving heads are about seven centimeters high, 
and greatly resemble those of the Liang dynasty 
(fig. 1 2). I9 The trend toward simpler draperies and 
fleshier bodies is increasingly evident in the slightly 
later figures of patrons from caves 1, 4, and 3 of the 
Dalishan caves in Gong county, Henan Province 

Fig. 13. Figures of patrons. Mid-6th c. Rock carvings. 
Dalishan cave-temples, Gong county, Henan Province. 

(fig. 13). From the late Wei, this trend became 
pronounced. The "Biography of Du Bi" in 
volume 24 of the Beiqi shu ("History of the 
Northern Qi") records the following conversation 
that Gao Huanping had with Du Bi after he 
pacified the capital, Luoyang (532): 

Bi noted that when Wenwu reigned, there was 
a level of clean government seldom seen, and 
he mentioned it to Emperor Gaozu. Gaozu 
said, "Come here, Bi, let me tell you something. 
It has long been the custom for the country to 
be corrupt and chaotic. Nowadays many of the 
generals' families live west of the pass where 
Heita [i.e.,YuwenTai] is constantly beckoning 
to them, and it is unclear if their loyalties will 
be to stay or to go. In East China there is an 
old man named XiaoYan living in Wu who 
specializes in the proper dress and rites. The 
gentry of the central plains regard him as the 


guardian of the correct ways. 20 I am eager to 
establish laws and rules, and would not mind 
borrowing, for I fear that if the generals go over 
to Heita and the gentry leave to follow Xiao 
Yan, then our talents will have all dispersed, and 
how then could I run the country?" 

In light of this historical background, it was almost 
inevitable that the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi 
should copy the southern style. Hence, the 
following all reveal the fuller-figured style: the 
Gushan caves in Handan, Hebei Province (i.e., the 
North and South Xiangtangshan caves); the stone 
carvings in the Shuiyu cave-temple; and the figures 
on the steles unearthed in Xiangcheng and 
Luoning counties in Henan Province in 1963, 
which date from 559 (Northern Qi) and 565 
(Northern Zhou) (cats. 157, 158); the carved stone 
grotto statues of the Northern Qi unearthed in 
1954 at the Huata Temple in Taiyuan, Shanxi 
Province (cat. 156); and the earthen figures from 
Eastern Wei and Northern Qi tombs recently 
unearthed in Henan, Hebei, and Shanxi. In 1975 a 
group of figures within a square setting, made of 
white marble and believed to date from the 
Northern Zhou, was discovered in Caotan, a 
northern suburb of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province 
(cat. 159). These figures, most likely from a 
multistoried stone pagoda, are also of the Northern 
Qi style. Because many white marble figures came 
from Dingzhou, in Qi territory, there is speculation 
that these stone pagoda images may also have been 
made in Qi territory. In 1987 a tomb discovered at 
Wanzhang in Ci county, Hebei Province, proved to 
be the Wuning Mausoleum in which Gao Yang was 
buried, and its date is believed to be 560 (Northern 
Qi). In this tomb, as in the tomb of Lou Rui, 
Prince of Dong'an, discovered in 1979 atWangguo 
village in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, and dated to 
570, there are large murals depicting a cavalry 
honor guard; in both murals the full-fleshed bodies 
are particularly obvious (fig. 14). 2I Both tomb 
murals are drawn with simple and forceful lines, 
and show a vitality in keeping with the high social 
standing of those buried there. 22 Quite a number of 
commentators believe that they may have been 
done by the Northern Qi court painter Yang 
Zihua. 23 Yang Zihua was the most highly regarded 
of the Qi painters, and the early Tang artist Yan 
Liben praised his works thus: 

Fig. 14. Mounted honor guard. Dated to $yo. Mural. 
Tomb of Lon Rui, Prince of Dong'an, Wangguo village, 
Taiyuan, Slianxi Province. 

the Yang school, which was so popular during the 
Northern Qi. Zhang Yanyuan calls the period from 
the Qi and Liang through the Chen and Zhou the 
Period of Recent Antiquity, and he discusses the 
paintings of Recent Antiquity thus: 

Those from Recent Antiquity who can 
compare with those of Middle Antiquity are 
Sengyou and Zihua. 25 

Just as Gu and Lu were contemporaries, practiced 
similar styles, were ranked as equals, and were 
considered comparable in excellence to the best 
painters of the preceding age, so Zhang and Yang 
were paired with each other and compared with 
their predecessors Gu and Lu. Volume 2 of the Lidai 
minghuaji lists Yang Zihua among those painters in 
central China during the Northern Qi period who 
had learned from Gu, Lu, and Zhang Sengyou: 

Tian Sengliang.Yang Zihua, Yang Qidan, Zheng 
Fashi, Dong Boren, Zhan Ziqian. Sun Shangzi, 
Yan Lide, andYan Liben learned from Gu, Lu, 
and Sengyou. 26 

As for painting people, the subtlest lines, the 
utmost beauty in simplicity, having little enough 
so that not a single thing can be omitted, yet 
just enough that nothing should be added — 
only Zihua cm do this! 24 

Although it is not certain that Yang did the murals 
in the tombs of Gao Yang and Lou Rui, it is 
probably safe to say that they were in the style of 

Of these, Tian Sengliang.Yang Zihua. Zheng Fashi, 
Dong Boren. and Zhan Ziqian were famous during 
the Northern Qi and Zhou, 17 while Sun Shangzi 
and Yang Qidan were active during the Sui, and the 
Yan brothers during the early rang. Sengyou, in the 
phrase "learned from Gu. 1 u. and Sengyou," 
actually taught Tian, Yang, and the rest, whereas Gu 
and Lu were the originators o! the style they 
studied. Hence, the Lidai minghuaji also cites earlier 



commentators on the subject of Zheng Fashi, Sun 
Shangzi, and theYan brothers purportedly studying 
with Zhang Sengyou: 

[About] Zheng Fashi ... the monk Zong 28 said: 
"He learned Zhang's methods, and could paint 
anything .... Li [Sizhen] said, "He studied the 
school of Zhang, and was considered his 
disciple" (vol. 8). 

Li said: "Sun [Shangzi] and Zheng [Fashi] both 
studied with Zhang. Zheng was incomparable 
at drawing people and buildings, whereas Sun 
was supernatural in the way his spirit infused 
his work" (vol. 8). 

Pel [ Xiaoyuan] said: " Yan [Lide and Liben] 
studied with Mr. Zhang and surpassed their 
teacher. They mastered all the subtleties of 
drawing people, garments, horses, chariots, and 
buildings" (vol. a). 29 

Moreover, according to Zhang Yanyuan, Li Ya, Fan 
Changshou, and He Changshou also had studied 
with Zhang: 

LiYa [of the Sui] studied with Zhang Sengyou 

[At the beginning of the dynasty] Fan 
Changshou studied with Zhang Sengyou. . . . 
He Changshou had the same teacher as Fan, 
but was slightly less skillful than Fan. Fan and 
He's Drunken Dcwist Priest is extant. People say 
this was done by Sengyou, but that is untrue 

We can see what a profound influence Sengyou's 
quality of "getting the flesh right" had on the artists 
of the central plains from the Northern Qi and 
Zhou on. Many extant images continue to follow 
the tradition of fuller figures — for instance, the 
Zhou and Sui paintings and reliefs from the 
Maijishan caves ofTianshui in Gansu Province, the 
Mogao grottoes of Dunhuang, and Mt. Sumeru at 
Guyuan in Ningxia; stone carvings from various 
pre-High Tang tombs north of the Wei River in 
Shaanxi Province; funerary murals and incised 
carvings trom the Qianling, the mausoleum of Tang 
Gaozong and Wu Zetian; and extant Song copies of 
early Tang Portraits of Emperors through the Ages 
(fig. i5). 3 °The great artist Wu Daozi of the High 
Tang era drew people in relaxed poses that, 
according to the Lidai minghua //', can also be traced 
back to Sengyou: 

Wu Daoxuan [Daozi] studied under Zhang 
Sengyou (vol. 2). 

Fig. 15. Portrait of Sun Quan. Song dynasty (g6o—i2yg) 
copy from early Tang (6iS—goy) Portraits of Emperors 
through the Ages (Lidai dihuang tu). Handscroll, ink 
and light color on silk. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Zhang Huaiguan also remarked: 

Wu Daoxuan probed all the subtleties of 
painting, and he was probably a student of 
Zhang Sengyou ("Huaduan," cited in vol. 751 
of Taiping yulan). 1 ' 

He also notes: 

The brushwork in Wu's paintings has a soul. 
He is a reincarnation of Zhang Sengyou (Lidai 
minghua ji, introduction to vol. 9). 

Thus, Sengyou's influence lasted through the reign 
of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang. 


Painting and sculpture have long been closely 
linked, and as Chinese sculptures were always 
colored, those engaged in sculpting had to have a 
solid foundation in painting. In his Wudai minghua 
buyi ("A Supplement to Famous Paintings of the 
Five Dynasties"), Liu Daochun of the Northern 
Song noted that among those -who studied 
alongside Wu Daozi under Zhang Sengyou was 
Yang Huizhi, who was famous for his sculptures: 



Yang Huizhi's hometown is unknown. During 
the middle of the Kaiyuan period of the Tang 
dynasty (713—741), he and Wu Daozi learned 
brushwork together from Zhang Sengyou, and 
they called each other "friends through art." 
They were both highly skilled, yet only Daozi 
had a great reputation. Huizhi then burned his 
brushes and inkstones, and threw himself into 
sculpting. He was able to capture the look of 
Sengyou's paintings, and thus could rival Daozi. 
It was said at the time, "Daozi's paintings and 
Huizhi's sculptures capture the spirit of 
Sengyou's brush." He was also praised for this. 32 

The Lidai minghua ji noted in vol. 9 that the great 
sculptors of the day all had a mastery of painting: 

At the time, there was a Zhang Aier who was 
unsuccessful at learning [Wu Daozi's] painting, 
and so turned to sculpting. Emperor Xuanzong 
personally wrote and changed his name to 
Xianqiao. His paintings of insects were superb. 
Yang Huizhi of the same era was also adept at 
sculpting. Yuan Ming and Cheng Jin carved 
works in stone. Han Botong of the Sui dynasty 
was adept at sculpting. During the reign of the 
Empress, the local officials Dou Hongguo and 
Mao Poluo, Supervisor of the Eastern Garden 
Sun Rengui, and the general Quan Zhongyi at 
the Court of Emperor Dezong were all 
exceptionally skilled. This generation also 
[studied] painting. They were all excellent 
draftsmen, but their tone was not very high. 

Since the earliest times it had been natural for great 
sculptors to also excel at painting. According to the 
Lidai minghua ji, 

There was a man named Dai Kui [d. 395] 
[during the Eastern Jin dynasty]. He was styled 
Andao, and was a native of Zhi in Qiao 
Prefecture. He was very gifted even as a child, 
was intelligent and widely read. He played 
musical instruments well, and was a skillful 
calligrapher and painter ... his paintings of 
scenery in the ancient style were wonderful. 
While in his teens, he was painting in the 
Waguan Temple. General Secretary Wang 
|Meng] saw him and said, "This child is not just 
good at painting. Sooner or later he will make a 
great name for himself." . . . He was also adept 
at casting images of Buddha and .it sculpting. 
He had made a wooden statue of Amitabha 
Buddha 1.6 zhang tall, together with attendant 
bodhisattvas. Kui used the simple ancient style, 
and when the work was initially unable to 
move people's hearts, he sat silently behind a 
curtain, listening secretly to everyone's 
comments. He gave careful consideration to 
both praise and criticism, and collected his 

Fig. 16. Mural and carved figure qfSakyainuni. Sth c. 
(High Tang period). Mogao Cave 325, Dunhuang, Gansu 

thoughts for three years, whereupon he 
completed the sculpture. . . . Also, in middle age, 
Dai Andao drew figures of great draftsmanship 
(vol. 5).» 

Kui's son Yong was styled Zhongruo. His 
quickness of mind was comparable to Kui's. . . . 
He carried on his father's mastery of music, 
calligraphy, and painting. . . .The [Liu] Song 
crown prince was casting a 1.6 zhang golden 
image at the Waguan Temple. When it was 
completed, he was annoyed that the face 
seemed so thin, but the workmen could do 
nothing about it. He then invited Yong over 
and asked him about this. Yong said. "It is inn 
that the face is thin, but that the shoulders are 
too big." He then pared down the shoulders, 
and the face's proportions then became right. 
Everyone was impressed by the sharpness of his 
thinking (vol. s). 34 

Jiang Shaoyou [of the 1 .iter Wei | was a native ol 
Bochang in Le'an. He had .1 keen and nimble 
mind, and was adept at calligraphy and painting. 
He was skilled at painting people and at 
sculpting (vol. S 

The Indian monk l.inmozhuovi |ot the Sin 
dynasty] was also skilled at painting. During the 
reign of Emperor Wen of tin- Sui, he came from 


his own country and visited all the pagodas of 
King Asoka in China. When he came to the 
Dashi Temple at Luo county in Chengdu, he 
saw the forms of twelve spirits in the sky, 
whereupon he studied the looks of each one 
and then carved their images at the base of 
the temple's pagoda. They still survive today 
(vol. 8)J 6 

These are all well-known examples. Extant sites 
such as the Mogao grottoes at Dunhuang indicate 
that even the earliest surviving caves show a 
consistency of layout and a uniformity in design 
and style among both paintings and sculptures that 
could only have been achieved by a single creator 
(fig. i6).That accounts for the roughly synchronous 
development of sculpture and painting in China 
prior to the late Tang. From the Northern Song, 
painters increasingly specialized in particular genres, 
and neither court painters nor literati painters 
deigned any longer to sculpt. 17 Popular art 
preserved the tradition of linking painting and 
sculpture, but in vulgarized styles that could no 
longer properly reflect the tastes of the times. 

Translated, from the Chinese, by June Mei. 


Fig. i. See Zhongguo shiku: 
Yongjing Binghngsi ("Chinese 
Cave Sculptures: Tlie Singling 
Temple"), pi 21. 

Fig. 2. See Zhongguo shiku: 
Yongjing Binghngsi ^''Chinese 
Cave Sculptures: Tlie Singling 
Temple"), pi. 36. 

Fig. 3. See Yungang shiku ("Tlie 
Yungang Caves"), pi. 92. 

Fig. 4. See Zhongguo shiku: 
Yungang shiku er ("Chinese 
Cave Sculptures: The Yungang 
Caves, Part 2"), pi. 124. 

Fig. 3. See Wenhua dageming 
qijian chutu wenwu 
("Archaeological Relics Unearthed 
During the Cultural Revolution "), 
pi. 143. 

Fig. 7. See Zhongguo Jintongfo 
("Gilded Bronze Buddhas in 
China"), fig. 5, p. 236. 

Fig. 8. See Liuchao yishu ("Tlie 
Arts of the Six Dynasties"), fig. 

Fig, g. See Dengxian caise 
huaxiang zhuanmu ("A Color- 
Painted Brich Tomb at Deng 
County"), jig. 24. 

Fig. 11. See Zhongguo shikusi 
yanjiu ("Studies of Temples in 
Chinese Caves"), p. 108, jig. 4, and 
p. wg, Jig. 5. 

Fig. 12. See Xinzhongguo de 
kaogu faxian yu yanjiu 
("Archaeological Discoveries and 
Studies of New China"), pi. 14$. 

Fig. 13. See Zhongguo shikusi: 
Gongxian shikusi ("Chinese 
Cave Sculptures: Tlie Cave 

Temples of Gong County"), pi. 38. 

Fig. 14. See Wenwu, ig83;io, 
lower illustration on color page. 

Fig. 16. See Zhongguo shiku: 

Dunhuang Mogao san 
("Chinese Cave Sculptures: The 
Mogao Grottoes, Part 3"), pi. 114. 


I. Wenhua dageming qijian chutu 
wenwu ("Archaeological Relics 
Unearthed During the Cultural 
Revolution") (1990), vol. r, 
pp. H3-44- 

ai minpnua 

2. The edition of Lidt 
ji ("Record of Famous Painters 
of All the Dynasties") cited in 
this paper is based on the 
original Xunyang edition of 
Wangshi huayuan ("Wang's 
Garden of Paintings"), which is 
now in the Beijing University 
Library collection and which 
dates back to the early Wanli 
period. Although this version 
contains more errors than the 
one in Mao's Jiuguge edition of 
Jindi mishu ("Secret Works of 
the Jindi"), it is nevertheless a 
reprint of the Shupeng half- 
page, 1 1 -line edition published 
in Lin'an during the Southern 
Song, and is the earliest extant 
copy of the Lidai minghua ji. 

3. Zhang Huaiguan compiled 
the three-volume Shuduan 
("Opinions on Calligraphy"); 
see vol. 57, the "Arts and 
Letters, Part 1," of the Xin 
Tangshu ("New Tang History"). 
He also compiled Huaduan 
("Opinions on Paintings"); see 
vol. 1 of Tuhua jianwen zhi 
("Notes on Pictures and 
Paintings") by Guo Ruoxu of 
the Northern Song dynasty. 

4. Xu Bangda,"Gu Kaizhis 
'The Goddess of the Luo 
River'," in vol. 1 of Gushuhua 
wei'e kaoshi ("Studies of Errata 
in Ancient Calligraphy and 
Paintings"), 1984. 

5.Yao Qian et al, Liuchao yishu 
("Arts of the Six Dynasties") 
(1981), pp. 162-79. 

6. In vol. 6 of the Lidai minghua 
ji, this excerpt is rendered thus: 
"He goes to the limits of 
understanding and nature, and 
there are no words to describe 

his achievements; he 
encompasses the past and bears 
the seeds of the future, yet 
stands out among both past and 
present; he cannot be praised 
merely by effusiveness, and 
exhausts all description. He is 
the best of the best, there is 
nothing left to say ... so the 
most I can do is place him in 
the first rank. He is the 
toremost person ot the first 

7. Work team of the Henan 
Provincial Bureau ot Relics, 
Dengxian caisc huaxiang 
zhuangwu ("Color Paintings 
from a Brick Tomb in Deng 
County"), 1958. 

8. Relics Administration Office 

of Xiangfan, "Xiangfan 
Jiajiachong huaxiang zhuanmu" 

("A Painted Brick Tomb in 
Jiajiachong, Xiangfan"), 
jianghan Archaeology, 1986:1. 

9. According to the "Lidianxu" 

("Preface to the Book of 
Rituals") in vol. 41 of the 
Tongdian, "By an edict in the 
second year of Yongnnng 
during the reign ot Emperor 
Wu of the Qi, the Minister 
ordered the officials to establish 
the Five Rituals. Then Emperor 
Wu of the Liang ordered the 
scholars to refine and complete 
them. When Emperor Wu of 
the Chen succeeded to the 
throne, he mostly adhered to 
the Liang standards." 

10. Geng Xin, "Lament for 
Jiangnan," in Zhou shti ("H/ifory 
of the Zhou"), vol. 41, 
"Biography of Geng Xin." Also 
"Biography of Baochang" in 
vol. 1 of Xu Gaoseng zhuan 
("Sequel to Lives of Eminent 
Monks"): "For fifty-odd years, 
the south was uneventful." 

11. Vol. 90, Xin Tangshu ("New 
History of the Tang"): 
"Biography of Li Sizhen." 

12. Vol. 190 of the Jiu Tangshu 
("Old History of the Tang"). 
"Diviners: Biography of Li 
Sizhen" notes that Sizhen 
compiled one volume each of 
"Books" and "Paintings." 
Chapters 1 and 3 respectively 
of the "Bibliography" section in 
vols. 57 and 59 of the Xin 
Tangshu list separately 
"Addendum to Calligraphy" 
and "Addendum to Paintings." 
Vol. 1 of Notes on Drawings and 
Paintings mentions the 
Catalogue of Later Paintings 
compiled by Li Sizhen. In vol. 
3 of his Junzhai's Reading Notes, 
Chao Gongwu of the Southern 
Song writes of Sequel to Notes 
on Paintings in one volume by 
Li Sizhen (Yuanzhou edition), 
the extant edition now known 

as Sequel to Catalogue of 

13. Vol. 6 of the Lidai minghua ji 
cites Zhang Huaiguan thus: "As 
for Lu, Gu, and Zhang 
Sengyou, commentators stress 
each of their strengths, and 
these are all appropriate." This 
can be taken to mean that the 
styles in vogue during the three 
periods following the Eastern 
Jin — Liu Song, Qi, and Liang — 
all differed, and hence different 
emphases were placed on them. 

14. Yiwen leiju, vol. 76, quoting 
the stele of the Buddha 

Amitabha in thejmxiang 
Temple of Yongzhou, carved by 
Liu Xiaoyi of the Liang 


15. Yiwen leiju, vol. 77, quoting 
the inscription for the Buddha 
Sakyamuni by Emperor Jianwen 
of the Liang. 

16. See Lin Shuzhong, "Dating 

the Painted Brick Tomb of 
Changzhou and the Art of the 
Painted Bricks," Wenwu, 1979:3. 

17. In vol. 6 of Xu gaoseng 
zhuan ("Further Lives of 
Eminent Monks"), by the 
monk Daoxuan of the Tang 


18. According to the 
"Biography of Cui Guang" in 
vol. 67 of the Weishi ("History 
of the Wei Dynasty"), "In the 
eighth month of the second 
year [of Shengui], Dowager 
Empress Ling visited the 
Yongning Temple and climbed 
up the nine-story pagoda. 
Guang submitted a memorial, 
saying ...'Although the image 
has not yet been constructed, 
this is already the home of the 
deity.' " From this, we know 
that the figures were built after 
the eighth month of the second 
year of Shengui. 

19. Luoyang work team of the 
Institute ot Archaeology, 
Chinese Academy ot Social 
Sciences, "Brief Report on the 
Excavation around the Base of 
the Northern Wei Yongning 
Temple Pagoda," Kaogu, 1981:3. 

20. The "Annals ofWenxiang" 
in vol. 3 of the Beiqishu 
("History of the Northern 
Qi") notes that in the fourth 
year ofWuding (546), 
"[Marquis] Jing's general, Cai 
Zundao, returned from the 
north saying that Jing felt 
repentant. The Prince 
(Wenxiang) believed this, and 
thought he could lure him 
over, so he ignored Jing's letter. 
Jing had written,'. . . Nowadays 
in Liang, we were beckoned to 
with every courtesy, given tiger 



skins for blankets and urged to 
stay with fine cups. . . . Leave 
the dangerous for the safe, and 
return now to the correct 
ways; change disaster into good 
fortune, we have escaped the 
net.* "This mention of the 
correct ways refers to the Liang 
dynasty kingdom in southern 

21. See Xu Guangji, 
"Excavation and Studies of 
Large Tomb Murals of the 
Northern Dynasties at 
Wanzhang in Ci County, 
Hebei," Wenwu, 1996:9; also the 
Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology et al., "Brief 
Report on the Excavation of 
the Tomb of Lou Rui of the 
Northern Qi in Taiyuan," 
Wenwu, 1983:10. 

22. See Beiqishu, vol. 4, "Annals 
of Wenxuan"; vol. 48, 
"Relatives of the Empress: 
Biography of Lou Rui"; and 
Beishi ("History of the 
Northern Dynasties"), vol. 54, 
"Biography of Lou Zhao, with 
Appended Biography of His 
Nephew Rui." 

23. See "Notes on the 
Northern Qi Tomb of Lou 
Rui in Taiyuan," Wenwu, 

24. Lidai minghua ji, preface to 
vol. 8. Vol. 8 of the Lidai 
minghua ji further says about 
Yang Zihua: "Emperor Shizu 
[Gao Zhan, of the Northern 
Qi| held him in high esteem, 
and let him live in the palace. 
He was known throughout the 
land as the Divine Painter, and 
was forbidden to paint for 
outsiders, except by imperial 
edict. At the time there was a 
prince named Chong Shan 
whose chess-playing was 
godlike, and the two of them 
were known as the Two 

25. Lidai minghua ji, vol. 2. 

26. In Zhenguan gongsi hiialu 
("A Record ot Paintings in 
Public and Private Collections 
in the Zhenguan Era [627- 
fi.SOJ"), Pei Xiaoyuan notes that 
"after Yang Zihua, they are all 
northern painters."The six 
listed .liter Yang Zihua arc Cao 
Zhongda, I >oug Boren, Zheng 
Fashi.Yang Qidan, Zhan 
Ziqian, and Sun Shangzi. 

27. About [lie five artists 
mentioned, vol. 8 of the Lidai 
minghua fi makes the following 
comments on .ill other than 
Yang Zihua: "Tian Zengliang 
reached the official position of 
Sangong Zhonglangjiang [during 
the Qi],and entering the Zhou 
period he became a Changshi, 

and at the time had a higher 
reputation than Dong and 
Zhan"; "During the Zhou, 
Zheng Fashi was a Dadou 
Duzuo Yuamvai Shilang, a 
Jianzhong General, and was 
given the fief of Changshe 
county, and entering the Sui 
period he was made a Zhongsan 
Datfu; his Images of the Northern 
Qi . . . is still extant"; "Dong 
Boren was from Ru'nan, and a 
man of many talents .... 
[During the Sui] he reached 
the positions of Guanglu Datfu 
and Dianzhong General. . . . 
Initially both Dong and Zhan 
were summoned together to 
the Sui Court, one from 
Hebei, the other from southern 
China. Initially they were not 
taken seriously, but later they 
were rather well regarded. 
Dongs Emperor Ming of the 
Zhou Hunting is still extant"; 
"Zhan Ziqian lived through 
the Northern Qi, Zhou, and 
Sui dynasties, and became 
Chaosan Daifu and Zhangnei 
Doudu. His Tlie Later Ruler of 
the Northern Qi Visiting finyang 
is still extant." From this, we 
know that they were all famous 
during the Qi and Zhou. 

28. The monk Zong is the 
same person as the monk 
Yanzong, who compiled 
Hoithuaht ("Sequel to 
Catalogue of Paintings"). See 
Tushu jianwenzhi, vol. 1, and 
Junzhai dushuzhi, vol. 3, pt. 2. 

29. According to part 3 of the 
Yiwenzhi ("Bibliography") 
section in vol. 59 of the Kin 
Tangshu ("New Tang History"): 
"Pei Xiaoyuan wrote Huapin hi 
["Ranked Catalogue of 
Paintings"] in one volume. He 
was a Zhongshu Sheren, and 
recorded events of the 
Zhenguan and Xianqing 
periods."Vol. 1 of Tulnnt 
jianwen zhi ("Notes on 
Drawings and Paintings") refers 
to the work as Gongsihua In 
("Catalogue of Public and 
Private Paintings"). The extant 
version is titled Zhenguan 
gongsihua sin ("History of the 
Public and Private Paintings of 
the Zhenguan Period"). The 
text in the extant version is 
more detailed than the passage 
cited by Zhang, and reads, 
"TheYans originally studied 
with Mr. Zhang, and can be 
said to surpass their teacher. As 
for drawing people and 
garments, soldiers, horses and 
buildings, they have mastered 
the subtleties of both south and 

30. See Jin Weinuo,"Thc Dates 
and Artists of Ancient Portraits 
of Emperors," in Collected 
Essays on Chinese Art History., 
198 1. 

31. See n. 3. 

32. Wu Daozi and Yang Huizhi 
were regarded equally highly at 
the time. Vol. 212 of the Taiping 
guangji cites Tang Kangpings 
Jutanlu thus: "There is a 

Xuanyuan Monastery on Mt. 
Beimang of the Eastern capital. 
To the south of the monastery 
stands a temple to Laozi. Its 
buildings are tall and imposing, 
and overlook Yiluo. All of its 
clay sculptures of the deities 
were done by Yang Huizhi 
during the Kaiyuan period. 
They are extraordinarily well 
done and meticulous, and 
everyone who sees them is 
filled with admiration. The 
walls have paintings by Wu 
Daozi of the Five Sages and of 
stories from Laozi. The 
paintings are exquisite, and 
have no peer either past or 

33. At the end of his comments 
on Dai Kui, Zhang Yanyuan 
appends the following notes: 
"See the Jinshu ['History of the 
Jin*], Songshu ['History of the 
(Liu) Song'], and Kuibiezhuan 
['Biography of Kui'], Xu 
Guang's Jinji ['Record of the 
Jin'], Huigiji ['Record of the 
Huiqi'], Guozi, Liu Yiqing's 
Shishuo, and the Mingyanji by 
Wang from Linchuan of the 
[Liu] Song dynasty." 

34. At the end of his comments 
on Dai Kui, Zhang Yanyuan 
appends the following notes: 
"See the 'Biographies of 
Hermits' section in the Songshu 
['History of the (Liu) Song'], 
and Wang Zhishen's Songji 
['Record of the (Liu) Song']." 

35. At the end of his comments 
on Jiang Shaoyou, Zhang 
Yanyuan appends the following 
note: "See the Houweishu 
['History of the Later Wei']." 

36. At the end of his comments 
on Tanmozhuoyi, Zhang 
Yanyuan appends the following 
notes: "See the Insights into the 
Three Treasures? 

37. There were also exceptions. 
such as Zhai Ruwcn. who was 
[he Anfushi of both Zhiyue 
Prefecture and Andong in 
Zhejiang during the late 
Northern Song. The 
"Inscription for Sir Zhai" 
which is appended to the 
Zhonghuizi notes that R.uwen 
"was conversant with painting, 
and had himself painted some 
sixty-odd scrolls, including 
Heights of the linn Locales, 
Various Sages oj the Ten 

{ Mmatcs, Ih, Nine Heavetu as 
( »«e, I'hc lour Holy Men 
Subduing the I kmotis, etc. . . . 
1 le was also .in expert sculptor, 

and taught craftsmen to carve 
the images of the Three Holies, 
the Jade Emperor, and Zhenwu 
which are in the Zaocheng 
Monastery at Huiqi. These all 
display the greatest dignity and 
gentleness in their visages, and 
their expression is one of 
natural ease as if they were 
human, such that all who saw 
them were awestruck. People 
of that prefecture call them 
treasures of wood. . . . Zhai felt 
that the old work was not well 
done, and personally resculpted 
it. He captured the Rulai 
[Tathagata] Buddha's 
compassion for the world and 
sympathy for the weak, and 
even if Dai Andao and Yang 
Huizhi were to be reborn, they 
would have a hard rime 
surpassing him." For more on 
Zhai Ruwen s life, see his 
biography in vol. 131 of the 
History of the Song (Song shu). 



Divinities: Buddhist 
Sculpture in China 

The advent of Buddhism in China more 
than two thousand years ago heralded 
profound changes in almost every aspect 
of life and thought, state and society. 
Buddhism differed markedly from earlier 
Chinese religions and philosophies. It 
challenged and in part even flatly 
contradicted some of the most cherished 
concepts and ideals of the ancient 

Helmut Brinker 

Professor, University of Zurich 

Chinese. Indian Buddhism arrived as a complex 
religious system based on a variety of doctrines, 
practices, and premises that the ancients would 
never have understood. The new faith assumed that 
life was transitory and illusory, essentially painful, 
and thus inevitably unsatisfactory. It offered, 
however, the consoling prospect of finding release 
from fatal destiny and breaking through the endless 
chain of causality in the illusory world of 
phenomena, in Sanskrit called samsara. 

Following the Noble Eightfold Path — that is, the 
Buddha's rules for right living — one could escape 
the perpetual cycle of rebirth by the virtues of 
sincere belief, compassion, meditative discipline, 
exemplary moral conduct, accumulation of 
religious merit, development of wisdom, and 
renunciation of worldly wealth and status in order 
to seek the truth. The doctrine of karma (literally, 
"work" or "action") was thought of as a system of 
moral causalities. Good or bad actions of an 
individual would be rewarded or punished either in 
this life or in the next. To attain supreme 
enlightenment was the ultimate goal for the 
practitioners of the faith. A person who had 
reached this awakened stage became a Buddha and 
qualified for entering into nirvana. For the first 
time the Chinese had to come to grips with totally 
alien beliefs and highly sophisticated religious 
concepts. The success of Buddhism in China was 
due mainly to its tolerance for other philosophical 
paths and religious practices, its readiness to adopt 
and adapt to Daoism and Confucianism. 

This exposure to foreign ideas and images, 
languages and metaphors inevitably caused a radical 
transformation of older traditions in Chinese 
culture and art. In India, the homeland of faith, 
mysticism, and magic, Buddhism was originally an 
aniconic religion. Since the Buddha stood 
ultimately for an abstract, metaphysical concept, 
initially he was not depicted as a human figure. 
Rather, his salvific presence and power were 
evoked by such representative symbols as Ins 

footprints, the wheel that stands for his preaching, 
or the stupa, a tumulus-like monument erected over 
his holy bodily remains. During the time of the 
Kushan empire, established in the latter half of the 
first century ce, the worship of images at last 
triumphed, and soon thereafter iconographic 
schemes and forms of great intricacy and 
complexity rapidly evolved. Buddhism's historic 
founder, known as Sakyamuni, or Gautama 
Siddhartha, is naturally the most widely worshiped 
figure of the Buddhist pantheon. He is said to have 
lived between 565 and 486 bce — the dates are not 
precisely fixed — in what is now southern Nepal. 
Sakyamuni achieved enlightenment in his lifetime 
by discovering the middle path between severe 
ascetic self-mortification and self-indulgence. After 
spreading his new insights, performing miracles, and 
gathering disciples, he entered into nirvana at the 
age of eighty and receded far beyond the 
imagination and reach of mortal believers. His truly 
unfathomable reality could only be experienced 
and visualized through supreme insight, assisted by 
sacred images and rituals, by magic words, gestures, 
and symbols, by the mysteries of faith and worship. 



In Buddhism's formative stages in China, Buddhist 
imagery appears only sporadically, and mingled into 
indigenous Han contexts. Traditional Buddhist 
motifs of Indian origin were fused with Daoist 
beliefs, figures, and customs, and rendered in 
stylistic and technical patterns familiar from tomb 
decoration and furnishings. Buddhist imagery had 
to be translated into forms and modes that Chinese 
could understand, as was true tor Buddhist 
scriptures. We must assume that the early 
missionaries from the West knew little if any 
Chinese and that their local collaborators probabr) 
had no comprehensive knowledge of Central \sian 
or Indian languages. Pertinent Daoist terms and 
metaphors as well as loanwords from the Cotlfui ian 
classics were appropriated in the attempt to rendei 



religious concepts such as impermanence and 
insubstantiality and to describe the transcendental 
notions of transmigration and reincarnation. 

According to tradition, extensive translation 
activities began with the arrival of two Indian 
monks, Dharmaratna and Kasyapa Matahga. They 
allegedly joined a group of Chinese envoys that had 
been dispatched by Emperor Ming of the Eastern 
Han dynasty (r. 57-75 ce) in order to track down 
the import of a miraculous dream apparition. We 
are told that the two missionaries brought with 
them a copy of "The Scripture in Forty-Two 
Sections," which they translated into Chinese as 
Sishi'er zhangjing — traditionally the first Chinese 
rendition of an Indian Buddhist text. The true 
origin and date of this work, however, have been 
subjects of scholarly controversy. By medieval times, 
Dharmaratna and Kasyapa Matahga were regularly 
credited with the translation of this "short 
collection of aphorisms and pithy moralistic 
parables." 1 The emperor is said to have established 
the Temple of the White Horse (Baimasi), the first 
official Buddhist institution on Chinese soil, as their 
new residence in Luoyang. 

Another pioneer missionary and translator was the 
Parthian prince known to the Chinese as An 
Shigao, who came to Luoyang in 148 ce. The 
impact of the Central Asian missionary translator 
KumarajTva (344—409/413?) was even greater. A 
Kuchean aristocrat turned monk, he had been 
invited to China by the ruler of one of the Sixteen 
Kingdoms, but en route was captured by a rogue 
general and held for nearly two decades in the area 
of present-day Gansu Province. There the Kuchean 
monk learned Chinese. A new ruler, equally pro- 
Buddhist, finally destroyed the rogue general, at 
least partly in order to secure KumarajTva's release. 
KumarajTva arrived in Chang'an in 402 and became 
the spiritus rector of one of the greatest Buddhist 
translation projects of sacred scriptures. 

At first, Buddhist congregations existed primarily in 
the foreign merchant quarters of larger cities; only 
gradually did the new religion gain a substantial 
following among native Chinese. From roughly the 
fourth century, however, religious life in China was 
largely dominated by Buddhism. In his preface to 
the Luoyang qielau ji ("Record of Buddhist Temples 
in Luoyang"), completed in 547, the military leader 
and chronicler Yang Xuanzhi noted: 

The people and wealthy families parted with 
their treasures as easily as with forgotten 
rubbish. As a result, Buddhist temples were built 
side by side, and stupas [pagodas] rose up in row 
after row. People competed among themselves 
in making or copying the Buddha's portraits. 
Golden stupas matched the imperial 

observatory in height, and Buddhist lecture 
halls were as magnificent as the [ostentatiously 
wasteful] Efang [palaces of the Qin dynasty 
(221—207 bce)]. Indeed, [Buddhist activity was 
so intense] that it was not merely a matter of 
clothing wooden [figures] in silk or painting 
earthen [idols] in rich colors. 2 

Yang Xuanzhi reports that there were forty-two 
temples in Luoyang by the beginning of the fourth 
century ce and that this number increased rapidly; 
by the end of the Wei dynasty in the second half of 
the sixth century we have an estimate of no less 
than 1,367 Buddhist temples in and around the 
capital city. Medieval Chang'an was also early 
famed for its magnificent temples. Notwithstanding 
two serious persecutions — during 446—452 under 
Emperor Taiwu of the Northern Wei and again 
during 574-578 under Emperor Wu of the 
Northern Zhou — the Buddhist church continued 
to flourish during the Period of Disunity 
(220-589), the Sui (589-618), and most of the Tang 
(618-907) dynasty. 

The third and most severe suppression, gathering 
head from about about 841 and culminating in 
844—845, under the reign of the Tang emperor 
Wuzong, marked the beginning of a gradual 
decline in influence, power, and wealth of the 
Buddhist church as an established institution. A 
series of increasingly harsh imperial edicts was 
directed toward confiscation of monastic property 
and secularization of the clergy. The violent return 
to secular life of more than a quarter of a million 
nuns and priests was witnessed and recorded by the 
Japanese pilgrim Ennin (793—864), who kept a 
detailed diary of his sojourn in China. The vast 
properties and monetary wealth of the Buddhist 
church were confiscated by the government, and 
some of the splendid temple compounds in 
Chang'an were converted into imperial parks. 
Buddhist bronze bells and metal icons were ordered 
to be surrendered to the state authorities and were 
eventually melted down. In the entire empire no 
images of bronze, iron, gold, or silver were 
permitted for public or private worship. Only 
sculptures made of stone, wood, clay, or other 
nonmetallic materials are said to have been exempt 
from the tragic suppression and devastation. The 
actual extent of the loss of religious art and 
architecture and of Buddhist literature, icons, and 
sacred paraphernalia toward the end of the Tang 
dynasty can hardly be imagined. Arriving in 
Dengzhou after his own expulsion from Chang'an, 
the Japanese pilgrim Ennin noted in his diary: 

Although it [Dengzhou] is a remote place, it has 
been no different from the capital in the 
regulation of monks and nuns, the destruction 
of the monasteries, the banning of the 



scriptures, the breaking of the images, and the 
confiscation of the property of the monasteries. 
Moreover they have peeled off the gold from 
the Buddhas and smashed the bronze and iron 
Buddhas and measured their weight. What a pity! 
What limit was there to the bronze, iron, and 
gold Buddhas of the land? And yet, in 
accordance with the Imperial edict, all have 
been destroyed and have been turned into trash. 3 


Tradition holds that the first Buddha image was 
introduced into China sometime between 64 and 
75 CE, as the result of a dream of Han Mingdi.The 
emperor saw a divine man whose body was 

golden in color, wearing a solar halo about the 
crown of his head. He inquired of his courtiers, 
one of whom said: "In the West there is a deity 
known as the Buddha, whose form is like what 
Your Majesty dreamed of; may it not have been 
he?" Thereupon envoys were dispatched to 
India, who had copies made of a Sutra 
[scripture] and [obtained] an image, which they 
displayed in China. There from the Son of 
Heaven on down through the princes and 
nobles, all paid them honor; for when they 
heard that a man's soul is not extinguished by 
death, there was none who was not fearful of 
being lost. 4 

This famous dream-and-envoy story was 
considerably embellished over time. It occurred 
initially in an early preface of the Sishi'er zhang jing 
("The Scripture in Forty-Two Sections"), which 
may be dated to the Eastern Han (25—220 ce) or 
shortly thereafter. Such edifying anecdotes later 
acquired an aura of fact, and were often cited as 
literal truth by Chinese buddhologists.- s By the fifth 
century the icon mentioned among the Buddhist 
paraphernalia in the luggage of Mingdi's returning 
delegation had been identified in Chinese records 
either as the original or as a faithful, equally sacred 
replica of the celebrated Sakyamuni portrait 
commissioned by the youthful king Udayana, 
Buddha's ardent admirer and pious patron. Although 
this account of the legendary Udayana icon is 
apocryphal, it tells us something about the 
significance of imagery in the transmission of 
Buddhism and the early Chinese concern and 
respect for the foreign religion and its art. 

A century after the purported introduction of the 
hist Buddhist scripture and image, a lavish religious 
ceremony in honor of Sakyamuni and ofLaozi, the 
founding figure of Daoism, is mentioned by the 
astrologer and scholar Xiang Kai in his well-known 
memorial presented to the Han emperor Hiun in 
r.66. His text refers to the Buddha was in 

reality none other than the deified Laozi. Images of 
the two Sacred Ones were installed under 
sumptuous floral canopies in a special palace 
building. Rituals and sacrifices were performed with 
pomp and ostentation, using precious vessels of gold 
and silver, consecrated beads, and embroidered 
textiles. 6 

Fairly reliable information has been preserved 
regarding the installation of yet another golden 
Buddha image in what is now Jiangsu Province. 
About the year 190, Zhai Rong, an active 
propagandist for Buddhism, reportedly built a 
structure of considerable size to house a gilded 
bronze statue and to accommodate a large 
congregation: "He erected a Buddha shrine, making 
a human figure of bronze whose body he coated 
with gold and clad in brocades. He hung up nine 
tiers of bronze plates [on the spire] over a multi- 
storied pavilion; his covered galleries could contain 
three thousand men or more." 7 

Buddhist icons must have been in ritual use in 
China well before this date; they probably arrived in 
the luggage of foreign merchants and missionaries 
who had come along the ancient overland trade 
routes of Central Asia or by sea around Southeast 
Asia. Most of these images were probably made of 
gilded bronze. Their shining surface was intended to 
reproduce the sunlike radiance of the Buddha's 
body. It is only toward the end of the Eastern Han 
dynasty, about the year 200, that the Chinese 
themselves may have started to experiment with 
casting such icons. We are informed by the noted 
Vinaya master, translator, and biographer Daoxuan 
(596—667) that a certain monk Huihu made a gilded 
Sakyamuni image at the Shading Temple in Wujun 
in the year 377. According to Daoxuan, the sixteen- 
foot-high statue was cast in a cave dug on the steep 
south side of the temple." 

In general, bronze casters and sculptors enjoyed little 
social eminence. Like their craftsmen ancestors, they 
remained anonymous. Very few won recognition 
comparable to that of contemporary painters. One 
of the earliest sculptors — perhaps the first — whose 
name entered historical records was Dai Kui (d. 
395). He is said to have made monumental 
configurations for various temples and to have 
achieved an unprecedented technical versatility and 
inventiveness, beauty and expressiveness 111 casting 
bronze icons, carving wood sculptures, and making 
portable lacquer statues. In Daoxuan's view, Dai 
Kui's genius contributed decisively to the 
progressive disuse of exotic foreign styles in t.ivor of 
Sinicized Buddhist imagery; 

hi [Dai] Kui's opinion die images made m 
Middle Antiquity had almost all been rude and 
oversimple, and in their function of inspiring 



worship lacked the power to stir men's hearts. 
Since he was both pure in faith and highly 
inventive, he was spurred to alter the carving of 
the August Visage, so as to attain the utmost in 
truthfulness. He pondered the problem for years 
on end and finally succeeded in producing a 
statue in which the excellence of Chinese 
figure sculpture exceeded anything previously 
known. 9 

Early sources record miraculous finds of golden or 
gilded statues deep underground at Buddhist 
temple sites. When the Yongning Temple ("Temple 
of Eternal Peace") was built in Luoyang by decree 
of the dowager empress in 516, thirty golden icons 
were unearthed during the construction process. 
The Yongning Temple, which was in the inner city, 
is said to have rivaled the magnificence of the 
imperial palace. Writing three decades later, Yang 
Xuanzhi tells us that the unexpected discovery of 
thirty sacred images "was interpreted as an 
auspicious reward for the dowager empress's 
conversion to Buddhism. As a result, she spent all 
the more lavishly on its construction." He describes 
the splendor of the temple in great and admiring 

North of the stupa [pagoda] was a Buddhist 
hall, which was shaped like the Palace of the 
Great Ultimate (Tianjidian). In the hall was a 
golden statue of the Buddha eighteen feet high, 
along with ten medium-sized images — three of 
sewn pearls, tive of woven golden threads, and 
two of jade. The superb artistry was matchless, 
unparalleled in its day. . . . Here were kept all 
the Sutras and Buddhist images presented by 
foreign countries." 3 


The most common Chinese terms for Buddhist 
icons azefoxiang and foxingxiang, both meaning 
"Buddha images." Since ancient dines the main 
object ot veneration or prime statue worshiped in a 
particular ritual or enshrined in a building of a 
Buddhist temple has been called benzun ("Original 
Honored One"); as a rule, the chapel or hall is 
dedicated to and named after that particular deity. 
The word benzun can be traced back at least as far 
as the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534). Stronger 
emphasis on the intimate relationship between the 
devotee and the deity addressed in an icon is 
connoted by the word zizun ("Personal Honored 
One"), defined in early exegetic medieval texts as 
"the venerated deity to which one's Self is 
clinging." We may assume that icons of this 
category were preferably set up on the private altar 
of a practitioner. Another key term frequently 
encountered in Buddhist scriptures is xingxiang 
("form image"), emphasizing the perceptible 

appearance, the formal likeness, and iconographic 
appropriateness of the represented deity. Yingxiang 
("shadow image") characterizes the icon as an 
ultimately illusory reflection without inherent 
reality, and is regularly used to designate the 
visualized image of a deity and its pictorial 
representation. In his instructions on the methods 
of performing such visualization, the extremely 
learned Tang monk Zhiyan (602-668), who is 
regarded as the second patriarch of the Huayan 
school, remarks: 

How does one attain to dwelling in quiet 
meditation? During day and night one should 
visualize with energy the form image 
[xingxiang] of the Buddha, but without sticking 
to [the illusion of] its characteristics [as being 
real] .... Should this Buddha have been made 
by man, then the practitioner ought to reflect as 
follows: Is this Buddha made out of clay or 
wood, or is it made out of gold or bronze? 
After such a visualization he truly recognizes 
the Buddha whom he sees. If you, only relying 
on your own self, visualize the form image 
[xingxiang] of the Buddha in a pure abode, and 
remember it day and night, then this Buddha 
will appear constantly before your eyes." 

Icons were a means to the fundamental goal of 
every devoted Buddhist, a goal the Chinese called 
jianfo ("seeing the Buddha"). Material substance 
and form remain a totally worthless "shadow" — 
that is, a mere visual perception — as long as an icon 
has not received its proper spiritual enlivenment 
through consecration in an adequate ritual. Only 
then does a sculpture change from a piece of stone, 
wood, bronze, clay, or lacquer to a sacred image: it 
metamorphoses from form image (xingxiang) or 
shadow image (yingxiang) into the Original 
Honored One (benzun), imbued with the potency 
to assist and guide believers on their way to true 
enlightenment and salvation. The final step in 
creating an icon — depicting the pupils of the 
eyes — was an act of ritual as well as representation. 
The practice seems to have been known in ancient 
Indian Buddhism as well as in Brahmamsm, and it 
was common cultic practice (along with the 
"mouth-opening" ritual) in Mesopotamia perhaps 
as early as the third millennium bce. Called the 
"eye-opening" ritual (kaiyan), it is the most 
important process in consecrating a new icon: 
endowing the image with gaze endows it with a 
sense of life. The Tang emperor Taizong (r. 627—649) 
himself attended such an inaugural "eye-opening" 
ceremony for the main Buddha image in the 
Xingtu Temple (formerly Hongfu Temple) in 
Chang'an, which in 634 he had renamed and 
rededicated to the spiritual felicity of his mother. 
Unfortunately, the sources give no further details of 
this dedication service, but the monarch probably 



played an active part in the ritual of invoking the 
Buddha and endowing his image with beneficial 
and protective power. 12 

Since early times Buddhist theologians have 
speculated and commented on the relation of the 
outer form and the inner principle, the actual and 
spiritual presence of deities or saints in images 
made by human hands. They were deeply 
concerned with the degree of reality and potency 
dwelling in a pictorial representation. The efficacy 
of Buddhist icons, and therefore of the rituals 
addressed to them, was thought to depend to a 
great extent on their magic essence. To reinforce 
the potency ascribed to the images, all sorts of 
objects — precious relics, ritual implements, holy 
scriptures and pictures, printed or written magic 
spells, miniature figures of deities, even textile 
models of human organs — were sometimes 
deposited in special cavities or in the hollow 
interior of a sculpture before it received its 
finishing touches and initial consecration. Literary 
evidence and extant statues bear witness to the 
early existence of this magic-religious practice in 
China, which was not limited to any particular 
Buddhist school or category of religious imagery. 


One of the earliest references to a sacred deposit in 
a Buddhist figure appears in the biography of the 
distinguished evangelist and translator Dao'an 
(312-385), who once received a foreign gilded- 
bronze statue that was seven feet high: 

Whenever there was a lecture or assembly, the 
holy images would be set out. Banners and 
canopies would be hung up; festoons of beads 
would swing; everywhere would be incense 
smoke and flowers; so that those who mounted 
the steps and crossed the threshold were 
awestruck and paid the utmost in devotion. The 
foreign bronze image was so archaic in form 
and workmanship that most people had no 
great respect for it. [Dao-] An said: "The shape 
and the body-marks are excellent; the only fault 
is that the form of the usnfsa [the protuberance 
on top of the head] is incongruous." So he 
ordered a disciple to fire and re-mould the 
usnTsa. At once a light flamed up with such 
brilliance that it filled the whole hall. On close 
inspection it was discovered that inside the 
usnTsa there was a relic. The brothers were filled 
with consternation; but [Dao-| An said: "The 
statue is already a wonder-working one, and 
will not be disturbed by recasting."'' 1 

The unexpected discovery of a sacred relic in the 
Buddha's head secured this rare foreign statue a 
special rank as miraculous icon, and therefore even 

minor changes of iconographic features due to 
repair or finishing work essentially would not 
impair its efficacy. 

In the orthodox Buddhist sense, the sarTra (C: sheli) 
refers to the pure crystallized grains found after the 
historical Buddha's cremation; to his ashes and 
other bodily remains, such as teeth, hair, finger 
bones and fingernails; or to the ashes, bones, and 
similar physical fragments of saints. According to 
ancient tradition, Sakyamuni's body was incinerated 
after he had attained his final nirvana. His ashes and 
physical remains were divided with diplomatic skill 
and interred in eight separate tumulus-like burial 
mounds, or stupas. In the third century bce, India's 
first Buddhist ruler, Asoka of the Mauryas, 
recovered and brought these relics together again, 
later dispersing them throughout his far-flung 
kingdom in 84,000 stupas that are said to have been 
erected in a single day. 

The miraculous division and widespread veneration 
of the Buddha's remains established a powerful 
precedent. The process of dividing the sarTra again 
and again — not only those of Sakyamuni himself, 
but also those of his disciples and of later saints and 
patriarchs of the various Buddhist schools — created 
an almost inexhaustible supply of minute holy 
objects for the entire Buddhist world. The 
enormous number of 84,000 refers to the number 
of atoms in the Buddha's corpus as well as to the 
corpus of his sacred words. Thus, by erecting these 
stupas, the pious king As'oka intended to recreate 
Sakyamuni's physical body symbolically and to 
reconstruct his myriad teachings. The sarTra of the 
historical Buddha and his doctrines were 
considered equivalent manifestations of the same 
reality and sacred presence. The possession of 
"authentic" relics ensured the possessor an elevated 
place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy as well as in 
society. At the same time, it was a powerful 
instrument of monastic and imperial legitimacy 
and, by stimulating donations from the faithful, 
guaranteed economic independence. 

In recent years discoveries of Buddhist reliquary 
deposits have been reported from almost every part 
of China, from Liaoning in the northeast to Yunnan 
in the southwest. Sacred Buddhist relic assemblages 
were mostly found within or on the site of 
pagodas, which served as monumental architectural 
reliquaries and usually stood at a distinguished place 
on the temple grounds. Relics might be enshrined 
not only in a sealed crypt but in other parts of the 
structure as well — for example, at the base of the 
mast atop the pagoda. The finds date from the tune 
of the impact of Buddhism and its arts on 
Chinese culture and increase concomitantly with 
the faith's subsequent powerful spread from the 
fourth century through the Ming dynastt 



(i368-i644)-The most spectacular sarTra discovery 
was made in 1987 at the Famen Temple ("Temple 
of the Gate to the Law"), in Fufeng county, west of 
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province (cats. 63-65). There the 
Chinese excavators claim to have found (among 
much else) four authentic finger bones (fogu) of 
Sakyamuni.The sarira were well preserved and 
concealed in precious reliquaries in the Tang 
dynasty underground palace (digong) of the Famen 
Temple's sixteenth-century octagonal brick pagoda. 
The collapse of the pagoda in 1981 made possible 
the investigation of its crypt. Thus well-known 
literary evidence for the cult of relics, such as Han 
Yu s (768—824) forthright memorial to the Throne 
(819) condemning veneration of the Buddha's 
bones, was substantiated more than a millennium 
later by archaeological evidence. 

HanYu had serious grounds for protest. 
Sakyamuni's physical remains had several times been 
carried in lavish procession between Famen Temple 
and the Tang capital, a distance of more than 100 
kilometers. Like many conservative literati of the 
day, HanYu was appalled by the religious frenzy 
pervading all strata of society, and he proposed 
drastic measures to suppress the enormous 
influence of the Buddhist church. When, in 819, the 
Famen Temple finger-bone relics were received by 
an enthusiastic crowd in Chang'an and temporarily 
placed on view at the imperial palace, he wrote the 
Lunfogu biao ("Memorial Discussing the Buddha's 
Bones") and presented it to the Throne. HanYu 
criticized His Majesty in harsh words: "You are . . . 
putting on for the citizens of the capital this 
extraordinary spectacle which is nothing more than 
a sort of theatrical amusement. . . . Now that the 
Buddha has long been dead, is it fitting that his 
decayed and rotten bones, his ill-omened and filthy 
remains, should be allowed to enter in the 
forbidden precincts of the palace? . . . Without 
reason you have taken up unclean things and 
examined them in person."' 4 

Three major doctrinal divisions, emerging 
successively, coexisted within the Buddhist faith. 
First in time is HTnayana, the "Small Vehicle," a 
conservative form of Buddhism based almost 
exclusively on the Pah canon and asserting that 
enlightenment comes only through one's own 
efforts. The second is Mahayana, the "Great 
Vehicle," the doctrinal outlines of which seem to 
have been formulated in India as early as the first 
century bce, advocating salvation for everyone 
through the assistance of a vast pantheon of 
compassionate divinities. The third is Esoteric 
Buddhism, also called tantric orVajrayana 
("Diamond Vehicle") Buddhism, known in China 
as mijiao, "Secret Teachings." This form of 

Buddhism, depending largely on "mysteries" taught 
and transmitted by Esoteric masters, developed 
from the fifth century ce as part of a most complex 
religio-philosophic movement. 

Each Buddhist school — there were eight major 
schools by the Tang period — emphasized different 
aspects of faith and worship and thus favored 
particular figures from the vast pantheon. Sacred 
texts offered clear-cut descriptions of the special 
qualities and appearance of the Buddha and all the 
other figures of the Buddhist pantheon, providing a 
basic assurance of iconographic correctness and 
conformity.' 5 

In artistic representations the Buddha's ideal figure 
appears very austere in stature, pose, and dress. 
Usually, his modest monk's robe and the near 
absence of specific attributes and individualizing 
features convincingly indicate his holy status of 
utmost unworldliness (cats. 147-49, 156, 162). Such 
utter simplicity gives his human figure a lofty 
majesty. Several unusual, seemingly aesthetic or 
miraculous features were assigned to the Buddha. 
They are manifestations of the Sacred, and basically 
statements of ontological quality, like the mudras, 
the gestures (literally, "seal marks"; C: yin[xiangj) 
formed with the hands to convey such actions as 
preaching, meditating, wish granting, protecting, or 
releasing from fear. The Buddha's thirty-two major 
distinguishing physical marks are called lakshana 
(C: xiang). One of the most important is the 
protuberance on top of his head symbolizing the 
absolute perfect wisdom of the Enlightened One. It 
is usuaUy referred to by the Sanskrit term ushntsha 
(C: rouji or dingxiang); ancient Buddhist scriptures 
sometimes explain it as a "mark of the crown that 
is invisible" to ordinary people and list it as the 
sixty-sixth among the eighty minor distinctive 
marks of the Buddha. Another sign of supreme 
enlightenment is the lima on his forehead; 
originally a white curl (C: baihao) between the 
Buddha's eyebrows, it was later simplified to a light- 
emanating spot that illuminated the world. Most of 
the exceptional marks and supernatural qualities 
were either derived from legends associated with 
the Buddha's life and virtues or devised as symbols 
of ultimate truth beyond human imagination, of 
unworldly beauty, holy distinction, and the sublime 
power of omnipresence. 

In accordance with their salvific mandate, 
bodhisattvas appear less austere and inward than 
figures of the Buddha in sculpture and painting. 
Bodhisattvas are compassionate figures "whose 
essence is enlightenment." Renouncing their own 
salvation and immediate entrance into nirvana, they 
devote all their power and energy to saving 
suffering beings in this world. As intercessionary 
figures, majestic in power and sublime in 



compassion, bodhisattvas are usually represented in 
graceful postures, dressed in elegant garments with 
sophisticated drapery. They are adorned with 
crowns and precious jewelry, and often they are 
equipped with specific emblems and attributes 
(cats. 163, 165, 166, 172-76). Some bodhisattvas are 
depicted riding on a powerful animal (an elephant 
or lion, for example), indicating the irresistible 
nature of the Buddhist Law. Others appear with 
multiple heads or arms to signify their limitless 
compassion and their suprahuman potential as 
beneficent intercessors (cat. 164). Perhaps the single 
most popular focus of Buddhist art and devotion is 
Avalokitesvara (C: Guan[shi]yin or Guanyin; "One 
Who Perceives [with compassion] the Sounds [of 
the suffering world]"). Religious imagination has 
endowed this widely adored bodhisattva with the 
greatest variety of attributes and manifestations. No 
less than thirty-three forms became canonized in 
the Lotus Sutm.They are indications oi his 
compassionate omnipotence to save sentient beings 
in different states of existence. As a benign 
emanation and agent of Amitabha, the Buddha of 
the Western Paradise (cat. 160), he has a small image 
of this Buddha in his crown. This image alone 
suffices to identify him as Guanyin (cat. 176). 

Like the bodhisattvas, the vidyarajas ("Bright Kings 
[of Esoteric Wisdom]"; C: mingwang) are easily 
recognized. The vidyarajas, however, are wrathful 
deities, terrifying in appearance and often depicted 
in belligerent poses, with abnormal multiplication 
of limbs and heads, ferocious facial expressions, 
threatening weapons in their hands, and flame- 
edged halos (cat. 170). But their anger is beneficent. 
They embody the militant energy and retaliatory 
power of the Tathagatas when confronted with such 
evils as heresy, ignorance, illusion, passion, and other 
spiritual obstacles. Tathagatas are a class of fully 
enlightened Buddhas.The Chinese epithet, rulai, 
means something like "he who has thus come," that 
is, like other Buddhas before him. Although the 
Five Bright Kings, their names, and their function 
are of Indian origin, they were probably conceived 
as a distinct group of five in Chinese Esoteric 
Buddhism during the seventh to eighth centuries. 
The Five Bright Kings, or protectors of faith, 
correspond to the Five Tathagatas, just as the five 
cosmic elements, the five cardinal points, the five 
transcendental wisdoms, the five senses, the five 
colors, the five vitality centers, and the five viscera 
of the human body do. These Tathagatas of the Five 
Wisdoms (wuzhi rulai) were thought of as spiritual 
principles constituting the body of the universe; 
and the relationship among them was clarified by 
the use of schematic diagrams, known as mandalas. 
Such formal geometric diagrams, depicting 
Buddhist deities in a highly abstract theological 
schema, originated in India. In China mandalas of 
painted or sculptural images were employed in 

liturgies and special rituals, such as ordination and 
baptism, and also as aids to private exercises such as 
the visualization of deities. 

The cosmic All-Buddha Mahavairocana ("Great 
Radiance of Illumination"; C: Dari) was established 
as the highest of these principles, penetrating with 
his light the darkness of ignorance. Each Tathagata 
had a particular bodhisattva and vidyaraja as his pair 
of agents, representing his benign (sauta) and 
wrathful (krodha) aspects. Practitioners of the mijiao, 
or "Secret Teachings," believed that each person's 
body, mind, and speech were inherently divine and 
that his or her deeds, thoughts, and words were 
actually those of Mahavairocana. Through such 
ritual practices as incantations, recitation of magic 
spells, mystical hand gestures, and trances the deities 
could be constrained to fulfill material goals — cure 
illness, defeat one's enemies, protect the state and 
government — and spiritual goals — hasten one's 
enlightenment or progress to a higher state of 
consciousness. Correct performance of such rituals 
was beheved to offer access to the power of the 
expansive Buddhist pantheon. That pantheon was 
systematically defined and organized into a highly 
intricate and complex schema, more elaborate than 
any previously known in the Buddhist world. 
Picturing that pantheon presented a new challenge 
to the imagination and skill of Chinese artists of 
the Tang dynasty. 

A large class of lesser deities, or devas (C: tiari), rank 
just below vidyarajas in the order of sanctity (cats. 
167, 169). Among them are the belligerent 
dvarapalas, who evolved out of Indian demonic 
creatures (yakshas) and Chinese warrior heroes and 
who protected the entrance of a sanctuary. In 
China they became known as envang ("Two 
Kings"), a pair of guardian deities. Four lokapalas, or 
"Divine Kings" (C: tianwang) were responsible for 
protecting the Buddha and his Law, the sanctuary, 
and the Buddhist congregation from dangers and 
threats of evil forces arising from the four cardinal 
directions of the compass. Their images became 
standard furnishing on a Buddhist altar platform 
and at the four corners of a stupa or a mandala. 

Symbolically, figures on the human level of 
existence, such as arhats (C: luohan; 
persons who, having attained enlightenment, will 
enter into nirvana after death) and the Buddha's 
major disciples, were more important as .1 group 
than as individuals. Arhats received .1 much simpler 
iconographical treatment than bodhisattvas. 
vidyarajas, and other suprahuman beings: on the 
other hand, they were represented with greater 
artistic and doctrinal freedom. The legendary. 
wonder-working arhats were often depicted .is .1 
group — groups of eight, sixteen, or five hundred 
being the most Arhats are frequently 



accompanied by animals and other companions 
(cat. 177). Originally worshiped as saints of the 
Hmayana pantheon, in China by the fifth century 
the sixteen arhats would become guardians of 
Mahayana Buddhism. Their names and abodes 
appear in a scripture translated into Chinese in 654 
by the famous pilgrim-monk Xuanzang (600-664). 
According to this text, the Buddha advised the 
arhats to remain in this world to await the advent 
of the redeeming Buddha, Maitreya. 


Despite the great variety of savior figures, the scope 
of artistic creativity and innovation in Buddhist 
imagery was limited on the whole by iconographic 
and iconometric constraints. Needless to say, statues 
were appreciated not primarily as art objects but as 
sacred icons. Nevertheless, such variables as the 
nature and intensity of piety in various parts of the 
vast country; locally available materials; patrons' 
preferences; the function, purpose, placement, and 
installation of a given icon; as well as adaptations of 
Indian and Central Asian aesthetics and stylistic 
traits to traditional Chinese taste and modes of 
representation brought about a surprising variety in 
Buddhist sculpture. 

If we are able — despite the canonical uniformity — 
to perceive connections and variations in the 
process by which Buddhist art was slowly 
assimilated in China and in the complicated 
development of style and iconography, it is largely 
owing to the Chinese urge for accurate 
documentation. Dates, names, and facts were 
inscribed on Buddhist sculptures with such 
thoroughness that, with the aid of more or less 
accidentally surviving material, we can reconstruct 
almost uninterrupted chronological sequences of 
dated works. This, at any rate, is generally the case 
in northern China, where the new religion and its 
arts were strongly supported by the Tuoba, the 
foreign rulers of the Wei dynasties (386-557). In 
southern China many of the ancient Buddhist 
monuments have not survived. Besides the date of 
completion or consecration of an icon and the 
names of its donors and beneficiaries, inscriptions 
often indicate the dual motivation for 
commissioning a Buddhist statue. The devotee 
intended to provide a main object of worship and 
at the same time to incur the manifold blessings 
promised by the sacred texts to those who, solely or 
jointly, sponsored the making of an icon. In 
compliance with the doctrine of karma, the pious 
donor could even transfer or extend merits and 
virtues to others — to the imperial house, to 
ancestors, to living members of the family, to "all 
sentient beings." 

"The Scripture on the Production of Buddha 

Images" (Z110 fo xingxiang jing) elaborates in great 
detail on the marvelous rewards that may be 
expected in a future life by those who make and 
commission sacred icons. This short text is among 
the most popular and earliest Buddhist scriptures to 
be translated into Chinese, perhaps in the first half 
of the third century. Virtually nothing is known of 
its provenance or translators. The scripture does not 
give any ritual, artistic, or technical instructions on 
the actual making of Buddhist icons. But it provides 
the background for the production of the first 
"authentic" Buddha image, the earliest known 
reference to the mysterious Udayana statue: 

The king addressed the Buddha further saying: 
"When people perform virtuous acts they gain 
good fortune, but where does this lead them? I 
dread no longer being able to look upon the 
Buddha after the Buddha is gone. I want to 
produce an image of the Buddha to venerate 
and bequeath to later generations. What sorts of 
good fortune will I obtain thereby? I ask the 
Buddha to take compassion upon me and 
explain this matter, as I earnestly desire to 

What follows is a list of salvific aspects of rebirths 
to be gained through the production of sacred 
icons. One of these promulgations reads: 

One who produces an image ot the Buddha 
will, in a later life, always honour the Buddha 
and revere his scriptures. He will continually 
make offerings to the relics of the Buddha of 
variegated silk, fine flowers, exquisite incense, 
lamps, and all the precious jewels and rare 
objects of the world. Afterward for innumerable 
aeons he will practice the path to nirvana. 
Those who aspire to present precious jewels to 
the Buddha are not common men; they have all 
practiced the Buddhist path in previous lives. 
Such is the fortune obtained by one who 
produces an image of the Buddha.' 7 

On the pedestal of a gilded bronze altar of the Sui 
dynasty (581—618), representing the Buddha 
Amitabha and his retinue, we find a long engraved 
inscription (cat. 160). This masterwork of bronze 
casting, made up of twenty-three components, once 
served a pious person and his family members for 
their private worship. It was discovered in 1974 near 
the village of Bali on the outskirts of Xi'an, in 
Shaanxi Province. The beginning of the inscription 
is almost formulaic: "On the fifteenth day of the 
seventh month in the fourth year of the Kaihuang 
[era, i.e., 584] the general of Ningyuan and deputy 
district magistrate ofWujiang [in present-day Hebei 
Province, by the name of] Dong Qin had this 
Amitabha image made, so that His Majesty the 
emperor and his inner circle above and father and 



mother, brothers and sisters, wife and children 
below all may perceive the correct Law [of the 
Buddha] ."There follows a panegyric in four verses 
on the prospects of salvation, the true marks ot the 
Buddha's body becoming manifest, cause and effect, 
illusion and rebirth, and finally on salvation in 
Amitabha's paradise. A red sandstone stele more 
than sixty years older than the Sui altar was 
unearthed in 1954 at the ancient site of theWanfo 
Temple ("Thousand Buddha Temple"), at Chengdu 
in Sichuan Province (cat. 150). Tradition holds that 
the Wanfo Temple was established shortly after the 
middle of the second century; under the Liang 
dynasty (502—557) it was known as Anpu Temple 
("Temple of the Peaceful Riverbank"), and under 
the Tang (618-907) as Jingzhong Temple ("Temple 
of the Cleansed Multitude"). The first Buddhist 
sculptures were discovered at this site in 1882. 
Subsequent investigations in 1937, 1945, and 
1953-54 brought to light a total of about two 
hundred figures and fragments (cats. 151, 163, 168, 
176). The elaborate configuration of this stele 
depicts the standing Buddha Sakyamuni surrounded 
by pairs of bodhisattvas, deities, and disciples. A 
scenic composition in shallow relief on the rear of 
the stele shows Sakyamuni worshiped by 
ceremonially aligned men and women in a 
landscape setting as he sits in meditation under a 
tree. The inscription below may be translated: 

On the eighth day of the third month in the 
fourth year of the Putong [era] of the Liang 
[dynasty, i.e., 523] the [Buddha] disciple Kang 
Sheng, upon his awakening, reverently had one 
stone image of Sakyamuni made. We pray that 
his present relatives may always be at peace and 
quiet, and that by giving up the world [entering 
priesthood] his body will be blessed with 
receiving a state in which he forever will see the 
Buddha and hear his Law. May his fathers and 
mothers for the past seven generations, together 
with all sentient beings, share one and all in this 
prayer. May they quickly attain Buddhahood 
and altogether magnificent salvation. 

A few Buddhist image makers may have been 
ecclesiastics or artists loosely associated with a 
religious institution; most were probably 
professional lay craftsmen who may have been 
organized in workshops through which they 
handed down their technical skills and experience 
to following generations. Ancient Chinese prejudice 
condemned even the most talented masters in the 
laborious art of sculpture to social inferiority and 
anonymity. Not until the end of the Tang dynasty is 
any individual sculptor known to have left his 
signature on an extant work. A few sculptors are 
known by name solely through literary sources. 

Chinese sculptors rarely had the opportunity to see 
Western Buddhist monuments with their own eyes. 
Only now and then could they draw inspiration 
from major Western prototypes that had been 
imported or officially presented to the court or to a 
renowned temple in China. Instead, sculptors had to 
rely largely on oral descriptions by missionaries and 
returning pilgrims, perhaps on their sketches and 
drawings made en route, on manuals handed down, 
and on images made for private worship — small and 
therefore easily portable. 

Canonical scriptures — some of Indian origin, some 
apocryphal — contain detailed accounts of the 
imagining, in the true meaning of the word, of 
Buddhist deities. These compilations of ritual 
prescriptions read like iconographic handbooks. 
They provide accurate descriptions of the figures 
with all their features and attributes. Although no 
early Chinese manuals on designing and making 
Buddhist images have survived, there must have 
been guides — plus strong oral traditions — with 
rules, instructions, perhaps even illustrations. The 
famous Pmtiinamana laksliana was translated from a 
Tibetan version as late as 1742 by the Manchu 
prince Gongbu Chabu and published under the 
title Zaoxiang liangdu jing ("Classic of Measurements 
for Making [Buddhist] Images"). 18 As with the 
canon of classical Greek sculpture, Buddhist 
imagery followed elaborate rules: proportions and 
measurements of a figure were of fundamental 
significance and may be traced back to the old 
Indian iconometric system called talomana.' 9 The 
Buddhist "doctrine of measuring icons" (S: 
pratimamana) is based on various modules. For 
example, the smallest unit is the width of a finger 
(S: angula; C: zhiliang). Next comes the span of a 
hand (S: tala or vitasti; C: shouliang): this maximum 
distance between tips of thumb and middle finger 
corresponds to the length of the face from hairline 
to the tip of the chin. The length of the forearm 
from elbow to the tip of the thumb (C: zhouliang) 
constitutes another unit. Standard measurements of 
this sort provide the fabric and grid for the canon 
of proportions. Although derived from parts of the 
human body, the proportions were not used to 
represent observed reality or to depict the natural 
beauty and harmony of the human figure. Rather, 
this system of proportions embodies spiritual and 
metaphysical laws of the Sacred, symbolic norms of 
abstract character: it prescribes different 
mathematical relationships for the various categories 
of figures, according to their level ot existence in 
the Buddhist pantheon. Multiples of the modules 
determine the size of a standing or .1 seated figure 
as well as the height and proportions ol .1 Buddha, 
bodhisattva. deity, guardian, or an ordinary human 
being. In sculpture, configurations are dominated by 
this principle of hieratic scaling. Individual figures 
are also distinguished h\ then volume and 



placement. In relief representations, for example 
(cats. 150, 161), they range from the central figure of 
the Buddha, on his supreme level of transcendence, 
who stands out against the background and is 
carved almost completely in the round, to the 
worldly donors, who occupy subordinate positions 
at the bottom and the edges and are rendered in 
low relief or simple line engraving. 

ancient times this technique was mainly reserved 
for dedicatory inscriptions. Portable miniature altars 
and small icons for private worship stood more 
chance of preservation than did the monumental 
temple bronze statuary, almost all of which was 
destroyed in the course of infrequent but ferocious 
persecutions of Buddhism or in other disasters, such 
as revolts, wars, earthquakes, fires, or floods. 

Artists in the service of Buddhism sought to 
represent their religious figures with stylized beauty 
and sumptuous splendor, using a complex system of 
idealization beyond human forms. It was their aim 
to visualize the sacred essence of the faith through 
majestic manifestation of the deities, through their 
serene nobility, and through their lavish 
adornment — an aesthetic quality called alamkara in 
Sanskrit (C: zhuangyan) .The fine linear engraving 
on a horizontal panel depicting the Buddha 
surrounded by bodhisatrvas and disciples suggests a 
convincing vision of the reward awaiting pious 
believers in paradise (cat. 152). Highlighted by a 
large mandorla and seated beneath a precious 
canopy, the central figure can probably be identified 
as "Sakyamuni Preaching the Law." Subsidiary 
figures, "varied in pose and expression, are 
hierarchically grouped in front of luxuriant trees. 
This hierarchical symmetry and concern with three- 
dimensional form extends to the entire 
composition, inviting comparison with wall 
paintings of Buddhist paradise scenes in cave- 
temples. The fluent draftsmanship creates 
an exquisite pictorial effect that must have been 
considerably heightened by the now-vanished 
polychromy. On both sides the figures are flanked 
by a long dedicatory inscription dated in 
accordance with 524, making this Northern Wei 
panel from Jingming Temple in Luoyang one of the 
most valuable early monuments in China's history 
of religious figure painting. To suggest these 
visionary conceptions of paradises and the 
suprahuman character ot their sacred figures, artists 
rendered their icons ageless, passionless, and 
flawless, wearing an introspective, compassionate 
expression (cats. 163, 164, 166, 174, 176). Only 
figures of lesser sanctity were represented with a 
degree of pictorial realism. 

The materials Chinese artists used for Buddhist 
images varied greatly over region and time. Besides 
bronze, clay, and lacquer, various kinds of stone and 
wood were very popular. We find sculptures made 
of sandstone, limestone, schist, and marble as well as 
statues carved in sandalwood, camphor, and pine. 
As a rule, they received a polychrome finish over 
preparatory coatings (cats. 161, 170-73). The 
technique for casting bronze icons employed 
traditional molds as well as the lost-wax method 
(cats. 160, 169). Overall fire gilding was favored. 
Additional engraving may be seen occasionally; in 


The spread of Buddhism and its art can to some 
extent be traced through the chronological 
sequence of the establishment of cave-temples. The 
architecture of the earliest Chinese cave-temples 
follows Central Asian models and clearly reveals its 
Indian origins. Textual evidence suggests that the 
first was built in 366 at Dunhuang in the extreme 
northwest, a junction of the great trade routes and a 
gateway to Western influence. Soon afterward, 
extensive work was carried out in the southeast and 
east. The construction of the Bingling cave-temple 
at Mount Xiaojishi in northwestern Yongjing 
county, Gansu Province, seems to have begun early 
in the fifth century; in 1963 a votive inscription in 
ink bearing a Western Qin date corresponding to 
420 was discovered in Cave 169. The cave-temple at 
Maijishan, east ot the ancient Buddhist center of 
Liangzhou in Tianshui county, Gansu Province, may 
have been founded at about the same time. In his 
biographical account Gaoseng zhuan ("Lives of 
Eminent Monks"), Huijiao (497—554) records that 
the monkTanhong from Chang' an, who was living 
as a hermit at Maijishan in the early 420s, was 
joined there by another monk, Xuangao. 20 At that 
time, a congregation of more than a hundred 
monks is said to have resided at Maijishan. 

The first series of cave-chapels atYungang, near 
Datong in Shanxi Province, was begun at the 
instigation of the monk Tanyao in 460 under the 
patronage of the Northern Wei sovereigns. Far into 
the sixth century caves with sculptural ensembles 
continued to be carved into the rock. In 493 the 
Tuoba ruler Xiaowen (r. 471—499) abandoned the 
flourishing and populous center of Datong and 
transferred the Wei court to Luoyang in Henan 
Province. This move into the heartland of Chinese 
civilization was a significant historical event and a 
profoundly political statement. Soon afterward, the 
laborious chiseling of cave-temples with extensive 
sculptural programs began afresh on a long cliff of 
dark gray limestone at Longmen, seven miles south 
of the new capital. At Gongxian, approximately 
forty miles downstream from Longmen, caves with 
superb sculptures were carved in a colossal cliffside 
overlooking the Luo River. A votive inscription 
dated in accordance with 531 has been discovered 
under niche 227 outside Cave 5. 


The commission of the imperial caves at 
Xiangtangshan was also connected with the founding 
of an ancient capital: Ye, capital of Northern Qi 
(550—577), in southwestern Hebei Province. Literary 
evidence and inscriptions on steles permit us to 
assume that the emperor Wenxuan (r. 550-559) 
initiated this project. In Buddhist texts he is 
described as a "devoted and generous follower of 
the Church." The work on the large complex of 
Buddhist caves on the southwestern slope of 
Tianlongshan, southwest of present-day Taiyuan in 
Shanxi Province, is likely to have begun around 535 
and seems to have continued until the middle of 
the eighth century, after more than a hundred years 
of suspended activity, under the patronage of 
influential people closely connected with the ruling 
Tang dynasty. 

In addition to Buddhist images in cave-temples, 
images of stone, clay, bronze, and other materials 
were worshiped in wood-constructed buildings, 
temple courtyards, domestic shrines, and private 
homes. Although we have a general view of the 
development of Buddhist sculpture in China, it will 
require further investigation to more precisely 
identify regional schools and individual workshops 
and to determine their characteristics, patrons, and 
periods of flourishing. More research is also needed 
to discover when the first freestanding stone 
Buddhist images were created and where this 
process began. The oldest freestanding stone statues 
in the round are not likely to predate the first half 
of the sixth century. The use of micaceous white 
marble known as Han baiyushi ("white jade[-like] 
stone of Han") may have played an important role; 
it was an almost ideal material for the sculptors 
working in the Dingzhou and Baoding areas in 
Hebei Province. Besides smaller sculptures and 
steles, monumental statues in the round have been 
found in this area that exhibit a delicate 
smoothness. The flat drapery folds cling to the body 
and flow in subtle, graceful lines, contrasting with 
the rounded forms of the head. A large number of 
marble sculptures, several inscribed and dated to the 
520s, were excavated from the ruins of the ancient 
Xiude Temple near Quyang in Hebei. 

Most important for the study of Buddhist sculpture 
is the comparatively large corpus of votive steles 
(huanyuan fobei) richly decorated with engravings 
and reliefs of various depths and heights. They were 
usually installed in temple compounds, in 
monasteries and nunneries or their courtyards, and 
also in cave-chapels. Their prototypes may be seen 
in the memorial and other inscribed steles 
customary in China since Han times. Four-sided 
pier-steles resting on a pedestal usually have a 
simulated roof that serves as a top member and are 
adorned in several registers with Buddhist images, 
often set in niches on each of the four sides. 

Another major type is a rectangular monolith set up 
vertically on a low base. On the front of the stele is 
a triad or a larger configuration centered on a 
seated Buddha and placed in a recess with imitated 
architectural elements, draped curtains, and canopy 
at the front (cats. 154, 155, 157, 158, 161). This 
arrangement is strongly reminiscent of the walls of 
cave-chapels. The reverse side of such steles may 
also be sculptured in relief, with groups of figures 
from the Buddhist pantheon, narrative scenes of 
sacred events and locations, or assemblages of 
donors. Often the rear is reserved for inscriptions, 
including long lists of donors' names. In some cases, 
pairs of intertwined dragons crown the work 
(cat. 157). Steles with images in relief on the front 
only, leaving the rear unworked, were originally 
most likely set into the walls of a temple structure. 
In 1975 seventeen marble steles of this sort were 
unearthed near the village of Caotan, at Xi'an, in 
Shaanxi Province (cat. 159). They were discovered 
standing in pairs, face to face, which accounts for 
their excellent state of preservation. Further 
archaeological evidence suggests that they were 
carefully buried at the site of an ancient Buddhist 
temple for safety reasons — probably to protect them 
from the iconoclasts of one of the devastating 
Buddhist persecutions in old Chang'an. Steles with 
a multitude of miniature Buddha niches 
surrounding the central image are customarily 
referred to as "Thousand Buddha" steles. 

One of the earliest and most enduringly popular 
types of votive stele represents a seated or standing 
Buddha haloed by a leaf-shaped mandorla, or 
aureole (cats. 147-49). The Buddha thus represented 
is often Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, or the 
redeeming Buddha of the Future, Maitreya, 
identified as a rule by his cross-ankled pose. The 
Buddha is presented in solemn frontality and high 
relief, almost in the round — a stately figure, imbued 
with majestic grandeur. A blissfully withdrawn smile 
on his face radiates tranquility and salvific certitude. 
The symbolic gestures of the hands, or mudras, 
effectively convey powerful instructive messages to 
the devout beholder. On the front of the aureole, 
dense patterns and ornaments are often interspersed 
with miniature Buddha figures called 
"Transformation Buddhas" (huqfo). Occasionally, the 
pointed mandorla curves gently forward at the top. 
This, along with other features such as the engraved 
wreath of flames, may have been inspired by gilded 
bronze images. On the reverse, carved in low relief 
or incised, we find groups of minor deities and 
donors, along with narrative scenes of the Buddha's 
life and depictions of holy or miraculous deeds, 
events, and encounters. Most of these features may 
be seen on a stele reportedly unearthed in 
Xingping county, Shaanxi Province (cat, 147). The 
inscription on the rear of its pedestal is parti] 
damaged, but the date can be safely read: it 



corresponds to the year 471. The soft modeling and 
conspicuous parallel folds of the drapery suggest 
that the sculptor intended to transfer the qualities of 
a molded clay prototype into stone carving, which 
may reflect stylistic influences from Taxila in 
Gandhara (in present-day Pakistan) or Bamiyan in 

A great variety of freestanding Buddhist sculptures 
have been preserved from the Tang dynasty 
(618-907). One of the finest works is the white 
marble torso of a standing bodhisattva that was 
excavated in the old precincts of Daminggong, the 
Tang imperial "Palace of Great Brightness," in Xi'an 
(cat. 165). Only traces of gold and colors remain on 
the polished stone surface. The attractively rounded, 
swelling forms of the body and the pliant pose 
imbue this statue with the sensuous and tactile 
beauty that so emphatically marks Tang sculpture at 
its zenith, about the middle of the eighth century. 
The triple-bend posture, or tribhahga, suggesting a 
gentle sway at the hips, demonstrates the sculptor's 
interest in organic movement. At the same time this 
torso shows the influence of India's mature Gupta 
art. An elegant scarf across the naked chest and a 
dhoti covering the lower body are draped in 
graceful folds and pleats that closely follow the 
forms of the body. A precious necklace contributes 
to the effects of elegant courtly refinement, 
splendor, and grandeur. 

A totally different stylistic approach is seen in a 
nearly contemporaneous sandstone torso of a 
powerful guardian figure (cat. 168). This statue was 
excavated in 1954 at the site of the Tang dynasty 
Jingzhong Temple (known as Wanfo Temple in late 
Han times) at Chengdu, in Sichuan Province. The 
threatening attitude of the robust guardian deity and 
his physical dynamism testify to his role as protector 
of the sanctuary. Forceful ■workmanship creates an 
almost overly emphatic, manneristic muscularity, 
reinforced by manneristic elements in the agitated 
treatment of the garment. 

In the arts of Esoteric Buddhism flourishing under 
the Tang dynasty, wrathful figures such as vidyarajas 
and bodhisattvas in their awesome (S: krodha) 
incarnations played a prominent role. Of ten icons 
made of finely grained white marble with traces of 
gold and polychromy, excavated in 1959 in the old 
Changle ward of the Tang capital Chang'an, at least 
eight qualify as members of the Esoteric Buddhist 
pantheon (cats. 166, 170-72). Two depict the 
ferocious-looking Bright King Budong 
(S: Acalafnatha];" Immovable One"), who was the 
unshakable, indomitable adherent and protector of 
the Buddhist Law. Two other terrifying deities on 
bizarre, layered rock pedestals most likely represent 

Trailokyavijaya (C: Xiangsanshi; "Victor over the 
Three Worlds [of greed, hatred, and folly]) (cat. 170). 
One of his characteristic attributes is the ancient 
Indo-Aryan vajra, the magic thunderbolt or 
diamond scepter (C: jingangchu), which symbolizes 
the diamond-like, indestructible character of the 
ultimate truth. In one of his emanations, 
Trailokyavijaya has three, sometimes even four heads 
and eight arms. His furious, scowling visage, with 
bulging eyes, bestial fangs, and knotted eyebrows 
expresses his holy wrath (S: krodha; C: fennu), while 
his combative attitude and flamboyant hair point to 
his destructive energies and militant opposition to 
evil, both physical and spiritual. The Bodhisattva 
HayagrTva, the "horse-headed" Matou Guanyin, also 
has three heads and eight arms. He is shown sitting 
on a lotus-and-rock pedestal in front of an aureole 
of swirling flames. Another prominent member of 
the Esoteric Buddhist pantheon is the mystic 
Buddha of the South, Ratnasambhava (C: Baosheng; 
"Producer of Treasures"). This figure, now headless, 
is seated with legs crossed in vajrdsana pose (legs 
folded in the "adamant," or unshakable, posture) on 
a lotus throne that rests on seven winged horses 
(cat. 171). Among the finest works in this group of 
marble sculptures is the image of Manjusn 
(C:Wenshu), one of the agents of the Buddha 
Sakyamuni (cat. 172). In his left hand he holds the 
stem of a lotus. A palm-leaf book of Indian type 
placed on the blossom above his left shoulder allows 
us to identify him as the Bodhisattva of Great 
Wisdom. His cultic center was on Mount Wutai in 
Shanxi Province, which was thought to be his 
sacred abode. Richly adorned with heavy jewelry, 
Manjusn is seated on an elaborate throne of 
overlapping lotus petals. Deeply sculptured, scrolling 
leaves create an almost baroque quality. 

The sculptural refinement of all these marble statues 
and fragments is exceptional. Their subtle and 
elaborate surface treatment — including the original 
polychromy and gilding — attests to the artist's or 
the metropolitan atelier's remarkable technical skill 
and sensitivity in imparting a forceful expressiveness 
and an extraordinary lively grace to the works. In 
their original setting the icons may have constituted 
a complete mandala. It is likely that they were 
commissioned for the great Anguo Temple 
("Temple for Pacifying the Country") in Chang'an, 
which historical records locate at the ancient 
Changle ward in the immediate neighborhood of 
the imperial palaces, just outside present-day Xi'an. 
Local government workers digging for a water 
conduit discovered the sculptures, several in badly 
damaged condition, in a small tunnel; they had been 
buried deep and were found at a depth of over ten 

The Anguo Temple was founded in 710. According 
to Duan Chengshi's (d. 863) Sitaji ("Notes on 



Temples and Pagodas"), published in 853, the Anguo 
Temples Buddha Hall was originally the bed- 
chamber hall of the emperor Xuanzong (r. 
712— 756). 2I The structure was purportedly 
dismantled and transferred to the temple grounds 
by imperial decree in 713. Its main image seems to 
have been a Maitreya statue that frequently emitted 
miraculous light. Unfortunately, there is no mention 
of any other icons. As a renowned study center for 
Esoteric Buddhism and a colossal monument to 
piety and the arts in the capital city of Chang' an, 
the Anguo Temple was a chief target in the violent 
persecution of 845. Anti-Buddhist iconoclasts may 
have buried the sculptures at such a great depth 
because they feared revenge and punishment 
through the magical powers of the terrifying deities 
embodied in the images. The turmoil 
accompanying general An Lushan's insurrection of 
755-763 had far-reaching negative effects, not only 
on the subsequent political, economic, and social 
structure ofTang China, but also on the prestige 
and development of the Buddhist church and its 
arts. The Anguo Temple sculptures probably predate 
this dramatic decline, and thus may have been 
completed in the second quarter of the eighth 

It was just at this time, during Xuanzong's reign, 
that Esoteric Buddhism first received official 
recognition and active encouragement from the 
court. In 716 the famous Indian Tantric theologian 
Subhakarasimha (637-735), known to the Chinese 
as Shanwuwei, arrived in Chang'an with a number 
of Sanskrit texts. Eight years later his Chinese 
disciple Yixing (638-727) assisted him in translating 
and commenting on one of the fundamental 
Esoteric Buddhist scriptures, the Mahavairocana 
Sutra (C: Darijing; "Sutra of the Great Radiance of 
Illumination"). This text describes most of the 
important Esoteric Buddhist deities in some detail: 
they were novel and infinitely more varied in their 
iconography than their traditional counterparts. The 
powerful presence of the Bright Kings, in particular, 
must have overshadowed the appeal of the 
bodhisattvas, whose prominence they were 

stylistic; trends in buddhist 

The number of securely dated Chinese Buddhist 
icons — mainly gilded bronzes — of the fourth 
century is very small, and their style is reminiscent 
of images, from Gandhara. Although attached 
canopies are also known in early Indian sculpture, 
the leaf-shaped mandorla with flaming border 
seems to be a Chinese innovation. The attempt to 
emulate the Indian naturalism soon fused with 
indigenous Chinese tendencies toward stylization 
and abstraction. Early Chinese Buddhist images 
tend to ignore rather than emphasize human 

anatomy. Thus, the robes do not drape easily; on the 
contrary, they are stiffly modeled and rigidly 
symmetrical, creating a rather austere, disincarnat&- 
image, but one of compelling majestic poise. By the 
end of the fifth century all the stylistic idioms of 
Buddhist sculpture that had reached China from 
Gandhara, India, and Central Asia had been slowly 
assimilated into a consistent Chinese declaration of 
faith and zeal. Throughout the first half of the sixth 
century traditional styles and motifs persisted in the 
Chinese Buddhist sculptor's art, but from about the 
mid-sixth century a novel style was evolving in 
north China. 

The sculpture of the Northern Qi and Sui periods 
is clearly distinct from earlier linear, geometric 
treatments of Buddhist images. In this new stage of 
the development we see a genuine attempt to 
indicate the human body beneath the garments, an 
attempt that was stimulated by Indian influences of 
the classic Gupta period. In their striving for 
volume and graceful movement in their figures, 
Tang sculptors of the seventh and eighth centuries 
went even a step further, combining solid, almost 
weighty reality with voluptuous fleshiness. Suave, 
rhythmic drapery patterns follow the form of the 
body so closely that one senses the texture, weight, 
and fall of the cloth. As the figures became 
substantial, often plump, there was an ever- 
increasing tendency toward rich detail, complexity 
of forms, and restless movement in the sweeping 
curves of the drapery folds. Their extraordinary 
technical skill allowed the sculptors to reproduce 
the finest details of hair, ribbons, and jewelry with 
utmost accuracy. In the end the monumental 
solidity of the mature Tang style was diminished 
through an overconscious striving for aristocratic 
elegance and sensuous beauty. 

Over the past decades several of the large cave- 
temple sites have been thoroughly investigated; a 
number of individual temples and buildings have 
been restored; groups of religious icons as well as 
isolated images have been excavated; and several 
spectacular reliquary deposits have been recovered 
from China's great Buddhist heritage. All these 
substantive archaeological finds and results of recent 
restoration and research have greatly clarified and 
enriched our understanding of historical records 
and literary sources. They help to document 
changes in Buddhist piety, worship, and faith; 
developments in the structure and importance of 
various schools and temples: prominence of 
individual deities, saints, patriarchs, donors, and 
rulers over the centuries. They also allow us deepei 
insight into the nature and living tradition ot 
Chinese Buddhist art. its liturgical foundations, 
iconography, style, materials, techniques, .\n<\ last but 
not least, its perfect Sinicizatdon. 


1. Robert H. Sharf. "The 
Scripture in Forty-Two 
Sections," in Religions of China 
in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez. 
Jr., Princeton Readings in 
Religions (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 
IQQ 6), P- 360; for a concise 
introduction to and full transla- 
tion of the text, ibid.. 

pp. 360-71 ; and for the 
Chinese version see Taislto 
shinshu daizokyo, ed.Takakusu 
Junjiro and Watanabe Kaigyoku 
(Tokyo, 1925; reprint, Tokyo: 
Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
kankokai, 1968), vol. 17, 
no. 784, pp. 7223—7243. 

2. See Taisho shhisltu daizokyo 
(Tokyo, 1928; reprint, Tokyo: 
Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
kank5kai, 1973), vol. 51, 

no. 2092, p. 999a. Translation, 
with minor changes, by Yi- 
t'ung Wang, A Record of 
Buddhist Monasteries in Ix-yang 
by Yang Hsuan-chih (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press. 
[984), pp. sf. 

3. Edwin O. Reischauer, trans.. 
Ennin's Diar)':Tltc Recoid of a 
Pilgrimage to China in Scaitli 0) 
the Law (New York: Ronald 
Press. I9SJ), pp. 3811". 

4. Translation by Alexandei ( 
Soper, Literary Evidence fo\ 
Buddhist Art in China, Ambus 
Asiae, Suppl. n> (Ascona: 

Ambus Asi.u-. [959), pp. it'. 

5. Another version of this 
apparition talc has been pre- 

i in the Mingxiatigji 
("Records ot" Miraculous 
Omens"), b\ VrangYan (act 
Lite sih-early 6th . I Ik- 131 
stones can be attributed to 
the now lost Mingxiang n make 
W.mcY.m's compilation one ot 
the most fascinating early 
Buddhist miracle-tale collec- 
tions. In 1.1.4 Daoxuan included 
this anecdote as the first 111 .1 

ol famous images in 
chapter ; ofhisji shenzhou son- 



bao gantong In ("Catalogue of 
the Salvific Influence of the 
Three Jewels on China's 
Assembled [Temples and 
Pagodas]"), in Taisho shinshu 
daizokyo (Tokyo, 1927; reprint, 
Tokyo: Taish5 shinshu daizokyo 
kankokai, i960), vol. 52, 
no. 2106, p. 413c. 

6. Soper, Literary Evidence, p. 4. 

7. Soper, Literary Evidence, p. 4. 

8. See Daoxuan, Ji shenzhou 
sanbao gantong lit, chap. 2, 
pp. 416c— 417a. 

9. Daoxuan, Ji shenzhou sanbao 
gantong hi, p. 416c. Translation, 
with minor changes by Soper, 
in Literary Evidence, p. 21; for 
the Chinese text, see 
"Quotations and Technical 
Terms," in Literary Evidence, 

p. 296: G. 

10. Yang Xuanzhi, Luoyang 
qielan ji, in Taisho shinshu 
daizokyo, vol. 51, no. 2092, 
p. 1000a; translation by Wang, 
Record of Buddhist Monasteries, 
pp. i6f. 

1 1. Translation, with minor 
changes, by Roger Goepper, 
"Some Thoughts on the Icon 
in Esoteric Buddhism in East 
Asia," in Studia Sino-Mongolica: 
Festschrift fur Herbert Franke, 
herausgegeben von Wolfgang 
Bauer, Miinchener 
Ostasiatische Studien, vol. 25 
(Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner 
Verlag, 1980), p. 248. 

12. See Arthur E Wright, "Tang 
T'ai-tsung and Buddhism,' 7 in 
Arthur E Wright and Denis 
Twitchett, eds., Perspectives on 
the T'ang (New Haven and 
LondomYale University Press, 
1973), p. 256. 

13. Soper, Literary Evidence, 
pp. i5f. Cf. also in Daoxuan s 
Guang hongmingji ("Expanded 
Collection on Propagating the 
Light"), the panegyric on the 
celebrated icon by Dao'an's 
distinguished disciple Huiyuan 
(334 _ 4i6), in Taisho shinshu 
daizokyo, vol. 52, no. 2103, 

p. 198D-C 

14. Translation, with minor 
changes, by James Hightower, 
in Edwin O. Reischauer, 
Ennin's Travels in China (New 
York: Reginald Press, 1955), 
pp. 223f.; and in Stanley 

Weinstein, Buddhism under the 
T'ang (New York and 
Melbourne: Cambridge 
University Press, 1987), p. 104. 

15. Mahayana doctrines hold 
that the Buddha exists simulta- 
neously in three essentially 
identical "bodies": the 
dharmakaya, the samhhogakaya, 
and the nirmanakaya. The 
dharmakaya, or true "body of 
the Law" (C: fashen), transcends 
personality and the multitude 
of forms and colors in the 
phenomenal world. Thus, it 
can neither be depicted, nor 
expressed in words, nor con- 
templated by the unenlight- 
ened human mind. The sam- 
bhogakaya, or "body of requital" 
(C: baoshen), is the Buddha's 
level of existence upon enter- 
ing Buddhahood as a result of 
vows, exercises, and religious 
merit. This aspect of the 
Buddha may be visualized by 
enlightened beings. The 
nirmanakaya, or "shadow body" 
(C: yingshen), is the Buddha's 
perceptible incarnation for the 
benefit of unenlightened sen- 
tient beings. In the aspect of 
this body, the devotee is able to 
perceive the Buddha as a 
human figure, in the person of 
Sakyamuni.The latter two bod- 
ies are also referred to as 
nipakaya, "form bodies" or 
"color bodies" (C: seshen). 
Images for worship and devo- 
tion may be made only of 
these two bodies. 

16. See Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
(Tokyo, 1925; reprint, Tokyo: 
Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
kankokai, 1964), vol. 16, no. 
692, p. 788a; Robert H. Scharf, 
trans., "The Scripture on the 
Production of Buddha 
Images," in Religions of China, 
p. 265. 

17. Scharf, trans., "Production 
ot Buddha Images" p. 266. 

18. Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
(Tokyo, 1928; reprint, Tokyo: 
Taisho shinshu daizokyS 
kankokai, 1968), vol. 21, 

no. 1419, pp. 936-56. 

19. "The word taia, of ancient 
origin and uncertain deriva- 
tion, has from a very early time 
served as a basic term for the 
standard of measure (pramana) 
in the visual and performing 
arts. . . .The basic meaning of 
taia is 'span' — a span of space 

(as measured from the tip of 
the outstretched thumb to the 
tip of the middle finger) [or] a 
span of time (as marked off 
and articulated by audible and 
silent gestures performed by 
the hand[s])." See Kapila 
Vatsyayan, ed., Kalatattvakos'a, 
A Lexicon of Fundamental 
Concepts of the Indian Arts, 
vol- 2, Concepts of Space and 
Time, ed. Bettma Baumer 
(New Delhi: Sri Jainendra 
Press, 1992), pp. 333, 335. 

20. See Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
(Tokyo, 1928; reprint, Tokyo: 
Taisho shinshu daizokyo 
kankokai, 1968), chap. 11, 
vol. 50, no. 2059, p. 397a. 

21. See the translation by 
Alexander C. Soper, "A 
Vacation Glimpse of the T'ang 
Temples of Ch'ang-an:The 
Ssu-t'a Chi by Tuan Ch'eng- 
shih," Ardbus Asiae 23, no. 1 
(i960), pp. 23f.The Taisho 
shinshu daizokyo, vol. 51, 

no. 2093, pp. 1022b— 1024a, 
gives only an abridged version 
of the text. 




Calligraphy is often called the most 
Chinese of arts. This is a label of praise, 
perhaps, but one that is also problematic, 
for it exoticizes calligraphy by prompting 
associations of the "mysterious East" and 
by reinforcing the natural tendency 

anions those who do not read Chinese 

to believe that this art of dynamic but 
seemingly incomprehensible strokes 

Peter Sturman 

Associate Professor, Department of the 
History of Art and Architecture, 
University of California, Santa Barbara 


Fig. l. Cangjie, legendary inventor of the Chinese 
characters. Computer-generated image. 

and dots is inaccessible to outsiders. It is true that 
the well-trained viewer of calligraphy must, at a 
minimum, be able to read Chinese characters, but it 
is largely unknown that Chinese calligraphy is, in 
fact, a remarkably open art, one that actively 
engages its viewer in a manner unlike that of any 
other art form of any culture. Little can be done 
about the language divide — hence, that sense of 
democratic engagement will remain largely beyond 
the reach of most of us. Nonetheless, a fairly 
informed appreciation is possible once some of the 
rules, techniques, aesthetic qualities, and history of 
Chinese calligraphy are introduced. Most 
important, one can understand why calligraphy is 
so engaging and thus why it is truly a unique art. 


Early sources attribute the creation of the Chinese 
written language to Cang Jie, an official in the 
employment of the legendary Yellow Emperor and 
a man whose remarkable vision and ability to 
communicate with the spirit world was signified by 
his four eyes (fig. i). Ancient texts recount that 
Cang Jie fashioned graphs in the form of pictorial 
images after being inspired by such natural 
phenomena as bird tracks, animal paw prints, and 
shadows cast by trees. "Millet rained from heaven 
and demons howled in the night," 1 reads one, a 
clear indication of how momentous was Cang Jie's 

7 ^ 



'if mi f»^; 

■^' &| ' ft T : -WK'$ r - 



Fig. zb. Oracle hone, inscribed. Shang dynasty. Tortoise 
plastron. National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing. 

accomplishment. There is no need to dwell on this 
ancient myth — Cangjie joins such other celebrated 
culture heroes as Fuxi (inventor of the trigrams) 
and Shennong (the inventor of agriculture) as 
curious personifications, convenient though vague 
markers of the early progress of Chinese 
civilization. There is, however, an important point 
to be noted in Cang Jie's story: the characters, or 
graphs, in a sense are found, determined from 
patterns cast by images of the natural world. Cang 
Jie, or whomever Cangjie represents, created not 


by forging something new, but by carefully 
examining what already existed. In other words, he 
did not write so much as he read. 

Cangjie's story resonates suggestively with the 
earliest fully developed and sustained system of 
writing in China: the oracle bones from the Anyang 
phase of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1300-ca. 1100 bce) 
(fig. 2a). "Oracle bones" is the general term used for 
the ox and deer scapulae (fig. 2a) and tortoise 
carapaces and plastrons (fig. 2b) that were used to 
communicate with Heaven. To specific questions 
incised onto the bones ("Will it rain?" "Will the 
hunt be good?" and so on), Heaven responded in 
the form of cracks that appeared on the surface of 
the bone after the application of a heated point to 
drilled holes. These cracks were auguries, and 
professional scribes in charge of this vital 
communication interpreted their patterns and then 
recorded the interpretation on the bone surface. 
The scratchy appearance of the incised forms 
echoed the original fissures resulting from the 
applied heat. The writing was not an imposition 
but an evocation, the giving of form to what was 
understood to be embedded within. 

The significance of Cangjie's story is twofold: the 
presumption that writing in China is rooted in 
natural process and that writing carries inherent 
meanings. More than a millennium separates the 
oracle bones from our earliest evidence ot 
calligraphy being recognized as an art of personal 
expression (in the Eastern Han period, 1st c. ce), 2 
yet these two presumptions remained a consistent, if 
slightly modified, foundation of the art. The source 
of the writing changed — it was now a person 
rather than Heaven that communicated — but what 
issued forth was still considered the embodiment of 
inherent truths. "Writing is pictures of the heart," 
wrote Yang Xiong (55 bce— 18 ce) in the Han 
dynasty. 3 The beauty of Chinese calligraphy is that 
the tools of writing, as well as the rules, allow 
practice to concur with this promise of expression. 
Deceptively simple in appearance, the brush proves 
capable of conveying the slightest nuance of 
movement. It is a direct line from that point where 
the ink-charged brush meets the paper or silk 
through the fingers, hand, and wrist to the eye and 
brain; and as anyone who has tried to wield the 
calligrapher's tool would know, skill or ineptitude is 
readily apparent. Equally important, Chinese 
characters are essentially of fixed form, composed 
of an established number of brush strokes. There is 
a predetermined order to the writing of the 
individual strokes in a given character, and a 
predetermined direction for the writing of each 
stroke. These rules are integral to calligraphy's 
expressive dimension, for they allow a later viewer 
to retrace visually the process ot writing, to re- 
experience the spatial and temporal unfolding of 


ft ^ 

Fig. j. Mi Fu (1052—1107/8). "Poems Playfully Written 
and Presented to My Friends, About to Embark for Tiao 
Stream." Dated to 10S8. Detail of a handsaoll, ink on 
paper. Palace Museum, Beijing. 

the text. Stroke by stroke, character by character, 
column by column (from right to left), one "re- 
views" the original performance of writing. The 
more informed the viewer, the more familiar with 
using the brush to write, the more vividly that 
viewer will sense the brush's original movements 
and pacing. Some say that the visual retracing of a 
particularly dynamic piece of calligraphy evokes an 
unearthly sense of the calligrapher writing it for the 
first time. No other art can claim such immediacy. 
No other art captures the process of creativity so 

The immediacy of Chinese calligraphy can create 
an aura of timelessness. An informed viewer attuned 
to the subtle art of reading calligraphy may feel as 
familiar with the author of a piece of writing done 
centuries earlier as with a contemporary. No one 
illustrates this effect better than the Northern Song 
calligrapher Mi Fu ( 1052-1 107/S). a celebrated 
eccentric and dedicated student of his art. 
Throughout his life Mi Fu diligently collected 
ancient bits of writing, savoring them to the point 
of obsession."! have no desire for wealth or noble 
rank." he wrOte,"My only love is for those letters 
from the brushes of the men ol antiquity. Ever) 



time I clean the inkstone and spread out a scroll, I 
am oblivious even to the roar of thunder by my 

side, and the taste of food is forgotten I suspect 

that after I die I will become a silverfish who enters 
into scrolls of prized calligraphy, with gold-lettered 
title inscriptions and jade rollers, roaming about but 
without causing harm." 4 "Letters" by "the men of 
antiquity" refers primarily to casual notes written 
by calligraphers of the Jin dynasty (265-420), 
especially those ofWang Xizhi (307?-365?) and his 
son Wang Xianzhi (344-388), who were long 
considered the most brilliant writers active during a 
golden age of calligraphy. By the eleventh century 
these were extremely rare works, prized not only 
for the quality of the writing but also for the 
untrammeled personalities of the writers 
themselves, who lived, it was imagined, at leisure in 
the beautiful landscape of the Yangzi River basin. 
Mi Fu and others knew of the quirks and follies of 
the men of Jin from collections of miscellaneous 
anecdotes, such as Shishuo xinyu ("A New Account 
of Tales of the World"), compiled under the aegis of 
LiuYiqing (403— 444), biographies in the official 
history, and various early writings on calligraphy. 

In the autumn of 1088, at the height of Mi Fu's 
infatuation with Jin calligraphy, he was invited by a 
local magistrate to participate in an outing along 
Tiao Stream, a scenic stretch of landscape just south 
of Lake Tai in what is now Zhejiang Province. In 
anticipation of the excursion, Mi Fu wrote and sent 
to his host a number of poems on one scroll 
(fig. 3); afterward he recorded on another scroll the 
poems he had written during the trip. 5 Both sets of 
poems repeatedly refer to people ol the Jin dynasty 
as if they were alive and present, sometimes 
conflating them with other members of the outing. 
In one poem, written for their gathering on the 
Double Ninth Festival, Mi Fu quotes a line directly 
from the most celebrated of all works of 
calligraphy, Lanting xu ("Preface for the Poems 
Written at the Orchid Pavilion"), written by Wang 
Xizhi in 353, thereby suggesting that their own 
gathering in 1088 had somehow merged with that 
famous meeting of seven hundred years earlier. The 
likely source for Mi Fu's flight of fancy was a 
superb Tang dynasty tracing copy of Wang's 
"Preface," which Mi Fu had acquired earlier in the 
year and no doubt was proudly showing off to his 
friends. Needless to say, Mi Fu's calligraphy in these 
two scrolls of poems closely follows the Jin dynasty 
style associated with Wang Xizhi and the Orchid 
Pavilion Preface. Although Jin calligraphy, even 
copies, became increasingly rare in later dynasties, 
the spirit ofWang Xizhi and the Orchid Pavilion 
gathering would still be invoked through such 
writing objects as inkstones carved with scenes 
from the life ofWang Xizhi. 

Fig. 4. Wang Xizhi (307?— 365?). "Ping'an tie, Heju tie, 
Fengju tie. "Tang dynasty (61S-907) tracing copy. Detail 
of letters mounted as a handscroll, ink on paper. Palace 
Museum, Taipei. 

As Mi Fu's story illustrates, in Chinese calligraphy 
the vertical expanse of history can seemingly be 
transformed into the horizontal space of the 
present. This combined sense of unity and 
continuity is an important characteristic of 
calligraphy. Moreover, it extends back to the so- 
called high tradition that began with Wang Xizhi 
and Jin calligraphy. With the preservation and 
continued, if limited, practice of such ancient 
scripts as seal (zhuanshu) and clerical (lishu) (see cat. 
183 for an example of the latter), later calligraphers 
felt conversant with a spectrum of writing that 
literally spanned millennia. The catalyst for the 
interaction could be a masterful genuine work or a 
rare tracing copy of the type Mi Fu sought; it could 
be a faded rubbing from a compendium of 
collected writings engraved in stone or from some 
ancient stele accidentally discovered in a farmer's 
field. In each case, the right viewer under the right 
circumstances would become engaged, assimilate 
what had been learned, and thereby invigorate his 
or her own art. It is an ever-expanding circle. 




Looking back on the long history of calligraphy 
that preceded him, the Ming dynasty theorist Dong 
Qichang (1555— 1636) recognized three epochs 
fundamental to the formation of the canon and 
succinctly characterized each one: Jin dynasty 
calligraphy is governed by yun ("resonance"), Tang 
dynasty (618-907) calligraphy by fa ("methods"), 
and Song dynasty (960-1279) calligraphy by yi 
("ideas")/' Terse formulations such as this 
oversimplify the complexities of history. 
Nonetheless, it remains an insightful observation 
and a useful point of departure for a brief 
discussion of some of Chinese calligraphy 's aesthetic 

.^■E^rV . V . v^C X jtttt i 

Fig. 5. Shuang ("frost"). Computer-generated image; 
(left) from Wang Xizhi (3077-365?), "Fengju tie"; (right) 
from Lujianzhi (7th c), Rhapsody on Literature. 

By Jin dynasty calligraphy, Dong Qichang was 
referring to the tradition exemplified by Wang 
Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi, or the Two Wangs, that 
developed during the fourth century. Wang Xizhi's 
calligraphy, in particular, was considered 
representative of the artistically graceful writing 
adopted for casual notes and letters by the 
aristocrats of his day. What can be gleaned from 
extant Tang dynasty tracing copies of calligraphy 
attributed to Wang Xizhi suggests a remarkably 
controlled hand that demanded nothing less than 
perfection of beauty from the brush (fig. 4). Each 
stroke is utterly smooth and tensile, ribbon-like in 
its twists and turns. At the same time, the 
calligraphy displays an extraordinary sense of ease. It 
appears absolutely unforced and natural, which was 
precisely the writers aim. Early critiques of 
calligraphy almost invariably utilize metaphors of 
the natural world to describe the forms and forces 
of the writing. Suo Jing (239-303), for example, 
wrote the following in reference to the informal 
and abbreviated cursive script: 

Quivering like a startled phoenix, 
Not yet aloft, wings spread, 
Ready to rise, 
It returns to a state of rest. 
Insects and snakes coiled and poised: 
Some advancing, others retreating, 
Some fragile, soft and willowy, 
Others aggressive, charging forward. 
Wandering freely, this way and that, 
Suddenly upright, suddenly twisted. 
An outstanding steed bolts in anger. 
Struggling against the bridle. 7 

Suo Jing's emphasis is on the energy of the 
calligraphy, its sense of movement and liveliness. 
The general term used to describe such energy is 
shi, which can be roughly translated as " 
force," or "momentum." Shi is the manifestation of 
both potential and kinetic energy — process about 
to happen and already realized. It can be embodied 

in a single brush stroke, but slti more commonly 
emerges through the interaction of two or more 
elements in the calligraphy — brush strokes 
interacting to create perceptions of continuity and 
discontinuity, balance and confrontation. Shi is an 
essential component of all good calligraphy from all 
periods, but its manner of presentation differs 
depending on both personal and period styles. In 
writings attributed to the Jin period that energy 
seems muted by refinement and decorum. 
Individual elements tend to achieve subtle 
balancing of forms and forces, with generous spaces 
created between the traces of ink. A quiet, self- 
contained energy seemingly resonates about the 
writing like an electrical field. This, I would 
suggest, is what Dong Qichang refers to as yun 

A single character from one Wang Xizhi attribution 
will help to illustrate (fig. 5, left). The graph shuang 
("frost") is composed of two basic elements: the 
upper portion, which by itself means "rain," and the 
lower portion, which is composed of left and right 
units. Note the length of the stroke at the upper 
left. This was the second stroke to be written (after 
the topmost horizontal stroke), and it is so 
pronounced that in writing the rest of the character 
the calligrapher had to consider ways to counter a 
threatened imbalance in the overall structure. Two 
solutions are apparent: a strong right-to-left curving 
stroke that connects the upper portion of the 
character to the lower left element, and the vertical 
stroke on the right side of the lower right element. 
The former parallels and balances that problematic 
second stroke while echoing and amplifying the 
curving stroke immediately above and to the right 
(which preceded it), thus creating a strong 
cascading movement that helps to anchor the top 
element. The verticil stroke at the lower right was 
the very last stroke of the character. It extends a bil 
lower than it otherwise might have — a last, minor 
correction to balance the entire composition. This 



character radiates harmony, balance, and classical 
beauty, but also, as we have seen, a strong inner 
tension. It is this perfect balance of energy and 
restraint that characterizes yun. 

To illustrate fa ("methods"), which Dong Qichang 
associated with the Tang dynasty, we use the same 
character, shuang, this time written by Lu Jianzhi, a 
seventh-century follower of Wang Xizhi (fig. 5, 
right). At first glance, Lu Jianzhi 's shuang appears 
almost identical to Wang Xizhi s; and this is as one 
may expect, considering that Lu's calligraphy style 
was founded on a slavish study of the earlier writer. 
There is, however, an important difference: Lu's 
character is a pasteurized version ofWang's. 
Achieving overall balance and harmony was now 
such a paramount concern that there were no self- 
generated challenges and hence no creative 
solutions. That second stroke is not as long now, 
and it is positioned in a way that makes the entire 
upper element much more stable. Each element of 
the character is carefully balanced and spaced. No 
slips have been made, but then no risks were taken. 
Fa suggests regimen and discipline imposed from 
above by a higher authority. The association of/fl 
with the Tang dynasty calls to mind the Tang 
emphasis on structure, on rules and their 
codification, all in the interest of assuring stable 
continuity. Singling out Wang Xizhi's calligraphy as 
a canonical model to be emulated at the court was 
one such standardization. Lu Jianzhi's calligraphy, as 
well as that of many of the other early Tang 
writers, demonstrates the result: the spontaneity of 
Jin has been transformed into an image ot wrought 

Methods, of course, did not appear first in Tang 
calligraphy. Rules, propriety, and established 
standards ot aesthetic quality are the foundation for 
the practice of calligraphy in any period. Similarly, 
yun is not necessarily absent from Tang calligraphy. 
It is true, however, that these two very significant 
periods in the development of Chinese 
calligraphy — the fourth and seventh centuries — are 
distinguished by different emphases on what was 
considered important. In the Jin dynasty it was 
spontaneity, naturalness, the images and energies of 
the natural world; in the Tang dynasty it was 
elegance tempered by propriety, stateliness, 
decorum, and orthodoxy. Both sets of aesthetic 
criteria are essential components of Chinese 
calligraphy. "Resonance" and "methods" are simply 
convenient terms to designate these two different 
aspects of the calligrapher's art. 

But what of "ideas," which Dong Qichang 
associated with the Song dynasty? Yi ("ideas") means 
"intent, will, reason." It refers to the cognitive 
processes that distinguish an individual, along with 
his or her idiosyncrasies. In calligraphy it suggests 

Fig. 6. Wang Shen (ca. 1048-after 1104). "Poem Written 
on the Lake at Yingchang and Song to the Time of 
Dielan hua. " Dated to 1086. Detail of a handscroll, ink 
on paper. Palace Museum, Beijing. 

an imposition of the self, qualities of singularity that 
draw attention to the distinguishing characteristics 
of a particular person. Qualities of individuality are 
not absent in the earlier calligraphy, but never are 
"ideas" more strongly sensed and the individual 
more directly celebrated than in the writing of the 
Song calligraphers active in the second half of the 
eleventh century. When Dong Qichang wrote of 
"Song ideas," he most likely had in mind the 
triumvirate of great Song calligraphers — Su Shi 
(1037-1101), Huang Tingjian (1045-1105), and Mi 
Fu — but what he points to, in fact, was a 
widespread phenomenon apparent in the work of a 
number of calligraphers. Wang Shen (ca. 1048-after 
1 104), a close friend of the above three, wrote in a 
particularly distinctive style (fig. 6), which Huang 
Tingjian made fun of by likening it to the images 
of strange demonic creatures he once saw in a 
piece of embroidery from a foreign land — some 
without hands and feet, some with too many. "This 
kind of strangeness is not what is normally studied 
in calligraphy," Huang wrote, "but Wang Shen 
certainly has developed his own style."" There is a 
tone of grudging approval in Huang Tingjian s 
comment, admiration for Wang Shen's ability to 
distinguish his writing from that of others, even if it 
means unorthodox results. 

Historically, the "ideas" of Song calligraphy proved 
the most problematic for later Chinese 



* ^ 

*•- ^L v "- 


4^ # >fc> -7C 



Fig. 7. So«g Huizong (Zhao Ji; 1082—1135, 

r. 1100-1126). "Poem on Peonies." Ca. 1100—26. Detail 

of an album leaf, ink on paper. Palace Museum, Taipei. 

calligraphers. Just as Huang Tingjian felt compelled 
to poke fun at his friend Wang Shen, many later 
critics felt a compulsion to dismiss the 
unconventional aspects of Song calligraphy as 
indulgent and heterodox. Certainly, "ideas" tend to 
manifest themselves at the expense of the classical 
norms of beauty evident in both Jin and Tang 
calligraphy. The educated class of scholar-officials, 
who were the primary practitioners of calligraphy, 
took it as their incumbent duty to represent the 
state, tradition, and orthodoxy. Excessive expression 
of one's individuality was at best irrelevant to this 
responsibility, at worst contradictory. By unhappy 
coincidence, the Song dynasty came perilously 
close to total collapse just one generation after the 
great individualist calligraphers of the Northern 
Song. For those who truly believed in the 
expressiveness of calligraphy — its ability to reflect 
inherent truths — the idiosyncrasies of Song "ideas" 
were symptomatic of the graver ills that ultimately 
led to the loss of the northern half of China in 1127. 

Fig. 8. "Geyang ling Cao Quan bei. " Dated to 185 CE. 

writer's presence or personality, and this happens 
most readily with calligraphy that is particularly 
distinctive. To give an extreme example, one 
twentieth-century author goes so far as to read 
physical as well as behavioral traits from the 
calligraphy of Northern Song writers: Mi Fu was 
"tubby"; Shu Shi, "fatter, shorter and careless in 
nature"; Huang Tingjian, "tall, lean and obstinate"; 
Emperor Huizong (r. 1100—1126), "handsome, slim, 
meticulous, and somewhat effeminate" (fig. 7). "We 
can even affirm that he [Huizong] was slow and 
measured of speech," the author goes on to write! 9 
If it does nothing else, this imaginative critique 
presents one positive aspect of Song ideas: the 
opportunity to establish so personal an imprint on 
the tradition that later viewers would be inspired to 
imagine what one was like. 

Despite such reservations, most, if not all, 
calligraphers wished to develop singular styles of 
calligraphy that would distinguish them as 
individuals and serve as the evidence from which 
others would read their characters (or "understand 
their sounds," as an old saying goes, in reference to 
expressive music). Certainly one of the most 
enjoyable aspects of viewing calligraphy is the 
intangible pleasure that stems from the sense of the 


"Resonance," "methods," and "ideas" are vague 
labels, but they are useful for designating three 
different aspects of Chinese calligraphy: naturalness 
associated with spontaneity, skill and practice 
associated with tradition, and personal expression. 
By choosing these terms to epitomize the three 
great epochs of writing that preceded the 



seventeenth century, Dong Qichang suggests both 
the aesthetic and historical parameters within 
which later calligraphers worked at their art. After 
Dong Qichang's time another epochal movement 
would take place in Chinese calligraphy, known as 
jinshixue ("metal-and-stone study"), referring to the 
careful examination of earlier calligraphy incised on 
old steles (many of them newly excavated) (fig. 8) 
as well as cast on ancient ritual bronzes. Perhaps if 
Dong Qichang had lived in the twentieth century 
he would have coined a fourth category for Qing 
dynasty (1644-1911) calligraphy: gu, or "antique." 
Again, this was not a quality lacking in the earlier 
periods — in fact, the pursuit of antiquity was almost 
always a concern of Chinese calhgraphers, and the 
systematic study of steles and bronzes began as early 
as the Northern Song — but the dominant trend in 
Qing calligraphy sought inspiration in antiquity to 
an unprecedented degree. Written in the clerical 
script (lishu), "Couplet in seven-character lines" 
(cat. 183) by Deng Shiru (1743-1805) provides an 
excellent example. 

Each of the works in the exhibition reveals the 
calligraphers attempt to create something new 
within the parameters of the tradition. This was no 
simple matter, considering the longevity and weight 
of that tradition by the sixteenth century, when the 
earliest of the included works was written. 
Moreover, the parameters differed, depending on 
the specific circumstances of the calligrapher and 
which particular aspect of the tradition was being 
tapped. Consider, for example, Zhang Zhao's 
(1691-1745) transcription of "Seventh Month" from 
the Odes of Bin (cat. 182). Zhang Zhao was an 
important minister and cultural figure at the Qmg 
dynasty court, rising to such high positions as 
president of the Censorate and of the Board of 
Punishments under theYongzheng (r. 1723— 1735) 
and Qianlong (r. 1736— 1795) emperors. Zhang's skill 
as a calligrapher was much admired by Qianlong in 
particular, who employed him as a ghostwriter early 
in his reign. 10 In keeping with Zhang Zhao's high 
profile at the court and the pressures of conservatism 
that accompanied such prominence, both the 
content and style of Zhang's transcription of 
"Seventh Month" are unfailingly orthodox, even 
predictable. The poem is from the ancient 
compilation Shijing ("Classic of Poetry") , long a 
favorite source for lessons of good government, and 
the calligraphy is written in a precise standard script 
that instantly recalls the fa ("methods") of such 
early Tang dynasty exemplars of standard script as 
Yu Shi'nan (558-638), Ouyang Xun (557-641), and 
Chu Suiliang (596-658). " The writing is a 
definitive statement of orthodoxy and, as such, 
allows only the most tightly controlled expression 
of individual creativity. We admire Zhang Zhao's 
ability to carry off such a lengthy, if constrained, 
performance, and politely applaud his handsome 

character compositions; but innovation here is 
revealed only by the most subtle of indications and 
only to those who recognize hints of the brush 
modes and compositions of past masters under this 
highly polished formal veneer. 

Zhang Zhao wrote under the most restrictive of 
circumstances. In contrast, both Deng Shiru (cat. 
183) and Zhang Ruitu (cat. 180) worked within 
considerably broader spaces of the tradition. 
Writing at a time when the rediscovery of ancient 
steles acted to liberate calhgraphers from the torpid 
repetition of learned habits, Deng Shiru found 
plenty to play with in archaic styles of writing that 
appeared fresh and unusual to a largely jaded 
audience of scholars and merchants eager for 
something different and sophisticated. Here the 
solemnity of the clerical script is subtly tweaked 
with whimsical touches in composition and 
brushwork so that the end result is a buoyancy 
within the weighty forms. The earlier Zhang Ruitu 
(1570-1641), on the other hand, sought an 
innovative image by deliberately tapping into that 
portion of the tradition which was already 
inextricably associated with individualism. In the 
late 1620s, Zhang Ruitu retired from important 
positions at the Ming court and pursued personal 
interests in Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Chan had its 
own tradition of calligraphy, one that had been 
strongly influenced by the Song dynasty emphasis 
on "ideas" and personality. In the context of the late 
Ming and such influential thinkers as Li Zhi 
(1527-1602) and Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610), Chan- 
inflected calligraphy discarded rules, methods, and 
standards in favor of recapturing the "child's heart," 
or original nature, of the writer. Zhang Ruitu's 
cursive script in his transcription of Wang Wei's 
"Song of the Aged General" (cat. 180) is highly 
spirited, yet by emphasizing an even tempo down 
his columns he manages to suggest an overall 
uniformity, almost a placidity, that is most fitting for 
the Chan devotee in search of personal enlightenment. 

These general observations about the calligraphy of 
Zhang Zhao, Deng Shiru, and Zhang Ruitu suggest 
how later writers established their art in the 
context of their immediate surroundings largely by 
positioning it in a working relationship to some 
aspect of the past tradition. The same can be said of 
two major works by ZhuYunming (1461-1527) and 
Wang Duo (1592— 1652), to which we turn now in 
order to explore this act of positioning in finer 
detail (cats. 179, 181). The goal is not to clarify Zhu 
Yunming's and Wang Duo's contributions to the 
history of Chinese calligraphy — a task that would 
demand much more time and space than is granted 
here — but rather to elucidate the practice of the 
calhgraphers art by considering specific concerns 
reflected in the writers' choices of script, style, 
and technique. 



Zhu Yunming, often considered the greatest 
calligrapher of the Ming dynasty, wrote in a wide 
array of styles and scripts. Such versatility reflects 
broad training, which, we learn from Zhu 
Yunming's own words, was strictly directed by 
paternal guidance to well-established models of the 
Jin and Tang dynasties. ' 2 Although the work in the 
exhibition, a scroll of poems composed by Zhu 
Yunming himself (cat. 179), appears absolutely free, 
it in fact belongs to a long and curious tradition of 
writing that is generally referred to as kuangcao 
("wild cursive"). Two basic historical 
transformations are recognized in the cursive-script 
tradition. The first occurred about the fourth 
century and within the milieu of Wang Xizhi, with 
the development of what was then called "modern 
cursive" (jincao). Four hundred years later another 
epochal change took place with the appearance of 
wild cursive. It was associated almost exclusively 
with Zhang Xu (ca. 700-ca. 750), one of the "Eight 
Immortals ofWine" and a spirited fellow given to 
wild tantrums while in his cups. According to a 
number of sources, Zhang Xu would temper his 
drunken fits by channeling his energy through an 
ink-charged brush. Some claim that on occasion he 
would even dip his unbound hair into the ink and 
use that to write. '-' This was writing aimed at 
revealing the fundamental nature of the calligrapher 
and based on the assumption that wine was an 
essential element in dissolving all inhibitions and 
intentions. After this mode of writing became 
established in the eighth century, a number of wild- 
cursive specialists emerged in quick succession. 
Poems by Yu Xin and Xie Lingyun, a celebrated piece 
that for many years was erroneously attributed to 
Zhang Xu, provides an excellent example of 
eleventh-century kuangcao (fig. 9).' 4 

Kuangcao presents interesting problems in all three 
ot the aesthetic domains previously described. Yun 
resonance is an important desideratum for all forms 
of cursive script, but wild-cursive script promotes 
an outward display of raw energy. Containment, 
that subtle sense of resonating energies rippling 
across characters or columns, is often lost in the 
calligrapher's eagerness to open the emotional 
floodgates. Similarly, methods {fa), reflective of 
diligence and restraint, at first seem totally 
irrelevant. As for ideas (yi), their presence would be 
antithetical to the absolute naturalness demanded of 
the calligrapher. But herein precisely lies the 
problem. Later critics recognized that kuangcao, in 
tact, often was written with intention — the 
intention to be as wild as possible. Wildness was not 
to be equated with genuineness, especially when 
there was a ready audience and market for this new, 
exciting form of performance calligraphy. Eleventh- 
century critics like Su Shi and Huang Tingjian 
were careful to emphasize that Zhang Xu's wild- 
cursive writing was built on a solid foundation of 

Fig. g. Anonymous (nth c). Poems byYu Xin and Xie 
Lingyun. Northern Song dynasty (g6o-H2y). Detail of a 
handscroll, ink on "Jivc-wlorcd paper. " Liaoning 
Provincial Museum, Shenyang. 

orthodox study, without which his wilder 
experiments would have been unacceptable. The 
proof lay in a stele exhibiting Zhang Xu's standard 
script, which was a considered a model of Tang 
discipline and suggested to Song dynasty viewers 
some relationship with the earlier Jin tradition 
because of its relatively open, sparse structures — 
aesthetic qualities generally associated with Jin 
writing. '' The existence of this standard-script 
writing was extremely important, for it validated 
Zhang Xu's unconventional cursive by proving 
that Zhang was steeped in rules and methods. 
Huang Tingjian prided himself on the ability to 
spot Zhang Xu fakes — wild writing by pretenders 
and followers — precisely because rules and 
methods were lacking."' Both Su Shi and Huang 
Tingjian strongly emphasized the propriety — the 
solid foundation rooted in orthodoxy — governing 
the dots and dashes of Zhang's drunken brush. 
It was what separated Zhang Xu trom his followers, 
who, by merely imitating the wildness ot his 
writing, were guilty of using conscious intent 
to write that which should have emerged 



Fig. w. Zhu Yunming (1461—1527). Examples of prose by 
four masters of the Tang and Song. Ming dynasty 
(1368—1644). Palace Museum, Beijing. 

Zhu Yunming was probably well aware of the 
controversy that surrounded the wild-cursive script. 
In fact, his own writing was also mired in it. 
Although supporters were willing to see Zhu's 
kuangcao as a natural outlet for his personality, 
described by one friend as "bold and direct, with 
no patience for strictness and reserve," critics 
disparaged it as "undisciplined," "careless," "self- 
indulgent," and "bordering on the heretical." 
Interestingly, Zhu Yunming s wild-cursive writing, 
like Zhang Xu's, was apparently much forged. As 
the contemporary scholar Fu Shen has 
documented, one later calligrapher went so far as to 
claim that all of Zhu Yunming's wild-cursive works 
in circulation were outright fakes. 17 

The approach taken in the present scroll (cat. 179), 
a late work dated to 1523, suggests Zhu Yunming's 
solution to the problems posed by the kuangcao 
tradition. Unlike the eleventh-century "Poems" 
(fig. 9), which emphasizes a kind of zigzagging 
columnar speed, Zhu's wild cursive explores a 
broad horizontal dimension. He purposely leaves 
many of the structures loose and open so that dots 
and lines almost seem to disperse instead of 
connecting to form distinct characters. In fact, the 
untutored eye may have a difficult time 
distinguishing Zhu Yunming's individual columns of 





Fig. 11. Yan Zhenqitig (709-785). "Record of theYan 
Family Ancestral Shrine. " Dated to 780. Detail of a 

writing. There is evidence here of the influence of 
Huang Tingjian's cursive calligraphy, and this is 
significant, for Huang Tingjian repeatedly 
emphasized the importance of yun ("resonance") in 
cursive calligraphy. Viewers cognizant of Zhu 
Yunming's standard-script calligraphy will also be 
tempted to recognize in the writing compositional 
principles that Zhu had mastered from his study of 
the very early calligrapher ZhongYou (is 1—230) 
(fig. 10). Samples of writing attributed to Zhong 
You epitomize that association of loose 
compositional structures with early writing. If Zhu 
Yunming did apply the methods of standard-script 
writing to his wild cursive, it would have been 
reassuring to the viewer that the underlying quality 
of propriety so important to Song dynasty critics 
was indeed present. Zhu Yunming refrained from 
interconnecting many of the characters, opting 
instead tor measured compositional interplay. The 
writing is dynamic and inspired, but the overall 
feeling is of a deep pool of complex, interweaving 
energies, like swirling eddies, rather than a 
cascading release. Zhu Yunming successfully realized 
a delicate balance between containment and vigor. 
He explains at the end of the scroll that he wrote 
after drinking and that though he was fatigued, the 



brush moved spiritedly, without urging. No ideas; 
in other words, no intentions — -just Zhu Yunming. 

Wang Duo's large, standard-script (kaislui) 
transcription of poems by the Tang dynasty poet 
Wang Wei (699-759) taps into a rather different 
tradition (cat. 181). This is unusual writing by Wang 
Duo, who is better known for the highly 
individualistic style of semicursive and cursive 
calligraphy exhibited in the inscription at the left of 
the scroll, following his transcriptions. The poems 
themselves are written in the unmistakable manner 
of the great Tang calligrapherYan Zhenqing 
(709—785), whose bold, assertive standard-script 
writing has served as one of the canonical models 
for calligraphers throughout the ages (fig. 11). Wang 
Duo, like Zhu Yunming, was a devoted student of 
the art, and he avidly devoted himself to copying 
classical models. It is not surprising to find him 
writing a rather diligent rendition ofYan 
Zhenqing's style. But Wang Duo was first and 
foremost an individualist who commonly used the 
ancient models as a point of departure for his own 
expressive means. A more careful comparison is 
merited, beginning with Yan Zhenqing. 

Yan's style is one of the most easily recognized of 
all Chinese calligraphers. The brush strokes are 
muscular, the character compositions expansive. 
Not everyone appreciated this style of writing. For 
example, Li Yu (r. 961-975), ruler of the Southern 
Tang kingdom, found Yan's calligraphy offensively 
direct — "like an uncouth farmer facing forward 
with arms folded and legs spread apart." 18 Almost 
all, however, considered this confrontational style an 
appropriate correlative to the larger-than-life image 
Yan Zhenqing cast as a high minister of 
unquestioned loyalty and courage. Yan Zhenqing 
was well known as a stalwart defender of the court 
and as a martyr who died at the hands of a would- 
be usurper. This identification between the moral 
qualities ofYan Zhenqing and his forceful style of 
writing was well ensconced by the eleventh 
century, when Ouyang Xiu (1007— 1072) announced 
that Yan's calligraphy resembled a loyal minister: 
correct, severe, and serious. 19 And so it has been 
perceived through the later dynasties. Beginning 
students of calligraphy are often given Yan 
Zhenqing's writing as a model, no doubt in hopes 
that some of the Tang minister's virtuous character 
would be passed along with his particular brush 
habits. Yan Zhenqing's style is so widely known that 
one's immediate perception of any later rendition 
ot the Yan style is colored by associations of 
propriety, moral fortitude, and orthodoxy. 

That is precisely what makes Wang Duo's scroll so 
interesting. In the 1620s and 1630s, Wing had served 
in high offices, culminating in his promotion to 
Minister of Rites in 1640. He retired after only two 

months because of his father's death and remained 
in mourning until spring of 1644, when he was 
recalled to the same office. Unfortunately, before 
Wang could resume his duties the Ming dynasty 
collapsed. Wang Duo wrote this transcription of 
Wang Wei's poems in the late autumn of 1643, 
while staying with friends. Those were chaotic 
times, and one is tempted to read into Wang Duo's 
adoption ofYan Zhenqing's style a statement of 
dynastic loyalty and political resolve. Yet the two 
poems Wang chose to transcribe are largely 
celebrations of a reclusive lifestyle, and Wang's own 
inscription at the end speaks not of the nation's ills 
but of the camaraderie of friends, the sweetness of 
their wine, the clear sounds of a bubbling brook by 
his window, and tomorrow's planned outing to 
scenic spots. Viewed retrospectively, the writing is 
even more curious, because Wang Duo would later 
earn the unenviable historical reputation of a 
turncoat: he was one of a number of high officials 
who joined in ignominious surrender to the 
Manchus, founders of the Qing dynasty 
(1644— 1911), and he immediately began to serve 
under the new regime, resuming his position of 
Minister of Rites in the spring of 1646 (Wang's 
official biography is listed in the section Er chen 
juan ["Officials who Served Two Houses"].) 20 

In the light of such infelicities, Wang Duo's copying 
of the Yan style begins to appear somewhat 
questionable. A closer look at Wang Duo's 
inscription confirms that he was not exclusively 
concerned with the state of the nation. He writes, 
"Few are those who attempt to write standard- 
script calligraphy on satin. One does not even find 
such a combination among the works of Xuanzai 
of Huating. ... In the future, upon opening this 
scroll, those who have made some progress in the 
art of calligraphy will certainly reject this [i.e., my 
writing], even wish to spit upon it. But what's to be 
done???" Xuanzai is Dong Qichang.Wang Duo's 
older contemporary and the dominant figure in the 
world of calligraphy circa 1640. Whatever Wang 
Duo's initial inspiration for this essay in the Yan 
Zhenqing style, it quickly became a personal 
challenge, an opportunity to do what tew, if any, 
had attempted before — in other words, a forum for 
the expression of Wang's individualism. The 
decidedly unpolished quality ofWang Duo's 
writing here helps to explain his last modest 
remarks. At the same time, such self-deprecation 
should not be taken seriously. One can imagine the 
calligrapher being somewhat pleased with the 
results, knobby strokes, bleeding ink, and all. This 
calligraphy may not exactly be a work ot beauty. 
but it certainly makes an impression; and that, 
ultimately, was Wang Duo's goal. 

The point here is not to question Wang Duo's 
integrity or moral fiber, nor is it to accuse him of 



debasing the hallowed heritage ofYan Zhenqing. It 
is, rather, to reveal some of the complexities 
attending the practice of calligraphy in the later 
dynasties. The weight of the tradition had become 
so massive that the creative artist found himself 
constantly negotiating with the landscape of the 
past in an attempt to explore new territories of the 
present. Wang Duo's appropriation and handling of 
the Yan style so that this most familiar of images 
became recast into something peculiarly 
appropriate to the circumstances of a late Ming 
high official who cultivated a distinctive voice is, I 
believe, the mark of an exceptional artist. Similarly, 
ZhuYunming's delicate balancing act between 
propriety and wildness in his kuangcao, a balance 
achieved through the creative utilization of earlier 
styles, demonstrates how a great calligrapher could 
rise to the challenge posed by an ancient debate 
and achieve a creative resolution. 

Innovation in calligraphy is defined by creative 
engagement with tradition. Mastery of rules and 
methods is prerequisite, but must be conjoined with 
the confidence and ability to express one's own 
vision. Ultimately, what allows ZhuYunming's and 
Wang Duo's calligraphy to succeed is not a 
reprising of what others had done before, but the 
palpable sense of two artists molding the past to suit 
the needs of the present. In their works, 
calligraphy 's immediacy is once more confirmed. 


Fig. 1 . After Smcai tuhui 
(Taipei, 1970). 

Fig. 3. After Gugong bowuyuan 
cang lidai fashu xuanji. vol. 3 
(Beijing, 1982). 

Fig. 6. After Gugong bowuyuan 
cang lidai fashu xuanji, vol. 3 
(Beijing, 1982). 

Fig. 8. After Shodo zenshu, 
vol. 2, pi. 118 (Tokyo, 1954— 1961). 

Fig. a. After Tang Zhang Xu 
caoshu gushi sitic (Beijing, 

Fig. 10. After Gugong 
bowuyuan cang lidai fashu 
xuanji, vol. 1 (Beijing, 1982). 

Fig. li.Aftct Yan Zhenqing, 
vol. 5, pi. 241 (Beijing, 1985). 


1. Huainanzi zhuyi (reprint, 
Taibei: Hualian chubanshe, 
1968), p. 116. 

2. Stories of individuals active 
in the Eastern Han whose 
writing was preserved by those 
who read qualities of 
personality into the calligraphy 
are recounted by Lothar 
Ledderose, Mi Fu and the 
Classical Tradition of Chinese 
Calligraphy (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 
1979)- PP- 30-3I. 

3. "For presenting the desires 
of the inner heart and 
communicating that which 
others do not comprehend, 
nothing can compare with 
words (yan). For spreading and 
explicating the affairs of the 
world, recording them for 
longevity and illuminating 
them far, making manifest that 
which cannot be seen of 
antiquity and transmitting for a 
thousand miles that which is 
not understood, nothing can 
compare with writing (shu). 
Thus, words are the sounds of 
the heart. Writing is pictures of 
the heart. By the forms of the 
sounds and pictures, superior 
and lesser people are 
distinguished. Sounds and 
pictures — by these, superior 
and lesser people move ones 
feelmgs."Yang Xiong, Fa yan, 
juan 4, pp. 2b— 3 a, in Han Wei 
congshu, vol. 24 (Taipei:Yiwen 
yinshuguan, 1967). It would 
appear that by "wnting,"Yang 
Xiong is referring primarily to 
the content of the written 
word. In later times, however, 
Yang Xiong's comment was 
clearly associated with the art 
of calligraphy. 

4. Mi Fu,"Ba mige fatie," in 
Huang Bosi, Dongguan ynlim 
(reprint, Taipei: Guoli 
zhongyang tushuguan, 1974), 
juan 1 , p. 46a— b. 

5. The two scrolls are "Poems 
Playtully Written and Presented 
to My Friends, About to 
Embark forTiao Stream," in 
the collection of the Palace 
Museum, Beijing, and "Poems 
on Sichuan Silk," in the 
collection of the National 
Palace Museum, Taipei. See 
Peter Sturman, Mi Fu: Style 
and the Art of Calligraphy in 
Northern Song China (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 
1997), chap. 2. 

6. Dong Qichang, Rongtai ji 
(reprint, Taipei: Zhongyang 
tushuguan, 1968), juan 4, p. 23b. 

7. Suojing, "Caoshu zhuang," 

in Peiwenzhai shuhuapu,juau i, 
pp. nb-i2a, Siku quanshu ed. 
(reprint, Shanghai: Shanghai 
guji chubanshe, 19S7). 

8. Huang Tingjian,"Ba Wang 
Jinqing shu," in Shangu ji, Siku 
quanshu ed.,juan 29, p. I9a-b. 

9. Chiang Yee, Chinese 
Calligraphy (reprint, 
Cambridge: Harvard University 
Press, 1973), pp. 11-12. 

10. When Zhang Zhao was 
found delinquent in his task of 
helping to pacify the Miao 
tribe of the southwest in 1735 
and consequently ordered to 
be executed, he was pardoned 
by Qianlong, owing, it is said, 
to their mutual interest in 
calligraphy. Zhang Zhao was 
also an eminent painter at the 
Qing court and a prominent 
figure in the compilation of 
Shiqu baoji, the Qmg imperial 
catalogue ot paintings and 
calligraphy. Arthur Hummel, 
ed., Eminent Chinese of the 
Ch'ing Period (Washington, 
D.C.: Library ot Congress, 
1943), pp. 24-25. 

11. Zhang Zhao's models for 
standard script were Dong 
Qichang (1555-1636) andYan 
Zhenqing (709-7S5). I am 
referring here to the 
meticulous manner in which 
Zhang Zhao writes, which 
recalls that of the early Tang 

12. Shen C.Y. Fu, Traces of the 
Brush (New HavemYale 
University Art Gallery, 1977), 
p. 211, citing a colophon by 
Zhu Yunming in which he 
discusses copying a range of 
Jin, Tang, Song, and Yuan 

13. Zhang Xu was celebrated as 
one of the Eight Immortals of 
Wine in Du Fus poem 
"Yinzhong baxian ge," in Du 
shi xiangzhu (Beijing: 
Zhonghua shuju, 1979), juan 2, 
pp. 80-85. Other early sources 
on Zhang Xu include Zhu 
Changwen, Xu shu duan, juan 

1, in Chugoku shown taikei 
(Tokyo: Nigensha shuppansha, 
1977-92), vol. 4, pp. 403-4, and 
Xuanhe shupu,juan 18, in 
Chugoku shown taikei, vol. 6, 
p. 47. 

14. This scroll ot four 
transcribed poems, two by Yu 
Xin {513-581) and two by Xie 
Lmgyun (385-433), is 

erroneously recorded under 
Xie Lingyun's name in 
Huizong's Xuanhe shupu (juan 
16) of circa 1120. In recent 
years both Xu Bangda and Qi 
Gong have both pointed out 
that a changed character in one 
ot the verses may reflect the 
avoidance of a character that 
was taboo in the early 
Northern Song period. By this 
reasoning, the calligraphy 
would date from after 1012 
(but somewhat before 
Huizong's reign). See Xu 
Bangda, Gu shuhua weie kaobian 
(Nanjing: J langsu guji 
chubanshe, 1984), pp. 94-98; 
and Qi Gong, "Jiu ti Zhang 
Xu caoshu gushi tie bian," in 
Qi Gong conggao (Beijing: 
Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 
pp. 90-100. 

15. The stele is titled "Record 
ot the Langguan Stone." See Su 
Shi, "Shu Tang shi liujia shu 
hou," in Su Shi wenji (reprint, 
Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 
1986), juan 69, p. 2206. 

16. Huang Tingjian,"Ti 
Jiangben fatie," in Shanggu ji, 
juan 28, pp. iob-na. 

17. Fu, Traces oj the Brush, 
pp. 214-15. 

18. Dong Shi, Shu hi, Siku 
quanshu ed.,juan 2, p. 6b. 

19. "Tang Yan Lugong shu Cao 
bei," in Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang 
Kin quanji (reprint, Hong 
Kong: Guanzhi shuju, n.d.), 
juan 6, p. 31. See also Ronald 
Egan,"Ou-yang Hsiu and Su 
Shih on Calligraphy," Harvard 
foumal of Asiatic Studies 49, 

no. 2 {December 1989), p. 372. 

20. See Mingshui Hung's entry 
on Wang Duo in L. Carnngton 
Goodrich, ed.. Dictionary of 
Ming Biography (New York and 
London: Columbia University 
Press, 1976), vol. 2, pp. 1434—36. 


Calligraphy and 
Painting — The Essence 
of a Civilization 

Liu Jiu'an 

Researcher, Palace Museum, Beiiin? 

The five-thousand-year history of 
Chinese civilization has shaped the cul- 
ture and art of the Chinese people. The 
arts of painting and calligraphy are 
rooted in this ancient civilization. They 
are fruits borne by it, and through their 
unique artistic expressiveness and pro- 
found artistic inner content, they also 
epitomize one aspect of it. Just as Chinese 

civilization is generally regarded as one of the classic 
civilizations of world history, so too are Chinese 
painting and calligraphy classic types among the 
world's art forms. 

This exhibition features the works of thirty-seven 
painters and calligraphers, ranging from the middle 
of the Northern Song dynasty in the mid-eleventh 
century through the middle of the late Qing 
dynasty in the eighteenth century. These 
outstanding works, selected from museums 
throughout mainland China, compose in microcosm 
a history of the development of painting and 
calligraphy during this period. For instance, Wang 
Shen's Misty Riper and Layered Hills (cat. 184), the 
Southern Song Snowy Landscape (cat. 186), and Zhao 
Kui's In the Spirit of Poems by Du Fu (cat. 185), taken 
together, succincdy epitomize the rapid 
developments in landscape painting during the 
Northern and Southern Song dynasties. 

members of the educated elite using a deliberately 
plain, even awkward manner intended to signify 
their status as noble-minded amateurs. They claimed 
to paint only for self-expression, "as a lodging for 
[their] feelings" (Ni Zan), never at the behest of a 
patron or for the marketplace. Wang Meng's 
Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains (cat. 189) reveals 
only to the closest inspection the dwelling of a 
recluse, to which the craggy, bristling mountain 
seems to deny all access — an emblem of the literati 
ideal of literally forsaking and spiritually 
transcending the mundane world. Ni Zan's Six 
Gentlemen (cat. 188) uses six trees, upright and 
unbending, to allude to the austere integrity of the 
literati. Though the first painting teems with 
writhing forms and the second is almost minimalist, 
both of them slight pictorial description and 
emphasize instead the quality of the brush stroke, 
which was held to express the character of the 

Misty Rii>er and Layered Hills invokes a vast 
panorama in the depiction of a single scene. Snout)* 
Landscape uses instead the classic allusive technique 
of the renowned Southern Song landscape artist Ma 
Yuan (act. late I2th-early 13th c), suggesting the 
immensity of the mountains by showing only their 
peaks and not their bases. The buildings have been 
drawn not as architectural renderings but freehand, 
without benefit of straightedge, and the dominant 
mood is one of quiet and solitude in a setting of 
great beauty. Very few of Ma Yuan 's paintings have 
survived to the present, but this anonymous scroll 
conveys some sense of them. The Qianlong emperor 
of the Qing dynasty sought to express the essence 
of Zhao Kui's small painting of a bamboo grove 
(cat. 185) in the following couplet: 

The tranquil lotus and verdant creek reject the 
summer's heat, 

And in the depths of the bamboo grove fans are 
unfurled in the little pavilion. 

This emperor's couplet alludes consciously to a 
verse by the renowned Tang dynasty poet Du Fu: 

The depths of the bamboo grove urge the 

visitor to stay 

And enjoy the coolness of the tranquil lotus. 

Hence the title of the painting. To paraphrase the 
great Song poet Su Dongpo: In the words of the 
poem we find the painting; in the lines of the 
painting we find the poem. This masterpiece of 
Chinese "poetic painting" is also the only known 
work by Zhao Kui. 

During the Yuan dynasty paintings as pictures of 
things and paintings as cosmic metaphors began to 
be displaced by literati paintings — executed by 

From the mid-Ming period prosperous southeastern 
cities such as Suzhou and Songjiang in Jiangsu 
tended to attract literati painters. These urban literati 
transferred their love of nature and the bucolic life 
to their gardens and studios, which became favorite 
artistic subjects. Wen Zhengming's Studio of True 
Appreciation (cat. 197) depicted the study of Hua Xia 
(b. ca. 1498), the most famous collector of his day. 
Shen Zhou, in Eastern Villa (cat. 196), abjured his 
usual broad brush strokes in favor of a meticulously 
detailed picture of the garden residence of his 
literatus friend Wu Kuan (1435— 1504). Likewise, Qiu 
Ying's Playing the Flute by Pine and Stream (cat. 195) 
expresses the literati pastoral ideal. From the mid- 
Ming onward, the literati ideal dominated Chinese 
culture and society, and the less rigorously austere 
examples of literati painting found acceptance at 
court and among the mercantile class as well as 
among the scholar-official elite. 

From the outset Qing painting displayed a rich 
diversity. Wang Shimin (1592— 1680), Wang Jian 
(1598— 1677), Wang Hui (1632— 1717), and Wang 
Yuanqi (1642— 1715), collectively known as the "Four 
Wangs" of Chinese art history, primarily carried on 
the literati landscape traditions of the early Song 
and Yuan dynasties. Artistic archaism — paintings 
alluding to the styles of earlier masters — became 
fashionable at court and among the upper classes 
generally. The literati style, revolutionary during the 
Ming, became the new orthodoxy of Qing 
painting, exemplified by the "Four Wangs" 
(especially the first three) and their epigones. 
Contemporaneously, Bada Shanren, Shitao, 
Hongren, and Kuncan, collectively known as the 
"Four Monks" of art history, expressed their inner 
turmoil at the fall of the Ming and triumph of the 
non-Han Qing dynasty in powerfully individualistic 
works. Take, for instance, Ducks and Lotuses (cat. 210) 



by Bada Shanren (Zhu Da), who was a descendant 
of the Ming imperial family. He used the splashed- 
ink method to draw the lotus blossoms, and hooked 
brush strokes to depict the rocks in the pond, with 
just the slightest use of pale ink to limn the rocks. 
The Qing painter Zheng Xie (1693-1765) inscribed 
on this painting, "Few ink drops, many teardrops," 
alluding both to the drawing and to the artist's grief 
and anger over the loss of his country and family. 

Distinct regional schools in abundance arose during 
the Qing. Gong Xian (cat. 209), Zou Zhe 
(cat. 212), Gao Cen (cat. 214), and others who were 
active around the Nanjing area were known as the 
Jinling school, while Gao Xiang (cat. 215), Yuan 
Jiang (cat. 213), and others were active in the 
Yangzhou area. Even artists working in the same 
region and grouped into the same school show 
distinctive characteristics. The style and method of 
painting of Yuan Jiang's Garden for Gazing clearly 
differ from Gao Xiang's Finger-snap Pavilion.Tbis 
wealth of expressiveness, the artistic hallmark of the 
period, reflected the variety of artistic traditions 
available to painters during the Qing dynasty. 

Elevating the writing of words into an art form was 
an inspired development. The five pieces of 
calligraphy exhibited here exemplify four principal 
calligraphic scripts, namely, clerical, standard, 
cursive, and wild cursive. Perhaps no other art form 
is as condensed and abbreviated as calligraphy, or as 
expressive of the artist. For instance, the Ming 
calligrapher Zhu Yunming, known as a free spirit 
and unbridled personality, was a master of all scripts 
but with a particular affinity for the wild cursive 
script. In The Terrace of Ode to the Wind (cat. 179) his 
brush moves with abandon — a display of the 
writer's naturally uninhibited character — yet the 
writing shows a firm and steady hand. Zhang 
Zhao's scroll of the poem "Seventh Month" from 
the Odes of Bin (cat. 182) uses a dignified and 
poised standard script that shows the influence of 
the calligrapher Yan Zhenqing (709—785) of the 
Tang, while also reflecting, in its poise and 
elegance, Zhang's long tenure at court. In contrast, 
Deng Shiru, who never held any official post, took 
as his models the inscriptions on stone tablets of 
the Han and Wei dynasties, and these helped shape 
the dense, archaic style seen in his Couplet in seven- 
character lines, written in clerical script (cat. 183). 

allusiveness made possible by that concept, the 
freedom from the need to depict literally and 
completely. In Snowy Landscape, for example, only 
the mountaintops are shown, while the bases are 
left to our imaginations, lending the landscape far 
greater monumentality than if the mountains had 
been shown in their entirety. The Chinese use of 
monochrome ink alone is a prime example of the 
penchant for allusion. Third is the creative leeway 
given to subjectivity and expressiveness without 
ever abandoning description in favor of abstraction; 
this fusion of expression and objective description 
is summed up in Bada Shanren's Ducks and Lotuses. 
Even calligraphy, which is wholly abstract, involves 
a complex process of "encompassing a million 
particularities and abstracting them into a single 
image." The theory that calligraphy and painting 
had a common divine origin, and that the two arts 
have "different names but a common form," dates 
at least from the ninth century and has never been 
questioned since. That same theory has given rise to 
"the three perfections" — works in which poetry, 
calligraphy, and painting are integrated into one 
totality, in which each form alludes to and 
completes the others. Fourth is the insistence on 
inner refinement — "freedom from vulgarity" — of 
the artists and of their works, for the simple reason 
that only a person of great understanding and 
cultivation could comprehend the preceding three 
characteristics. Last is the honor paid to the 
creation and even the collecting of paintings and 
calligraphy, activities generally considered to denote 
persons of understanding, delicacy of perception, 
and moral fastidiousness. 

These ancient works of Chinese painting and 
calligraphy are material embodiments of the 
Chinese civilization. They touch our hearts, 
stimulate our minds, and nurture our continuing 

Translated, from the Chinese, by June Mei. 

Taken together, the works in this exhibition 
disclose the distinctive characteristics — the 
leitmotifs — of Chinese painting and calligraphy. 
First is the central role of people as subjects. Even 
unpeopled landscapes embody the adage attributed 
to Confucius, "The virtuous delight in mountains, 
and the wise delight in waters," an association 
deeply rooted in the ancient philosophic concept 
that "Heaven and man are one." Second is the 



Chinese Painting 
Innovation After 
"Progress" Ends 

The time is long past when Western 
specialists in the history of Chinese 
painting have had to be defensive about 
the status of their subject within world 
art. A succession of major exhibitions, the 
building of impressive museum and 
private collections, and an outpouring of 
substantial publications both scholarly and 
popular over the past half-century or so 

James Cahill 

Professor Emeritus, History of Art, 
University of California, Berkeley 


have instilled it firmly in the consciousness of both 
academics and the larger community of art-lovers 
as ranking among the supreme artistic achievements 
of any culture. And yet a curious belief about 
Chinese painting persists — that in its later phases it 
is essentially a performance art, within which the 
artist is reduced to making individual 
interpretations of long-established formulae. 

Two examples can represent quite a few more. 
E. H. Gombrich, in his influential Art and Illusion, 
reproduces from a seventeenth-century Chinese 
manual for beginning painters a page of 
instructions for painting orchids in ink, stroke by 
stroke. This he takes to exemplify China's "complete 
reliance on acquired vocabularies," commenting 
that "there is nothing in Western art which 
compares with this conception of painting," which 
he characterizes as a "combination of traditionalism 
and respect for the uniqueness of every 
performance"' More recently, Arthur Danto, in 
"Ming and Qing Paintings," misunderstands 
Sherman Lee's opening statement in a catalogue 
essay that by the beginning of the Ming dynasty 
"the materials, formats, and techniques of painting 
had developed in flexibility and complexity to a 
point where further subtlety was both 
unimaginable and superfluous." 2 Danto takes Lee's 
statement to mean that, in Danto's words, "all the 
truths of Chinese painting were in place before that 
protracted [Ming-Qing] period began." And Danto, 
too, contrasts this reading of the Chinese situation 
with what happened during the same period in 
Western art: "Imagine, then, an exhibition which 
begins witli Giotto and ends with Gauguin." One 
scarcely could say ofWestern painting during that 
time, as Danto believes we can say of Ming and 
Qmg painting, that "everything was already in place 
at the beginning, further development of which 
[sic| was 'unimaginable and superfluous.'"' In 
support of his view, Danto cites observations by 
Roger Fry about the "strange atrophy of the 
creative spirit" that afflicted later Chinese art and 
about its "excessive reverence for the tradition." 1 

One might see these simply as misreadings: there is 
a large gap between the woodblock-printed 
painting manual cited by Gombrich and the 
practice of serious later Chinese artists that he 
wrongly took it to represent; and there is an even 
larger gap between Sherman Lee's unobjectionable 
statement that further subtlety was unimaginable in 
the later centuries in China (one could persuasively 
argue that Gauguin does not represent any advance 
in subtlety over Giotto) and Danto's construing this 
to mean that no further development took place. But 
it is less a misreading, I think, than a proclivity 
among Western scholars (even good ones) 
unfamiliar with Chinese painting: to believe a 
version of its history in which innovation ended 
about the fourteenth century and to take what they 
see and read as evidence for that version. 

What lies behind this inclination to see the later 
centuries of Chinese painting as essentially 
repeating the earlier ones? In part, it is a carry-over 
from the ill-informed belief of pioneer Western 
writers on Chinese painting that its great creative 
period ended with the Song dynasty in the late 
thirteenth century, and that all beyond was 
repetition and decline. No one seriously engaged 
with Chinese painting believes that now, but this 
attitude no doubt continues to resonate in the 
minds of people who have read the old books or 
taken courses with the old teachers. Another 
important reason is the inability of even sensitive 
observers to recognize stylistic distinctions, 
including large and crucial ones, within an 
unfamiliar art, whether it be painting or music or 
poetry. I noted this often-encountered 
phenomenon at the beginning ot my book The 
Compelling Image, recalling the experience ot taking 
a distinguished and recently arrived Chinese 
connoisseur around the National Gallery in 
Washington (yes, from Giotto to Gauguin and 
beyond) and being told: "Very nice, but they all 
look alike." 4 Danto's admission that the works in 
the Ming-Qing exhibition, spanning some six 
centuries, seemed to him "oddly contemporaneous" 



is another case of the same; both responses betray 
limitations not in the art but in the observer, who 
infers sameness from his own failure to perceive, or 
at least to properly evaluate, difference. Of course 
Chinese painting appears to have had no 
development if the later ones appear no different 
from the early ones. 

Also accounting in some part for this phenomenon 
is the insistence of many of the Chinese painters 
themselves, in inscriptions on their works, that they 
are "imitating" some old master: taken literally, such 
inscriptions would indeed attest to derivativeness. 
But to accept such statements at face value would 
be equivalent to charging T. S. Eliot with being 
derivative because he claims in a certain passage to 
be "imitating" Chaucer. When one looks beyond 
the inscriptions to compare the paintings 
themselves with their putative models, it is 
immediately obvious that the old style is usually no 
more than a frame of reference, a jumping-off point 
for formal explorations that can be as original as 
any in painting. All art, in some sense, imitates other 
art; the Chinese have simply recognized and 
institutionalized such derivation and made it more 
self-conscious, more a matter of deliberate and 
sophisticated allusion than Western artists generally 
have, at least until very recent times. 

Even after we have recognized all these reasons for 
the derogation of later Chinese painting, however, 
we must admit and come to terms with certain 
elements of truth that underlie the perceptions of 
repetitiveness. It is generally true (with exceptions, 
as always) that later Chinese artists were more open 
in their reliance on established convention and 
insisted less on direct observation of the world than 
Western artists of the same period usually did. One 
must quickly add, however, that the best of them 
accomplished such creative and even radical 
manipulations of the conventions that, again, the 
outcomes can scarcely be seen as any real loss of 
originality. It can also be argued that after the end 
of the Song dynasty in the late thirteenth century 
no clear, unilinear development can be observed in 
Chinese painting, in the sense of successive 
advances in representational techniques, or in 
pervasive stylistic shifts like those defined by the old 
art historians for European painting — from 
Medieval to early to high to late Renaissance, 
Baroque to Rococo to Romantic to Modern. 

But granting this need not carry any implication 
that Chinese painting ceased to be innovative. It 
might, alternatively, be argued that the great global 
shifts took place earlier in China — that their 
equivalent of the Giotto-to-Gauguin phase 
happened between the Tang and Yuan dynasties 
(i.e., between the eighth and fourteenth 
centuries) — and ended sooner, so that the Chinese 

arrived in their painting, long before we did, at "the 
end of the history of art." This is not the place to 
make that argument at length, nor am I the person 
to make it; an unpublished book by James Elkins, 
entitled "Chinese Landscape Painting as Object 
Lesson" (1995) presents an interesting case for this 
large and highly controversial proposal, in terms 
with which I am generally in agreement. In any 
case, leaving aside particulars of argument, this is 
the direction in which any real understanding of 
later Chinese painting's "failure to develop" must be 
charted out. Instead of, in effect, writing off later 
Chinese painting as attractive but more or less 
irrelevant to our own artistic concerns, we might 
better look to it for ways out of what may seem 
perilously like an end-game situation (Elkins s term, 
adopted from chess and Duchamp). A tradition that 
folds so insistently back on itself, that comes to be 
caught up in such a potentially paralyzing 
engagement with its own past, obliges its artists to 
devise stratagems for escaping repetition and 
stagnation. An account of Ming and Qing 
painting — a non-history, it might be called — could 
be constructed around the successive stratagems 
that were devised to this end, both by individual 
masters and within particular movements and 
schools. Such an account would acknowledge some 
of these stratagems to have been relatively 
conservative — the disciplined, somewhat 
intellectualized uses of old styles by such Ming 
masters as Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming, for 
instance; it would recognize others, such as the 
brilliant transformations of older pictorial materials 
carried out by the Individualist masters of the 
seventeenth century, as radical, even revolutionary. 

Most of all, such an account would recognize that 
critical theorizing, in writings that are sophisticated 
and often contentious, affected the later practice of 
Chinese painting much as such theorizing has 
affected the recent practice of painting in the West. 
Many of the Ming and Qmg artists, along with 
their scholar-critic contemporaries, argued 
vehemently and interestingly tor this or that 
position on what the artist should paint and how, 
drawing their arguments from a diversity of 
grounds — aesthetic, philosophical, moral, political, 
economic. In both traditions, the artists themselves 
might talk themselves into corners. But proponents 
of established ideologies could also make 
moralizing judgments — Confucian or Marxist or 
other — proclaiming certain kinds of painting to be 
low-class or inauthentic or otherwise unacceptable, 
thus effectively shutting off broad ranges of options 
that artists might otherwise have found viable and 
fruitful. Or, if they did not manage to shut them off 
completely, at least they made them difficult and 
unrewarding to pursue, so that those who pursued 
them risked, and usually incurred, critical 
condemnation. No artistic dilemma could resonate 



more painfully with the predicament of artists 
today. It is not that the Chinese artists, freed of such 
pressures, would have made their choices purely on 
aesthetic grounds, unconcerned with the broader 
issues of their time; but they surely had their own 
agendas, as their writings sometimes indicate, which 
did not necessarily correspond with the established 
systems that sought to control them and usually did. 
Counterforces to the coercion of the literati critics 
were few and mostly weak. 

Two opposing forces, one aimed at narrowing 
options for artists and so inducing them to paint in 
the "right" way, the other at broadening again the 
spectrum of acceptable styles or breaking the 
boundaries altogether, are represented by the two 
major writers on painting in the late Ming and 
early Qing: Dong Qichang (1555— 1636) and Shitao 
(1642- 1 707). The two can be seen also as arguing in 
opposite directions about what was for both of 
them the central dilemma: how to stand up, as 
creative and highly original artists, against the nearly 
overpowering weight of the past. They establish 
themselves as the most powerful proponents of two 
different ways out. 

Dong's way was to reduce and absorb the past by 
making a rigorous selection of suitable models from 
it, simplifying the history of painting into two 
"schools," or lineages, only one of which he judged 
to be appropriate for the practice of a cultivated 
literatus-amateur like himself. He then "imitated" 
the models in this established canon so freely that 
the old styles virtually vanished under his hand, 
transmuted into new structures within which the 
old are scarcely recognizable. Shitao s way out, based 
on a desperate recognition of the advanced state of 
conventionalization into which much of the art had 
descended, was to reject the past entirely and start 
over, as if situated at the first dawn of painting. 
That, at least, would be his claim and the ideal 
toward which he would strive in some of his late 
and more extreme works. It was a magnificent but 
ultimately unrealizable attempt — painters can no 
more return to a state of pristine simplicity than 
anyone else — and incapable of pointing a clear 
direction out of their common predicament for 
artists who followed. Dong Qichang's direction, 
carried on in ever more exclusionary ways by the 
Orthodox landscape masters who claimed to be his 
legitimate successors, was to prove more influential, 
but its authority was sapped by the quick 
debilitation of that landscape tradition. 

The capsulized account of Chinese painting that 
follows, while it certainly will not substantiate the 
proposal outlined above, will accommodate it, as 
conventional histories that attempt broad 
characterizations of the "period styles" of the 
successive periods cannot. 


Early Chinese writings about painting praise its 
capacity to arouse the feelings and responses that 
the depicted thing would arouse if seen in reality. 
Portraits, for example, captured salient qualities of 
the sitter and presented them to the viewer, thus 
taking on the Confucian function of preserving for 
contemplation models of moral worth or depravity. 
The painting could fool the viewer into confusing 
it with the real thing: a picture of a beautiful 
woman would be mistaken for the person, a 
painting offish hung on the riverbank would attract 
otters to leap at it. For this criterion of excellence, a 
high degree of verisimilitude and even "magic 
realism" are obviously appropriate. But these naive 
views (as we would see them) were supplanted 
relatively early by recognition of the evocative 
powers of paintings that transcended simple 
representation and required of the artist more than 
descriptive techniques. Brief essays by Zong Bing 
(375-443) and Wang Wei (415-443) already credit 
landscape painting with the power to present 
expansive and absorbing vistas to the entranced 
viewer, who can enjoy vicariously, through the 
artist's subtle understanding and technical skill, 
journeys among mountains and rivers that refresh 
the spirit. 

Pictures with the capacity to affect their viewers 
that way, however, were preceded by centuries of 
simpler landscape representation, a formative stage 
that can be traced in designs on bronze vessels and 
other objects, including several in this exhibition. 
An Eastern Han (25—220 Ce) gilt-bronze vessel with 
hills and animals (cat. 51) represents hilltops and 
clouds in the simplest schematic forms. By contrast, 
on an inlaid bronze chariot fitting (cat. 49) the hills 
on which the animals scamper are drawn in 
intricate linear arabesques derived from earlier 
dragon forms, a metamorphic process common in 
early Chinese art. Simple, overlapping triangular 
peaks make up a schematic landscape (a "magic 
mountain") to which trees and animals and figures 
are added in the splendid gilded bronze incense 
burner from the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng 
(cat. 50). The landscape scenes on a late Han relict 
tile from Sichuan Province (cat. 103) achieve 
remarkable (for that time) integrations of the 
pictorial materials in space, and some transcending 
of schematic forms, but the achievement was not 
followed up, at least on extant objects. Three 
centuries later, for instance, the landscape settings 
for Buddhist narratives on a Liang dynasty 
(502-557) stele (cat. 151) still display an archaic 
system in which rocks and trees and hilltops 
compartmentalize the composition into "space 
cells" within which the figures and other narrative 
elements are placed. 



Surviving early landscape paintings, or believable 
copies of them, seem designed to fulfill the aims set 
forth in the texts. They typically offer densely filled 
scenes of mountains and rivers within which 
travelers, mounted or on foot, move among trees; 
cross bridges; pass by rustic residences and temples. 
The compositions may recede to high horizons, 
demonstrating the painter's ability to carry the 
viewer's gaze into depth. The individual entities that 
make up these pictures, especially those of the Tang 
dynasty (618-906), are typically drawn in fine 
outline and colored with mineral pigments. This 
analytical outline-and-color mode, characteristic of 
early Chinese painting, encourages the viewer to 
read the picture part by part while moving over its 
richly detailed surface. 

By the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Five 
Dynasties (907—960) and Northern Song 
(960—1127) periods that followed the collapse of the 
Tang, this archaic mode was seen as charming but 
unsuited to new directions in landscape painting, 
which in these centuries was rising to displace 
figural subjects as the central concern of leading 
artists and critics. Landscapes in the new manner 
are dominated by earth masses rendered in broader, 
scumbled brush strokes of monochrome ink, 
strongly varied in tone, which shape the forms with 
light and shadow while also rendering the tactile 
qualities of their pitted surfaces. Indications of 
human presence — buildings, figures, bridges — are 
diminished in size and visually integrated into the 
landscape setting, so that they no longer command 
the viewer's attention. Beside the attractive 
artificialities of the archaic landscape mode, this 
new manner can be seen (admittedly, in terms 
unacceptable to "new art history" practitioners) as a 
great leap forward in naturalism — in its power to 
engage the beholder's vision with forms that read as 
truer to one's experience of the physical world and 
as all but palpable. It was exactly the development 
of this new manner, combining refinements of 
monochrome ink tonality for effects of light and 
shade with systems of overlaid brushwork to 
differentiate textures, that opened the way to the 
towering achievements of monumental landscape in 
the Five Dynasties and Northern Song periods. 

The supplanting of figural themes, including 
narrative, historical, and religious, by landscape at 
such an early period distinguishes the Chinese 
tradition of painting from all others, prompting us 
to ask what conditions and objectives underlay this 
crucial change. It is another question too large to 
address here, except to say that in the hands of a 
succession of great masters, Chinese landscape 
painting not only developed to a sublime point its 
function of "making the viewer feel as though he 
were in the very place," thus allowing it to serve as 
spiritual refreshment for people who could not 

physically retire into the mountains, but also 
acquired the capacity to embody metaphysical 
concepts in forms and so convey them to its 
viewers. The rise of monumental landscape 
paralleled, not coincidentally, the great age of Neo- 
Confucian philosophy, which similarly attributes a 
coherence and order to natural phenomena. It 
corresponded also to the ascendancy of expressive 
theories of painting: Mi Fu (1052-1107/8) wrote 
that landscape "is a creation of the mind and is 
intrinsically a superior art" — superior, that is, to 
pictures of animals or human figures, which 
could, in his view, be done by simply copying 
their appearances. These are, to be sure, Chinese 
formulations; our own account of the rise 
of landscape painting in China would follow 
other lines. 

Underlying the "great leap forward in naturalism" 
was the development by tenth- and eleventh- 
century artists of representational techniques that 
opened the way to all these achievements. 
Specialists in portraying birds and animals were 
creating systems of patiently repeated brush strokes 
for natural-looking renditions of plumage and fur, 
while painters of interior scenes with figures were 
working out spatial schemes as intricately readable 
as any that Chinese artists would ever attempt. Early 
Song landscapists would refine the device of 
atmospheric perspective so as to create breathtaking 
effects of height and deep space, within which 
strongly volumetric forms were shaped and 
geologically differentiated with new texture-stroke 
systems. We are, that is to say, at that apogee, or roll- 
off point, arrived at by the Chinese relatively early 
in the collective mastery of representational 
techniques that allowed them to create, when they 
wished, paintings that could be read as close and 
convincing likenesses of the persons, things, or 
scenes portrayed. 

No painting could better exemplify this observation 
than the astonishing Bamboo, Old Tree, and Stones in 
Winter (fig. 1), attributed to a tenth-century master 
named Xu Xi but in truth an anonymous work of 
the late tenth or early eleventh century. The subject 
carries a metaphorical meaning of survival and 
integrity under harsh conditions, but we know this 
only from external literary evidence: nothing in the 
picture itself suggests that it is other than a 
meticulously detailed, objective portrayal of a 
passage of nature. The unknown artist, who has not 
signed his name but has inscribed "This bamboo is 
worth more than a hundred pieces of gold" in tiny 
archaic characters (upside down! on a bamboo 
stalk) has concealed his hand throughout, using 
virtually no outlining or other conspicuous brush 
strokes, creating the image as if entirely out of light 
and dark, making the picture seem more a work of 
nature than a product of human artifice. In truth, 


Fig. 1 . Anonymous (attrib. Xu Xi, 10th c). 
Bamboo, Old Tree, and Stones in Winter. 
Late 10th or early nth c. Shanghai Museum. 

put into proper context the "non-development" of 
later Chinese painting, along with the complaints of 
seventeenth-century Jesuits and other early Western 
writers that the failure of Chinese artists to employ 
linear perspective and chiaroscuro made their 
pictures flat and dead. A recognition of the true 
attainment of early Chinese painting can only be 


If, as argued here, the Chinese reached their 
highpoint in the development of representational 
techniques as early as the tenth— eleventh century, 
all the later history of Chinese painting can be 
constructed as a series of moves away from that 
point, "retreats from likeness" that take many 
different directions. One of these is the literati, or 
scholar-amateur, movement in painting, which 
began in the late Northern Song period but is 
represented in this exhibition only from the Yuan 
dynasty on, and so will be discussed below. 
Spokesmen for this new movement were inclined 
to adopt antirepresentational positions. Mi Fu, 
quoted above, saw landscape painting as a creation 
of the artist's mind; Su Shi (1037— iioi), the central 
figure in the movement, wrote in a poem that "If 
someone talks of painting as formal likeness/ His 
way of looking is like a child's." 

the technical achievement it displays is nothing 
short of amazing. Some technique of reserve was 
probably used for the light-against-dark passages; 
but how the subtle shifts from these to dark- 
against-light were accomplished is not easy to 
reconstruct. Like other moves toward realism in 
Chinese painting, this one is abortive and produced 
no following; it was suppressed, presumably, by a 
critical dogma that condemned the pursuit of 
verisimilitude, or "form-likeness," as an unworthy 
objective for painting. The work has come down to 
modern times unrecorded and unnoticed by critics, 
with none of the collectors' seals and adulatory 
inscriptions that embellish old paintings of more 
prestigious kinds. 

As an exercise in comparative chronology, we might 
ask, "In what other artistic culture, at this time, 
could such a feat of descriptive naturalism — 
avoidance ot artificed patterning, near-photographic 
depiction — have been accomplished?" And if the 
answer must be, "No other," the next question is, 
"How many centuries must one wait for anything 
comparable 111 the West?" In descriptive painting 
techniques as in technology, the Chinese far 
outstripped the West in early centuries, then />)' 
choice largely turned away from that mode to pursue 
other directions, while Western artists took up 
(more or less) the descriptive vein the Chinese had 
abandoned. This understanding of the matter will 

About the same time that these scholar-amateurs, 
some of whom held official posts in the 
government, were working out their new styles and 
genres so as to separate themselves clearly from the 
professional tradition, another group of semi- 
amateur artists were taking a somewhat different 
course, aimed at endowing their paintings both 
with poetic content and with a cultivated kind of 
archaism through allusions to early styles. This 
group might be called aristocrat-amateurs, since 
they were associated with the court and imperial 
family; their socially and economically privileged 
positions gave them access to old masterworks, and 
their "quoting" of these in their own paintings 
credited their viewers with a correspondingly 
sophisticated understanding of historical styles. This 
was an art by and for the elite. 

Misty River and Layered Hills by Wang Shen 
(ca. 104S— after 1104) is a fine example of this 
courtly poetic-archaizing mode (cat. 1S4). Wang 
Shen, descendant of a military hero, son-in-law a\~ 
an emperor, friend of Su Shi. and himseli a 
distinguished connoisseur and collector, began 
painting landscape during a period of political 
banishment from the capital — his works have been 
read (bv Richard Barnhart, who has written most 
interestingly about him) as landscapes ot exile." As a 
style-conscious amateur, he could choose among 
stvles with a freedom normally denied the full- 



time, vocational masters, adopting the manner of his 
great court-academy contemporary Guo Xi for one 
painting, reviving the old outline-and-color mode 
from the Tang for another. Misty River belongs to 
the latter style, using green mineral pigment within 
decoratively repeated outlines. Unrolling the scroll 
from right to left, one traverses a long stretch of 
empty silk that stands for water and that renders the 
farther shore of cloud-veiled hills, when it 
eventually appears, even more remote. The picture 
echoes, presumably by intent, paradise or isles-of- 
immortals imagery in which the green and blue 
colors represent jade and chalcedony. The flattening 
and decorative richness that can be seen as 
genuinely archaic in early works (or close copies 
after them) are here elements in an archaistic mode 
consciously adopted for the cultural values it 

Other members of the Song imperial family 
(surnamed Zhao) who painted include Zhao 
Lingrang (also called Zhao Danian; act. ca. 1070- 
ca. 1 100), who did bucolic scenes of thatched 
houses on the riverside which evoked the ideal of 
escaping the sordor of the city for a simple life in 
the (morally and physically) purer air of the 
countryside (as none of these artists could do in 
reality); and Zhao Ji, the emperor Huizong 
(r. 1100— 1126), who painted bird-and-flower 
subjects and was especially taken with the ideal of 
making paintings that embodied poetic concepts, 
enforcing it on the artists who served in his 
academy. The late Song painter Zhao Km 
(1185-1266) did not belong to the imperial family 
but held a high ministerial post. The handscroll 
titled In the Spirit of Poems by Du Fu (cat. 185) 
originally bore his signature, according to a 
colophon by a slightly later writer, but the signature 
has been lost, probably in remounting. The painting 
echoes a couplet from a poem by the great poet Du 
Fu (712-770): "The depths of the bamboo grove 
urge the visitor to stay/ And enjoy the cool of the 
tranquil lotus." Unrolling the scroll, we are taken 
through groves ot bamboo by a stream and glimpse 
the top of a thatched kiosk hidden among them, 
then two servants bringing donkeys along a path, 
and finally, toward the end, a man who sits in a 
waterside pavilion and is fanned by a servant as he 
gazes out over water lilies. The scroll recreates the 
quiet experience of escaping from the city and 
the heat into cool seclusion; it may represent 
scenery around Yangzhou, where Zhao Kui lived 
for some years. 

The ideal of poetic painting advocated by Emperor 
Huizong continued to pervade the output of the 
imperial painting academy in the Southern Song, or 
late Song, where masters of transcending technique 
and sensitivity created works that are among the 
glories of Chinese painting. One of the greatest of 

them is Ma Yuan (act. late I2th-early 13th century). 
An unsigned Snowy Landscape (cat. 186) is not 
attributed to him but is closely in his style and may 
well be from his hand. Whatever its authorship, it 
belongs to a mode of poetic terseness that became 
popular in the late Song. The scenery is simple: a 
traveler with his servant carrying the luggage 
approaches a Buddhist temple in a ravine. Dark 
mists capture the wintry mood; earth banks and 
hilltops recede in clear stages, the nearer ones given 
volume, the farthest in simple silhouette. With all 
technical problems of creating effects of space and 
atmosphere long solved, insofar as China was ever 
to address them, the artist could work in a broad, 
sparse manner, reducing the pictorial materials as a 
poet might evoke an extensive scene in a couplet. 
Art-historical hindsight allows us to see this as an 
end-of-an-era work, attenuated in both its 
composition and its poetic content. 

Another work that reveals the late Song passion for 
poetic imagery is the woodblock-printed book 
Meihua xishen pit ("Album of Plum Blossom 
Portraits") by Song Boren. First printed in 1238, it 
survives in a single copy of a 1261 reprint and has 
been called the world's first known printed art 
book (cat. 187). In text and pictures it presents one 
hundred aspects, or "moods," of blossoming plum 
branches, each comprising a poetic title, a simple 
pictorial image, and a quatrain (four five-character 
lines) arranged on a single page with an elegance 
that is astonishing: the book appears to be the 
earliest attempt at anything of the kind, in China or 
elsewhere. A craze for blossoming plum had swept 
China in the Southern Song, producing thousands 
of poems and paintings that celebrate its pure and 
fragile beauty. A range of meanings, including the 
erotic and the political, had come to be attached to 
the theme (as explored in Maggie Bickford's recent 
book Ink Plum). 7 Song Boren's poems are full of 
allusions to the plight of his country — the Mongols 
had already conquered the north, and the Song was 
soon to fall — and admonishments to strength and 
loyalty, themes that the various stages of the 
blossoming plum are made, somewhat forcedly, to 


The Song dynasty ended with the conquest ot 
south China by the Mongols under Khubilai Khan, 
grandson of Chinggis Khan and first emperor of 
the Mongol dynasty in China, which they named 
the Yuan. Although Mongol rule was to last less 
than a century (1279-1368), it was a traumatic time 
for the Chinese: never before had their entire 
territory been under the control of one of the 
northern nomadic peoples whom the Han Chinese 
had traditionally regarded as "barbarians." In the 
early Yuan period the civil-service examinations 





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were abolished, and although Khubilai Khan sought 
to surround himself with traditionally educated 
Chinese advisers, many such scholars who would 
normally have attempted government careers 
withdrew instead from public lite, supporting 
themselves through various activities for which 
their scholarly backgrounds fitted them, among 
which were calligraphy and painting. The literati, or 
scholar-amateur, movement in painting, inaugurated 
in the eleventh century but eclipsed during the 
later Song by the brilliant achievements of the 
professional and Academy masters, came to the fore 
during the Yuan and maintained its primacy during 
most of the later centuries. 

The Song- Yuan transition is accordingly seen as a 
great turning point in the history of Chinese 
painting, when (to oversimplify) a primarily 
representational tradition gave way to one primarily 
aimed at individual expression. A Yuan-period 
critic, reflecting a view that had already become 
orthodox among the literati, put "form-likeness" 
last on a list of criteria forjudging paintings; what 
was to be esteemed, he wrote, was "plays with 
brush and ink in which lofty-minded men and 
superior scholars have lodged their exhilaration 
[intense feeling] and sketched their ideas." The 
move from painting as pictorial description of 
appearances to painting as an expressive art 
concerned with its own conventions and its own 
past, the very shift that in the West (according to 
one common view) marks the beginnings of 
modernism, thus happened at least half a 
millennium earlier in China. 

A central figure in the creation of new literati styles 
in landscape painting during the early Yuan was 
Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322). Although a descendant 
of the Song imperial house, he did not adopt the 
stance of a Song loyalist, but accepted high posts in 
the Mongol administration under Khubilai Khan 
and had a distinguished official career. As a painter 
he rejected, like most others in his time, what he 
saw as the polish and overt appeal of Song painting, 
choosing instead to revive styles from the more 
distant past, especially the Tang and Five Dynasties 
periods. His Villa by the Water of 1302 (fig. 2), 
painted for a friend whose retreat bore that name, is 
for Chinese connoisseurs "in the style of" the 
tenth-century landscapist Dong Yuan, whose 
deliberately plain scenery and lulling repetitions 

Fig. 2. Zhao Mengfu (1254—1322). Villa by the Water. 
Dated to 1302, Yuan dynasty (i2jg-i36S). Handscroll, 
ink on paper; 24. g x 120.5 cm. Palace Museum, Beijing. 

of brush strokes were admired as the antithesis 
to the now-unacceptable drama and diversity of 
later Song painting. Zhao's picture is even flatter 
and simpler than any of DongYuan's, with 
minimal detail absorbed into the fabric of 
brushwork to the point of being barely discernible. 
It is executed in brush strokes that reject everything 
gestural and overtly expressive; the ink is rubbed on 
dry to catch the slight nap of the paper, for an 
effect not unlike charcoal drawing. Here for the 
first time landscape takes on the capacity to express 
in its forms and execution both the reclusiveness of 
the recipient and a tranquil state of mind — 
considered an essential attribute of high character — 
in the artist. 

This expressive capacity of landscape painting is 
fully expanded in the late Yuan, especially in the 
works of two artists who are often paired in a 
relationship more of contrast than of similarity: 
Ni Zan (i306[?]-i374) and Wang Meng 
(ca. 1308— 1385). Ni Zan spent his early years as a 
rich, cultivated youth who collected antiques, 
entertained a rigorously selected group of friends 
(he was neurotically cleanly, washing his hands 
frequently and shunning anyone he considered 
"vulgar"), and practiced poetry, calligraphy, and 
painting. When he was in his thirties, however, the 
burden of taxes and the depredations of local 
uprisings drove him to disperse the family property 
and take up a wandering life. He traveled about by 
small boat, staying with friends and patrons, 
repaying their hospitality with his paintings, which 
were increasingly in demand — by the time of his 
death, we read, the ownership of a Ni Zan was a 
mark of elevated cultural status for families in the 
region. In his hands the sparse, dry-brush manner. 
with its effect of visual disengagement, became a 
metaphor for emotional alienation from what he 
saw as a contaminated world. His Six Gentlemen of 
1345 (cat. iSS). done for one of his hosts, presents 
his typical river scene with widely separated 
banks — a compositional device itself expressive ot 
distance and loneliness — with six exiguous trees in 
the foreground "representing" the six men present 
at the gathering. This way ot endowing the barest 



of materials with multilayered meaning would 
become another option and ideal for artists of 
later periods. 

Ni Zan's younger contemporary Wang Meng was 
the grandson of Zhao Mengfu and grew up with a 
familiarity with old painting that informs his own 
works. Rejecting the reclusiveness of Ni Zan and 
others, he followed the family tradition of official 
service, holding a minor post in the 1340s and 
another after the founding of the Ming dynasty, 
eventually becoming implicated in a supposed 
treasonous plot and dying in prison. His landscapes, 
densely packed and tactilely rich, can be read as 
emblematic of engagement and thus as representing 
a stance opposed to that of Ni Zan. The highly 
activated forms that make up Wang Meng's best 
pictures create powerful tensions, even turbulence, 
which undermine the original implications of 
stability and coherence carried by the Song 
monumental landscapes on which they are distantly 
based. Such a calculated, expressionist distortion of 
an established type, intended to subvert its normal 
associations, seems, again, a very modern stratagem. 

Finest among Wang Meng's surviving paintings 
is his 1366 Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains 
(cat. 189), which, according to research by Richard 
Vinograd, was probably painted for the artist's 
cousin Zhao Lin and represents the Zhao family 
retreat at that place. s Depictions ot secluded villas 
were a specialty ofYuan literati artists, who 
ordinarily portrayed them as securely sequestered 
from the outside world. Wang subverts this type 
too, by confounding the viewer's attempt to read 
his picture as made up of coherent geological forms 
and spaces, and by instilling a powerful restlessness 
through nervous, constantly shifting brushwork and 
an unnaturalistic play of light and shadow. The 
insecurity was real: the two principal contenders for 
the succession to Mongol rule were battling nearby 
at just this time; one of them, Zhu Yuanzhang, 
would become, two years later, the first emperor of 
the Ming dynasty. 

In the early Ming dynasty painters were called to 
court and assigned projects, as they had been in the 
Song. By the Xuande reign (1426— 1435) of the 
emperor Xuanzong, a conscious attempt was 
underway to revive the Southern Song Painting 
Academy, employing court artists who basically 
continued the Song styles. Literati, or scholar- 
amateur, artists of the early Ming continued late 
Yuan literati styles in a similarly conservative way; 
the first century or so of the Ming might thus seem 
to support the idea of a stagnation in later Chinese 
painting. But the lull was not to last beyond the 
middle and later fifteenth century, when both 

currents were powerfully redirected by great 
original masters. 

Imperial Academy artists made paintings, mostly 
under orders or on commission, for a diversity of 
uses — auspicious, decorative, seasonal — besides 
doing pictures that carried political meanings for 
presentation and hanging on special occasions such 
as the appointment and retirement of court 
officials. A competence in portraiture was normally 
required of these versatile artists, even when their 
primary specialty was flowers-and-birds or some 
other subject. Shang Xi, best known for what in 
the West are called history pictures, is credited with 
a huge painting (over 2 x 3.5 m.), which may have 
been mounted originally on a screen, representing 
Emperor Xuanzong and members of his court 
setting off on a hunt (cat. 190). The emperor, seen 
at the top, is the largest figure, as longstanding 
convention dictated; the principal figures among 
the mounted party in the foreground are given 
portrait-like faces and must represent particular 
people. We can assume that their inclusion in the 
picture, and their positions within it, reflected their 
ranks in the court. The creatures crowded into the 
upper right — deer, rabbits, ducks and other birds — 
stand for the intended quarry, but play only 
subsidiary roles in this grand display piece. 

Another group portrait by a court master, this one 
in handscroll form and more modest in size, is Tlie 
Literary Gathering in the Apricot Garden, an event that 
took place in 1437 and was depicted by Xie Huan 
(act. 1426— 1452) (cat. 191). Xie had a long and 
successful career in the Academy, attaining great 
favor with the emperor, with whom he is said to 
have played chess every day. His status, and the 
place in society that a painter might attain by his 
time, is indicated by his including himself in the 
picture — at the beginning of the scroll, to be sure, 
farthest out from the garden that is its climactic 
scene, but still there. The central figures are the 
Three Yangs, members of the Grand Secretariat and 
the emperor's most trusted advisers. They have 
invited high-ranking friends for a day of 
banqueting and drinking, appreciating antiquities, 
doing calligraphy, and composing poems. Here, too, 
the sizes, poses, and positioning of the figures 
establish a clear hierarchy among them. Another, 
shorter version of the picture is in the Metropolitan 
Museum ot Art; it may be that the composition was 
loosely replicated by lesser Academy masters for 
presentation to participants in the event. 

Both these paintings were executed in the Song- 
derived, traditional manner of the early Ming 
Academy; neither artist allowed his personal style, 
or "handwriting," to intrude. The first significant 
break with that practice was accomplished by Dai 
Jin (1388— 1462), who served in the Academy, if at 


all, only briefly, but whose stylistic innovations 
heavily influenced its later masters. His typical 
works, large landscape hanging scrolls on silk, are 
still relatively traditional in subject and 
composition, but are made up of massive, strongly 
contoured earth forms. The brush drawing is less 
constrained than before by its bounding and 
texturing function, more expressive of nervous 
energy in the artist's hand. This stylistic move is not 
only another assertion of the rising status of 
painters, including professionals, but also an 
incursion into the territory of the scholar- 
amateurs — who would, however, have been quick 
to point out that Dai Jin's brushwork-oriented 
paintings were still very different from theirs, less 
subtle, as befitting the work of a professional. 

An untypical, very fine work by Dai Jin is the small 
picture on paper now titled, somewhat 
misleadingly, Landscape in the Manner of Yan Wengui 
(cat. 192). The association with this tenth- to 
eleventh-century landscapist comes from the 
inscription written on it by Dong Qichang 
(1555-1636), leading spokesman for the literati 
position, who was, we can imagine, shown the 
work and invited to inscribe it by some collector. 
Dong, to whom Dai Jin's typical work must have 
seemed heavy-handed and overcharged, could 
scarcely praise a painting without identifying in it 
the kind of style-conscious allusions to old masters 
that he and other literati artists practiced 
themselves; he felt obliged to find such allusions, 
however forcedly, in Dai's work. The words of 
heavily qualified, even evasive praise that Dong 
wrote on it reveal the uneasy relationship between 
artists occupying different socioeconomic positions 
in Ming China: "Among the professional painters 
of our dynasty, Dai Jin is considered a great master. 
This picture follows Yan Wengui's style, and is pure 
and empty, not at all like [Dai's] everyday work in 
character — it is highly unusual." Although the shape 
of the highest peak and a few other features may 
relate distantly to Yan Wengui, Dai's painting is not 
style-conscious at all, but is a sensitive, painterly 
evocation of a misty scene centered on the 
thatched retirement house of the man for whom it 
was done, identified in Dai's own inscription as 
"Old Teacher Yongyan." 

The "school" or movement that Dai Jin is credited 
with founding was later named, after his birthplace 
in Zhejiang Province, the Zhe school. Among the 
artists who succeeded him in what is now called 
the Zhe school and who served in the Imperial 
Academy was Wu Wei (1459— 1508). His career 
marks a further stage in the social elevation of the 
artist. He was much in demand as a drinking 
companion for men of high position and was a 
familiar of the emperor himself, who excused His 
aberrant behavior because of his artistic brilliance. 

Wu Wei exemplifies a new type of artist, the urban 
eccentric, to whose personality the quick and 
spontaneous manner of execution seen in his 
paintings was taken to be a stylistic counterpart. His 
subjects and compositions are in themselves 
relatively conservative: Fishermen on a Snowy River 
(cat. 193), for instance, with a landmass on one side 
and a receding river on the other, follows a very 
old pattern. In the eyes of the audiences for whom 
Wu Wei worked, fishermen represented an ideal of 
escape from the pressures and spiritual 
contamination of city and court. 

By the end of the fifteenth century the great city 
of Suzhou, which had been a gathering place for 
artists and poets in the late Yuan period but had 
declined under persecution by the first Ming 
emperor, was recovering its cultural preeminence, 
which it would retain for about a century. Besides 
being the principal locus for the revival of literati 
painting, it offered the most attractive patronage to 
professional artists, who could benefit also from the 
great collections of old paintings to be seen there. 
Among these professionals, three stand out: Zhou 
Chen (ca. 1455— after 1536) and two who learned 
from him — QiuYing (ca. 1495— 1552) and Tang Yin 
(1470-1523). Zhou and Qiu are represented in this 
exhibition by excellent paintings that display the 
conservative side of their output; judged by these, 
they might seem to substantiate, once more, the 
idea that little had changed since the Song dynasty. 

The subject of Zhou Chen's Peach Blossom Spring 
(cat. 194), which he painted in 1533, was a favorite 
among Suzhou and other big-city audiences, since 
it was another image of escape from the "dusty 
world." In the famous account by Tao Qian 
(365—427), a fisherman discovers a hidden elysium 
(the origin of the Shangri-la story) where refugees 
from an oppressive ruler had lived tor centuries 
without aging. The fisherman returns to his town, 
and a search party is sent to find this blessed place; 
needless to say, they never do. The compartment- 
alized composition of Zhou's painting follows this 
narrative in its structure: passage from the 
foreground, the outside world, to the elysium is 
through a cave; beyond, in the sequestered space, 
the fisherman is seen being greeted by the village 
elders. The picture is executed in brushwork that 
conceals the hand of the artist, answering the 
continuing fondness of the Suzhou patrons for 
Song-styic painting — preference tor the styles of 
the Yuan literati masters had yet to become the 
dominant critical taste. 

QiuYing's Playing the Flute by Pine and Stream 
(cat. 195) is another successful evocation of Song 
style and another image of reclusion.The man 
playing .1 flute in .1 boat is not .1 working fisherman, 
as portrayed, lor instance, in Wu Wei's painting 



(cat. 193), but, as his attributes (Daoist wine-gourd, 
loose robe, flute) indicate, a scholar-gentleman 
enjoying solitude, having come out, presumably, 
from the thatched house seen behind. The 
melancholy sound of the flute merging with the 
splash of water and ■wind in the pine is evoked as a 
familiar metaphor for harmony with nature. The 
spaces opening back successively beyond the flute 
player serve as sounding chambers for these 
imagined sounds and are accomplished with Song- 
like gradations of tonal values. Other works by 
Zhou Chen and Qiu Ying would bring out better 
their individual styles and innovations; these reveal 
them as heirs to a great tradition, who could still 
practice it on a high level. 

The literati, or scholar-amateur, movement in 
painting, which had been concentrated in the 
Suzhou region in the late Yuan, had received a 
serious setback with the persecution of that city 
and its cultural elite by the first Ming emperor. Its 
real comeback, leaving aside a few secondary 
masters active during the first century of the Ming 
who bridged the hiatus without ending it, was 
accomplished by Shen Zhou (1427— 1509). Born 
into a gentry family with land holdings, he was able 
to live comfortably without attempting an official 
career, and devoted much of his leisure to literary 
and artistic pursuits. His status also relieved him of 
the need to master high-level representational 
techniques as a painter; he developed instead an 
amiable and ingenuous personal style in which 
forms, simply textured and bounded by thick brush 
line, are made up into inventive compositions that 
read basically as strong, flat designs. In contrast to 
the escape-and-reclusion themes of so much of the 
output of the Zhe school and other professional 
masters, paintings by Shen Zhou and the Suzhou 
amateur artists who follow him typically take as 
their subjects the local scenery, occasions such as 
outings and gatherings and farewells, the villas and 
gardens of friends — idealized versions, that is, of the 
here-and-now of their real lives. The Eastern Villa 
album (cat. 196) depicts scenes on the estate of 

Shen Zhou's friend Wu Kuan (1435— 1504). Three of 
the original twenty-four leaves have been lost, one 
of them reportedly bearing Shen's own inscription, 
so that the attribution (first made in a colophon 
dated to 1611 by Dong Qichang) is not absolutely 
secure; this might be an exceptionally tine work in 
Shen's style by a follower. In any case, it exemplifies 
the flattening and abstracting direction that literati 
painting was taking in this period, notably in Shen 
Zhou's own hands. 

That direction can be seen also in the works of 
Shen Zhou's principal follower Wen Zhengming 
(1470-1559), who came from a Suzhou gentry 
family, had a brief period of official service in the 
capital, and in principle painted as an amateur artist 
and "retired scholar" without thought of profit. In 
reality, he, Shen Zhou, and the others engaged in an 
intricate pattern of exchanges of goods, services, 
and favors through which they derived substantial 
"incomes" from their painting. Works such as Wen 
Zhengming's Studio of True Appreciation, painted in 
1549 (cat. 197), were usually done at the request of 
the owner of a house or villa and portrayed him in 
it, receiving visitors, surrounded by the trappings of 
high culture and taste, including in this case the 
huge, fantastically eroded Taihu rocks brought from 
a nearby lake shore to be set up like natural 
sculptures in gardens. To have one's dwelling 
depicted by an artist of Wen's status and renown, in 
his cool, disciplined, irreproachably upper-class 
style, invested it with an aura of literati elegance. 

The art of Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming is 
highly style-conscious and self-reflective, deeply 
occupied with its past. Both artists sometimes 
painted landscapes in the manners of the Yuan 
masters Ni Zan and Wang Meng, among others. 
The cautious moves into abstraction in their works 
were in part expressions of disdain for the "form- 
likeness," or verisimilitude, toward which less 
cultivated artists were assumed to aspire; they must 
have impressed art-lovers of their time as strikingly 
original and "modern." To later Chinese 



connoisseurs, and to us, they seem to foreshadow 
the truly revolutionary moves of the later Ming 
without quite realizing them — occupying art- 
historical positions, that is, somewhat like Courbet 
and Manet. If so, Dong Qichang (cat. 200) was to 
be the Chinese Cezanne. Such comparisons are 
perhaps idle and easily discredited; they are meant 
only as loose indicators of how large patterns of 
change in artistic styles, first slower and then more 
radical, might be seen as repeating themselves. 

The self-expressive concept of painting, by which 
the qualities of the work reflect the artist's 
personality and cultivation, was well established in 
Chinese literati painting theory of the Song period 
and was taken to be ideally exemplified, as we saw, 
in the work of such late Yuan masters as Ni Zan 
and Wang Meng. A corollary of this idea, popular in 
China as in the West (the "van Gogh's ear" notion), 
was that eccentricity or even aberration in the 
painter produced corresponding oddities in the 
picture. Audiences for artists identified as "mad," 
then, expected some evidence of "madness" in the 
paintings, and the artists responded. Those such as 
Wu Wei (cat. 193), who cultivated eccentricities of 
behavior and matched them with wild brushwork 
in their paintings, should be distinguished from 
those who suffered real, disabling bouts of mental 
disorder. Two of the latter are represented in this 
exhibition: Xu Wei and Bada Shanren. 

Xu Wei (1521— 1593) is another artist, like Ni Zan, 
whose paintings can scarcely be discussed apart 
from his life. After failing in successive attempts at 
an official career, he made his living as a 
playwright, calligrapher, and painter, exhibiting 
brilliance in all three pursuits. His emotional 
disorder sometimes took violent forms: he 
mutilated himself while in prison, and in a drunken 
fit beat his second wife to death, narrowly escaping 
execution for this. Xu Wei's favorite subjects as a 
painter have no implications of violence, however; 
he painted plants, including fruits and flowers. 

Fig. 3. Xu Wei (1521-1593). Flowers and Other Plants 
(grapevines). Ming dynasty (1368-1644). 
Handscroll, ink on paper; 30 x 1,053.5 an. 
Nanjing Museum. 

which he depicts in assertive strokes of ink 
monochrome. An extreme example of his 
semicontrolled, gestural manner can be seen in a 
section representing grapevines in his great 
handscroll in the Nanjing Museum (fig. 3). Another 
kind of nonconformist brushwork, in which the 
ink is applied so wet that individual strokes cannot 
be distinguished within puddled areas and the 
image is blurred as if by atmosphere, is displayed in 
his large hanging scroll Peonies, Banana Plant, and 
Rock (cat. 198). By accepting a role outside normal 
social demands, Xu Wei freed himself to violate 
established literati disciplines of brushwork and 
form. At the same time, however, he creates here a 
moving evocation of what one might see in the 
corner of one's garden on a foggy morning. In all 
their moves to the very edge of abstraction, 
Chinese artists never renounced representation 
completely, presumably because doing so deprives 
the artist of the power to create visually arresting 
effects through tensions between image and 

The centuries after the Song dynasty had produced 
few distinguished figure painters, but that long- 
neglected subject category rose again to 
prominence in the late Ming, especially in the work 
of Chen Hongshou (1598-1652). Like Xu Wei, he 
lived in the region of Shaoxing in Zhejiang. and 
also like Xu he was an educated man and frustrated 
would-be official who failed the examinations 
repeatedly, settling finally and reluctantly into the 
role of professional painter. Both his level of 
cultivation and his bitterness can be read in his 
paintings. I he nonconformity of his works, 
however, is not manifested in bold, gestural brush 
strokes; Chen paints mostly in the old manner ot 
fastidious fine-line drawing with washes of color. 



His nonconformity appears, instead, in highly 
cultivated archaisms of style that can turn quirky or 
even bizarre. His figures are often drawn in a pre- 
Tang mode, with elongated faces and flattened 
drapery drawing that implies no articulated body 
beneath it. 

In Chen Hongshou's handscroll Tlie Pleasures of He 
Tianzhang (cat. 199), done in collaboration with his 
studio assistant Yan Zhan and a portrait specialist 
named Li Wansheng (who painted the man's face, 
using the new illusionism derived from contacts 
with European pictures), three levels of "reality" and 
artifice are clearly distinguished. He Tianzhang, 
seated at a stone table surrounded by the trappings 
of high culture, is a "real person" looking 
complacently out at us; the diminutive flute player 
at the end (left) of the scroll is a conventional image 
from the past, without substance. He Tianzhang's 
wife or concubine, sitting between them on a 
banana leaf and holding an upright fan, occupies a 
mediating position also in mode of representation; 
she is given some weight and prominence but 
reduced to a type of beauty, presented more as a 
lovely attribute of his than as an individual person. 
Such refinements of style and plays on 
representation bespeak both a highly sophisticated 
audience and an art that can scarcely present its 
imagery any longer in a straightforward way. 

Chen Hongshou is the author of an essay 
castigating both the professional masters, for not 
looking far enough into the past in their search for 
models, and the literati-amateurs, for using their 
social position to claim lofty achievements in art 
beyond their real merits. 9 It is true enough that by 
the late Ming period, a great many amateur artists 
of small technical prowess were engaging in a 
repetitive production of conventional river 
landscapes and the like. One great master, however, 
rescued the whole scholar-amateur tradition from 
its doldrums: Dong Qichang. 

Dong Qichang (1555— 1636) could be seen as a foil 
to Chen Hongshou in almost all respects. He took 
high honors in the official examinations and held 
several positions at court, including that of tutor to 
the heir apparent. During his long periods out of 
service he lived as a rich landholder in Songjiang, 
in Jiangsu Province. His paintings, writings, and 
expertise as a connoisseur were constantly in 
demand — and were always, we can assume, suitably 
recompensed. He was the most respected and 
influential painting theorist of his time, devising a 
grand formulation in which the history of painting 
was divided into two "schools," the "southern" and 
"northern" — the former corresponding loosely 
with the literati tradition, the latter with the 
professional and academy masters. As a painter, 
Dong limited himself almost exclusively to "pure" 

landscape, in which figures virtually never appear, 
much less the narrative or human-interest themes 
of other artists' works. Stylistically, he moved, 
moreover, in a profoundly antinaturalistic direction. 
"For splendid scenery," he wrote, "painting cannot 
equal the real landscape; but for marvels of brush 
and ink, real landscape is not at all the equal of 
painting." He advocated a kind of free "imitation" 
of old styles ( fang), in which the canonical old 
masters are evoked in ways that reveal the artists 
familiarity with them, at no real compromise to his 
originality; good analogies might be to Stravinsky 
in music or Ezra Pound in poetry. All three assume 
a knowing viewer-listener-reader whose experience 
of the work will include recognition of the learned 
allusions embedded in it. 

Dong Qichang's Poetic Feeling at Qixia Monastery, 
painted in 1626 (cat. 200), can be read on a number 
of levels: as a quasi-topographical picture (it 
"represents" a mountain near Nanjing, with its 
famous Buddhist monastery); as a demonstration 
of the brushwork and compositional principles that 
Dong advocated in his theoretical writings; as a 
stark, diagrammatic exposition of Dong's 
understanding of old paintings (it invokes, among 
others, the monumental landscape type from the 
tenth and eleventh centuries); and as a near-abstract 
construction within which dynamic forms interact 
for powerfuDy unsettling effect. And this last 
reading, if one chooses, can be further linked to the 
political situation of the late Ming by seeing the 
picture as a consciously subversive distortion of 
an old type, a deliberate misreading of the 
monumental landscape in which established 
implications of stability and order are denied, as 
Wang Meng (cf. cat. 189) had denied them three 
centuries earlier. 

When the achievements of Xu Wei, Chen 
Hongshou, and Dong Qichang, along with other 
late Ming masters not represented here (notably, 
Wu Bin), are set against Gombrich's "performance" 
art, Danto's "further development unimaginable," 
and Fry's "atrophy of the creative spirit," these 
Western assessments of later Chinese painting fall, 
I think, into true perspective. And the great early 
Qing Individualist masters are still to come. 

The late Ming was also the peak period of pictorial 
woodblock printing, seeing notable advances in the 
quality of block-cutting, refinements of design, and 
the introduction of new techniques for color 
printing. Major artists, including Chen Hongshou, 
produced designs for printed illustrations. In a few 
of the pictures in the 1606 Cheng shi mo yuan 
("Cheng Family Garden of Ink"), the linear designs 
were printed in color through the simple device, 
called yitao ("single block"), of putting pigments on 
different areas of the single woodblock in place of 


ink. This method was soon superseded by another, 
the douban ("pieced-together blocks") method of 
using a number of blocks, one for each color. The 
Chinese way of printing, with the block face-up. 
ink or color applied to it, and the paper laid over it 
and rubbed with a burin, permitted subtle effects of 
shading by applying the pigments unevenly or by 
wiping the block after applying them. No two 
impressions, then, are quite identical. 

This process was superbly utilized in two works 
published in Nanjing by Hu Zhengyan.The 
Shizhuzhai shuhuapu ("Ten Bamboo Studio Manual 
of Calligraphy and Painting") (cat. 201), completed 
in 1627 and issued in eight volumes between then 
and 1633, reproduces paintings of flowers-and-birds, 
bamboo and blossoming plum, garden stones, and 
other subjects by a number of artists. It can be 
admired both as the finest reproductions of 
paintings made anywhere up to that time, and 
simply as color printing of a technical and aesthetic 
refinement similarly unmatched elsewhere. The 
Shizhuzhai qianpu ("Ten Bamboo Studio Letter 
Papers"), issued in four volumes by the same 
publisher in 1644 (cat. 202), added a further 
technical innovation: in addition to the designs in 
ink and colors, "blind blocks" were used to impress 
low-relief patterns into the paper, a process called 
gauffrage. It is hard to believe that these papers can 
really have been intended for use, with letters or 
poems written (in elegant calligraphy, to be sure) 
over their exquisite designs. Happily, examples that 
have survived have no such writing. 

Color printing continued in China, but for 
economic and other reasons still to be explored, the 
achievements of the late Ming in this medium were 
never surpassed and seldom approached there 
afterward. The Japanese learned the techniques of 
color woodblock printing from China and used 
them brilliantly through the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries for the well-known Ukiyo-e 
prints, as well as for the less-known printed books 
called gaju, and these have understandably 
overshadowed later Chinese color printing in 
foreign writings. A late nineteenth-early twentieth- 
century Chinese publication titled Baihua tupu 
("Album of a Hundred Flowers") (cat. 203), based 
on paintings by Zhang Chaoxiang, a flower-and- 
bird specialist active in Tianjin, illustrates this 
observation; the quality of the color printing is still 
high, but represents no real advance over the Ten 
Bamboo Studio publications. The finest pictorial 
printing of the late period is not in color but in the 
ink-line tradition: in stylistic and technical 
refinements, the books designed by Ren Xiong 
(1823— 1857) nearly match those by his model, Chen 
Hongshou of the late Ming period. 


Dong Qichang was unquestionably the most 
influential painter of his age, but his following took 
two more or less opposed directions. In one, his 
creative manipulations of old compositions inspired 
the Individualist masters of the early Qing period 
to attempt similarly radical feats of transforming 
selected materials from their heritage while 
seeming to embrace them. In the other, Dong's 
authoritative pronouncements on the "right" way 
to paint, and the possibility of deriving a consistent 
set of compositional techniques, brushwork 
conventions, and type-forms from his more routine 
works, encouraged the emergence of an orthodoxy. 
Such an orthodoxy took shape, in fact, in the 
paintings and writings of the so-called Four Wangs 
of the Ming-Qing transition — Wang Shimin 
(1592— 1680), Wangjian (i598-i677),Wang Hui 
(1632-1717), and Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715) — along 
with Wu Li (1632-1718) andYun Shouping 
(1633— 1690), who have collectively come to be 
called the Six Orthodox Masters. Their following, 
in turn, has continued down to the present, 
although significant contributions to the style 
declined precipitously after their time. An 
appreciation of Orthodox school landscape, and the 
ability to discriminate between the different hands 
engaged in it, has remained the very hallmark of 
traditional connoisseurship in Chinese painting. 
Whole exhibitions, symposia, and book-length 
studies have been devoted to the Orthodox school, 
and deservedly. It will receive less attention here, in 
keeping with the argument of this essay and the 
direction of this exhibition, in which only one of 
the Four Wangs — Wang Yuanqi — is represented. 

Wang Shimin is credited with establishing the 
school. As a well-to-do young collector he had 
studied painting with Dong Qichang, and it was he 
who reduced Dong's prodigious artistic 
achievements to a learnable system, in keeping with 
his own more limited talents and conservative taste. 
The "right" or "true" lineage of painting that Wang 
Shimin and his followers defined was set in 
opposition to other currents of painting in their 
time: what we would regard as a healthy, exuberant 
diversification of styles and subjects in late 
Ming-early Qing painting they saw as 
fragmentation and decline. Variety in subject matte) 
was far from their purpose: an overall title such as 
River Landscape with Houses ami Trees would cover 
most of their output. Spokesmen today for this kind 
of painting exhort us to "I 00k .it the brushwork. 
not the scenery!" but one can wish nonetheless for 
a bit more variety in the scenery. Wang Shimin s 
fellow townsman and friend Wangjian, through an 
abundant and consistently high-level output, helped 
to consolidate the style and establish its 
preeminence in the eves ot critics ot their 



persuasion. The third of the Wangs, Wang Hui, was 
taken on while still young as a protege by the older 
two and trained in the Orthodox manner. He had 
more natural talent and technique than his mentors 
and could imitate the old masters so successfully 
that he was much in demand as a forger. He went 
on to a highly successful career, including a period 
m the imperial court. 

The youngest of the Four Wangs was Wang Yuanqi, 
who was the grandson of Wang Shimin and so 
belonged in the direct succession of the "true 
lineage." He held high positions in the Manchu 
court and edited an imperial anthology of writings 
on painting and calligraphy. Given his wealth and 
position, he could have achieved a successful career 
in painting merely by carrying on the family style. 
Instead, he became the most innovative and 
interesting of the four, the equal of the Individualist 
masters in his sophisticated manipulations of 
semiabstract form. Even more strikingly, he 
accomplished this within the boundaries of the 
Orthodox style. No artist who followed that lineage 
after him was to be so successful in revitalizing it. 
Wang Yuanqi 's Complete in Soul, Sufficient in Spirit 
(cat. 204), painted in 1708, is a good example ot 
how, while seeming to replicate the over-familiar 
river landscape type of his school, he could build a 
formal, near-abstract structure charged with 
complex tensions. In his inscription he argued that 
although paintings in the Dong Yuan— Juran manner 
(i.e., the "southern school" style) had to be 
sufficient in "spirit and soul," these qualities could 
not be attained apart from technical mastery. "But 
this," he flatteringly assured the dedicatee, "is not a 
matter one can discuss with shallow-minded 

Wu Li has been of special interest to Western 
scholars because he was converted to Christianity, 
becoming a Catholic priest in 1688 and serving in 
his late years as a missionary in Shanghai. Only a 
few of his paintings, however, betray any contact 
with European art; most are pure landscapes in his 
version of the Orthodox manner, in which the 
earth masses seem to have been constructed in an 
almost modular way out of simple forms and are 
given an unnaturally consistent, sometimes furry 
texture that eliminates surface differentiation. Wu 
Li's Reading "The Book of Changes" in a Streamside 
Pavilion (cat. 205), painted in 1678, displays this 
manner, which could be seen, like Wang Yuanqi s 
painting, as doing for the traditional river landscape 
something comparable to, but far less radical than, 
what the Cubists would later do for still lifes. 

Contemporaneous with the Orthodox landscapists, 
spanning the tumultuous Ming-Qing transition and 
affected by it in different ways, were the artists who 
have come to be loosely grouped as the 

Individualists. Five are represented here: Kuncan, 
Hongren, Gong Xian, Bada Shanren, and Shitao. 
They were mostly associated with local schools of 
painting in Nanjing andYangzhou (Jiangsu 
Province), and in Anhui Province, places where 
patronage and other conditions were favorable. 
Only Bada Shanren was isolated from these great 
centers, working in Nanchang, in Jiangxi Province, 
where there was no notable tradition of painting. 
All except Gong Xian were Buddhist monks, 
having joined the order, as a great many did in the 
early Qing, either out of religious convictions 
(Kuncan) or as a way to escape involvement in 
politically dangerous secular affairs; Hongren had 
already been linked with an anti-Manchu 
movement, while Bada and Shitao were both 
descendants of the Ming imperial house and 
therefore under suspicion. Although more or less 
marginalized in their time by the "mainstream" 
Orthodox masters and their adherents, the 
Individualist artists had their own circles of 
admirers, and some following in the eighteenth 
century. Interest in them was reawakened in the 
second quarter of our century, when major artists 
took up their strikingly "modern-looking" styles as 
the basis tor a revival of landscape painting. 

The paintings of Kuncan (1612— ca. 1674) are a good 
beginning, since an understanding of how they 
differ fundamentally from those of the Four Wangs, 
to which they may at first appear similar, will 
illuminate the Orthodox-Individualist distinction. 
His Clear Sky Over Verdant Hills, painted in 1660 
(cat. 206), is an outstanding example. Seen in the 
original or in a good reproduction, it reveals itself 
immediately as not made up, as Orthodox-school 
landscapes are, of repeated, conventional forms 
rendered in a neat system of brush strokes, nor are 
the forms so clearly demarcated. On the contrary, 
the heavily vegetated hillsides, depicted in loose, 
disorderly brushwork that imparts to them an 
earthy naturalism, read as richly variegated 
continuums of space and matter, imagery and 
texture; the visual experience of moving over the 
surface of one of Kuncan 's pictures is, accordingly, 
more than usually akin to that of moving through 
natural terrain and absorbing transitory sensory 
stimuli. The effect is personal to the artist, a deeply 
troubled man who found no comfortable place in 
the tortured world of human affairs and took solace 
in immersion in nature. His paintings typically lay 
out an ideal narrative, the kind of excursion 
reported in his long inscriptions: from a secure 
base, a thatched house shown in the foreground, 
one moves upward along paths and through ravines, 
perhaps passing a Buddhist temple, sometimes (as 
here) going at last through a gate leading still 
farther outward. Implied always is the safe return to 
the security of one's hermitage. 


Kuncan spent his later years in monasteries in the 
area of Nanjing, but also traveled to Anhui and 
knew the scenery of Huangshan, the spectacular 
range of granite peaks that has inspired poets and 
painters from the late Ming, when it was first made 
accessible to pilgrimages both religious and literary, 
down to the present day. In the early Qing a school 
of painters grew up in southern Anhui that took 
Huangshan as their principal subject; the central 
figure was Hongren (1610-1664). Responding in 
part to the bare, geometncized patterns of 
Huangshan rock formations, the Anhui landscapists 
most often worked in a dry-brush linear manner, 
taking Ni Zan and some works by Dong Qichang 
(cf. cats. 188, 200) as their principal models, 
relinquishing washes and texture-stroke systems for 
effects that are often stark and semiabstract. Their 
pictures thus occupy an opposite pole from 
Kuncan's dense textures and variegated forms. 
Hongren's Peaks and Ravines at Jiuqi (cat. 207) is less 
severe and geometricized than some others of his 
works (notably, the great Sound of Autumn in the 
Honolulu Academy of Arts), but exemplifies his 
ability to create, within his self-imposed limitations, 
effects of substantiality and even monumentality in 
his landscapes. Sparse pines and other trees grow 
from rocky crevices; in the lower right, a path leads 
up from a bridge to a simple pavilion. This, no less 
than Kuncan's, is a landscape inviting imaginary 
engagement with a somehow believable world. 

Engaging the viewer in visionary worlds that 
cannot simply be dismissed as convention and 
artifice, as most of the landscapes of the Orthodox 
masters can, is the large project underlying the best 
painting of the Individualists. They too plunder the 
past, but less for style-conscious allusiveness, more 
to retrieve pictorial devices that enhance the power 
and presence of their images. For a few of them, 
including Gong Xian (1618-1689), the leading 
master of the Nanjing school in the early Qing, the 
search extended even outside the boundaries of 
their own painting tradition, to the European 
pictorial art that had by this time become known 
to Chinese artists through paintings and prints 
(principally, engravings in books) brought from 
Europe for proselytizing uses by Jesuit missionaries. 
The question of what seventeenth-century Chinese 
painters adopted from European pictorial art is 
complex and controversial, and it is enough for the 
present purpose to point out that the rendering of 
light and shade, air and space, seen in such Gong 
Xian paintings as his Summer Mountains after Rain 
(cat. 209) cannot be accounted for without looking 
beyond Chinese precedents to European pictures. 
The indistinct and overlapping brush strokes on the 
slopes, for instance, are not so much the texture 
strokes ot Chinese practice as a brush equivalent of 
Western style stippling. The inky depths of the 
groves ot leafy trees, set against strange, ambiguous 

areas of light in which empty houses appear, seem 
similarly foreign to Chinese landscape. In Gong 
Xian's hands, the European illusionistic devices are 
used, not as one might expect for the portrayal of 
comfortingly real-world scenery, but for 
otherworldly visions; and the whole effect is 
somber and unsettling. Gong is another painter 
who was somehow involved in the throes of 
dynastic change — the short-lived court of the last 
Ming pretender was located in Nanjing — so that 
political readings of his dark landscapes seem 

Bada Shanren, or Zhu Da (1626— 1705), is the other 
famously "mad" artist (along with Xu Wei) in 
Chinese painting. In the late 1670s, after spending 
some years in Buddhist monasteries near 
Nanchang, he experienced bouts of crazy behavior; 
opinion is still divided over whether they were 
feigned to escape suspicion of political subversion 
or, as seems more likely, real. He burned his monk's 
robes and returned to secular life, but according to 
contemporary reports never spoke again, 
communicating instead by laughing and crying and 
gesturing. His paintings, which he produced 
prolifically in later years, came to be in great 
demand and probably were his chief means of 
support. He was not, like the other Individualist 
masters, primarily a landscapist; his best-known 
works are enigmatic portrayals of birds and fish, 
along with plants and rocks, in which the creatures 
strike unnaturally expressive poses, often seeming to 
project negative human feelings — suspicion, 
disgruntlement, anger — along with a dark humor. 
The models for these came chiefly from the 
mysterious pictures of such subjects by Muqi and 
other Chan (Zen) Buddhist monk-artists of the late 
Song and Yuan, which are known now only 
through examples in Japan, since Chinese collectors 
for the most part did not consider them worth 
preserving. Bada must have seen examples, and 
perhaps a contemporary practice by monk- 
amateurs, 111 the local monasteries. His Ducks and 
Lotus (cat. 210), painted in 1696, is a striking 
example. The oft-balance poses and cryptic, 
mismatched interrelating of the two birds, the way 
the lower-right rock hovers without a solid base, 
and the way the contours ot rock and lotus stalks 
repeat and intersect as thcv twist upward, confusing 
mass and space, are among the devices that give the 
picture, like others of Bada 's, powerful instabilities 
which viewers both then and now are inclined to 
ascribe to Ins bottled-up "madness." 

The youngest ot the Individualist masters was 
Yuanji, or Shitao | K142-1707), who like Bada 
Shanren was descended from one ot the Ming 
rulers. Since Shitao was only a child when the 
Ming dynasty tell, the rupture was tor him less 
traumatic. Late in his lite he renounced Ins Ming 



loyalist stance altogether, met the Kangxi emperor 
on one of his southern tours, and traveled to the 
capital in Beijing, probably as the guest ot a 
Manchu official. During his active years he lived for 
periods of time in each of the major centers of 
painting — Anhui Province, Nanjing, and 
Yangzhou — and absorbed and utilized, always on 
his own terms, the local styles. In the end, he 
became independent of all of them, and an artist of 
unparalleled versatility. It was Shitao who, as noted 
earlier in a contrast with Dong Qichang, conceived 
the extraordinary project of relinquishing all 
established styles and making a fresh start, as if he 
could return to a state prior to the formulation of 
conventions. "Before the old masters established 
methods," he wrote, "I wonder what methods they 
followed." To raise the question was to challenge 
directly the Orthodox masters' insistence on "right 
method"; what Shitao advocated was a "method 
that is no method." The rhetoric of the claim, 
needless to say, could not be matched in his actual 
artistic practice. The attempt, however, while it 
ultimately led (along with ravages of age and illness, 
commercialization, and overproduction) to a 
marked decline in much of the work of his last 
years, produced some strange and wonderful 
pictures. It also, together with the drastic failure of 
creative energy within the Orthodox school of 
landscape around the same time, left a curious and 
not entirely healthy legacy for the artists who 
followed in the eighteenth century, confronting 
them with still another "end of the history of art." 
The most interesting ot them turned away from 
landscape altogether to pursue other subjects, and 
landscape would not recover its central importance 
until the twentieth century. 

Two of Shitao's finest landscapes are in the 
exhibition. Neither is dated. Pure Sounds of Hills and 
Streams (cat. 208) is probably from his years in 
Nanjing, 1680— 1687, when he was affected by the 
styles of the local artists — notably Gong Xian 
(cf. cat. 209). The heavy application of dotting over 
the surface, which seems to vibrate apart from the 
solid masses and to convey a psychological rather 
than a physical state, is a feature also of Gong's late 
period, the 1680s. At the right of Shitao's picture, a 
path ascends a ravine to disappear in fog; at the left, 
in a similarly constricted space, a waterfall seen at 
the top emerges below to flow under a roofed 
bridge in which two men relax, listening to the 
sounds and enjoying the cool. Clear Autumn in 
Huaiyang (cat. 211), judging from its style, must be 
much later; Jonathan Hay dates it to 1705 and 
associates it with a flooding that Yangzhou suffered 
then. 10 In brushwork it stops well short of the more 
extreme essays toward "stylelessness" seen in other 
works of Shitao's last years; in its handling of the 
flat recession along the river, it would appear to 
betray some acquaintance with Western pictorial 

techniques, which were easily accessible by this 
time to any artist who chose to draw on them — 
and many were doing so, in diverse ways. Huaiyang 
is an old name for the city ofYangzhou, where 
Shitao lived as a professional artist in his late years. 

Gong Xian and seven other artists active in 
Nanjing in the early Qing period are designated in 
Chinese writings as the "Eight Masters of Jinling" 
(an old name for the city). Two of the others are 
Zou Zhe (1636— ca. 1708) and Gao Cen (active 
ca. 1645— 1689.) A distinct school style runs through 
the output of the Nanjing masters and is well 
exemplified by Zou Zhe's twelve-leaf Album of 
Landscapes (cat. 2 12). The style includes a preference 
for angular divisions of the picture area — strong 
diagonals, V-shaped compositions — and a fondness 
for rich textures in both earth surfaces and 
vegetation. This textural richness responds to, 
among other factors, the richly forested terrain 
around Nanjing, just as the linear, geometricized 
style of the Anhui masters responds to the fractured 
rock masses of Huangshan. Dark, mysterious groves 
of trees often dominate Nanjing-school landscapes, 
and can even, as in two of Zou Zhe's album leaves, 
serve as the sole subject ot the picture. By contrast, 
Gao Cen's large hanging scroll Hie Temple on 
Jinshan (cat. 214) avoids the local manner — or any 
established manner, in fact — to give a close visual 
report of a famous sight, using all the techniques 
for convincing representation that an artist of his 
time and place could muster, including some 
adopted from Western pictures. Jinshan ("Gold 
Mountain") is an island in theYangzi River near 
the neighboring city ot Zhenjiang; topped by a 
Buddhist temple and pagoda that were visible from 
atar, the island was a familiar landmark for travelers. 


By the early decades of the eighteenth century the 
older centers of painting had been replaced in 
importance by the city ofYangzhou. Artists and 
litterateurs were attracted by the generous 
patronage of salt merchants and other wealthy men 
who settled there. Painters with different styles and 
specialties, polished professionals and self-styled 
amateurs (who mostly depended, nonetheless, on 
their painting for income), responded to a diversity 
of tastes and demands. 

Two depictions of real places by Yangzhou masters 
exemplify this diversity. One, in handscroll form 
(cat. 213), depicts the Zhan Yuan ("Garden tor 
Gazing"), probably the garden of that name on the 
Qin-Huai Canal in Nanjing, which still can be seen 
today, although much altered and restored. The 
artist is Yuan Jiang, who was active from the 1690s 
until about 1746. Such a work was ordinarily 
commissioned by the owner of the garden, who 


would then invite noted literary people to add 
inscriptions to it. The choice of Yuan Jiang as 
painter indicates a desire for a detailed and 
descriptive picture in the conservative tradition 
stretching back to the Song dynasty. Yuan 
accomplished this on a high technical level, laying 
out his panorama of the garden so that the viewer 
can explore its spaces and appreciate its elegance. 

The aim of Gao Xiang (1688-1753) in Finger-Snap 
Pavilion (cat. 215), by contrast, is certainly not close 
description, but rather to apply his loose, amiable 
style to conveying the rustic charm of the place, the 
residence of a noted monk at the Tianning Temple 
in Yangzhou. A Buddhist altar is visible in the upper 
story of the open building, and the monk himself 
and a visitor appear outside, under shaggy trees. 
Yuan Jiang s patron, given such a picture by his 
chosen artist, would have returned it indignantly, 
complaining of sloppiness; the recipient of Gao s 
would have reacted the same way to one in Yuan s 
style, calling it fussy and stiff. Both artists worked in 
response to well-understood expectations, instilling 
their paintings with visual pleasures of very different 
kinds. The ingenuous, technically less demanding 
mode seen in Gao Xiang's work would be favored 
and developed in interesting directions throughout 
the eighteenth century by the artists known 
collectively as the Eight Strange Masters ofYangzhou. 

Some time in the second decade of the century, 
around the end of the Kangxi era, with the deaths 
within a few years of the major early Qing 
landscapists Wang Hui, WangYuanqi, and Shitao, 
Chinese painting seems to undergo a great change. 
Whatever economic and other factors we introduce 
in accounting for it and however we assess its 
effect — it might be seen as the onset of decline, but 
many specialists in Chinese painting would argue 
vehemently against such a reading — we must 
recognize that painting of the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries was on the whole milder, 
flatter in all senses than that of the late Ming and 
early Qing, less concerned with creating spacious 
and otherwise plausible worlds or stirring effects 
and less engaged in the large, complex formal and 
expressive problems of its predecessors. Interest in 
landscape declined among the best artists and their 
audiences, who turned their attention to figures 
(including portraits) and flower and plant subjects, 
along with some fresh imagery, unknown in earlier 
painting, that expanded the artists' thematic 
repertories. The fondness of some eighteenth- 
century artists, especially those active in Yangzhou, 
for sketchy, quirky, and otherwise unorthodox 
brush manners, and for compositions that are 
sometimes equally odd. has earned them 
reputations as nonconformists within Qing 
painting. Prominent among them are the Eight 
Strange Masters, or Eight Eccentrics ofYangzhou. 

One of the eight, Gao Xiang, has already been 
introduced (cat. 215). A more serious and prolific 
artist numbered in the group is HuaYan 
(1682-1756). Born in the southeast coastal province 
of Fujian, he was active in his later years in 
Hangzhou and Yangzhou, supporting himself by 
producing a large and heterogeneous body of 
painting that encompasses nearly all subjects and an 
astonishing range of styles, drawing on predecessors 
as diverse as the Song Academy masters and Shitao. 
He is unmatched in his time for group figure 
compositions, of which Tlie Golden Valley Garden 
(cat. 219), painted in 1732, is an outstanding 
example. This was the garden of Shi Chong, a 
fabulously rich man of the third century. HuaYan 
portrays him with his concubine Lii Zhu ("Green 
Pearl"), who was an accomplished flutist. Rocks, 
trees, flowers, and servants surround the two in an 
arrangement that harks back to the "space cells" of 
early painting. 

Another who was attracted from his native place in 
Fujian by the richer patronage and livelier 
atmosphere ofYangzhou was Huang Shen 
(1687— after 1768). The local style he learned in 
Fujian was too finished and detailed for Yangzhou 
taste, to which he accommodated by moving into a 
looser brush manner that had the added benefit of 
permitting faster and more copious production. 
Best known for figures, he also painted landscapes 
and quickly rendered scenes from nature, such as 
Willows and Egrets (cat. 216). Here the gestural 
flourishing of a heavily loaded brush for the broad, 
suffusing strokes at the base of the trees and for the 
trees themselves creates a sense of the momentary, 
which is caught also in the stalking movements of 
the birds through shallow water. The picture 
demonstrates, among other things, how an artist 
with Huang Shen's solid training can make 
seemingly free, calligraphic brush strokes serve 
descriptive and evocative ends. 

Li Shan (1686— after 1760) was born near Yangzhou 
into a scholar-official family. He himself attempted 
a government career and spent some time at the 
court in Beijing during the reign of the Kangxi 
emperor (1662-1722), whose special favor he 
enjoyed as a poet and painter. Later, after he had 
lost imperial support and become frustrated with 
officialdom, he settled in Yangzhou as a professional 
artist. In a stylistic shift like Huang Shen's. he gave 
up the more traditional and careful manner he had 
learned at court to do vigorously executed pictures 
of trees, flowers, and other plants, along with 
vegetables and other mundane subjects. In addition 
to their decorative value, all these carried auspicious 
and symbolic meanings that fitted them for hanging 
on particular occasions. Prominent in Li Shan's 
oeuvre, accordingly, are large hanging scrolls such as 
his [755 Pine, Wisteria, and Peonies (cat. 217). Here 



the quirkiness appears in the attenuated, twisting 
shapes of the rock and trees, and the odd, quasi- 
postural way they answer each other, like partners 
in an ungainly dance. In some of his smaller works, 
notably album leaves, Li Shan used opaque 
pigments and run-together brush strokes in ways 
that opened new stylistic options for nineteenth- 
and twentieth-century painters. 

The real amateur of the group was Jin Nong 
(1687-1764). Although his claim that he did not 
begin painting until he was fifty is exaggerated, it is 
true that most of his dated works are from his late 
years. Earlier he made his living as an itinerant 
antique dealer and calligrapher. It was, of course, 
not new for an amateur to paint and sell his works; 
what was audacious and attractive about Jin Nong 
was how he made no effort to conceal his 
amateurism, even flaunting it. Not limiting his 
paintings to the technically undemanding types 
favored by the scholar-amateurs (unpeopled river 
landscapes, ink monochrome bamboo and other 
plants), he took on subjects that usually required 
professional skills — figures, including religious 
images and portraits; horses; illustrations to old 
poems; figure-in-landscape compositions. All these 
and others he did with an ingenuous air, relying on 
his cultivated taste, familiarity with old painting, 
and a sure and sensitive hand developed through 
practicing antiquarian calligraphy. His inscriptions 
to paintings often claim illustrious models; on the 
leaf representing two men strolling and conversing 
in a forest from his 1759 Album of Landscapes and 
Figures (cat. 218), for instance, he wrote that it was 
based on a work by the twelfth-century Academy 
master Ma Hezhi. In an age and setting in which 
fine technique had become a bit boring, the 
demand for Jin Nong's paintings was more than he 
could keep up with, and he used "ghost-painters" 
to do works in his style for him to sign. 

Most of these complex stratagems tor instilling 
freshness into a very late stage in a very old 
tradition will seem familiar to us. We can conclude 
by recognizing also that Chinese painting from the 
fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries (the 
Yuan to early Qing periods) presents the single 
other case in world art of what can follow the 
deliberate relinquishing — even, on the theoretical 
level, the discrediting — of representation as the 
underlying project for a highly evolved tradition of 
painting. Later Chinese painting also demonstrates 
that after artistic "progress" — in the sense of a 
coherent series of pictorial modes that seems to 
exhibit a cumulative mastery of representational 
techniques — had come to an end, stagnation could 
still be staved off by successive manipulations of the 
past, some of them brilliantly conceived, all (at least 
until the late Shitao) preserving basic strengths from 
the tradition while transforming it. IfWestern 

painting, at that future moment when three 
centuries will have elapsed since it passed through 
the corresponding turning point, can look back 
over those centuries and claim comparable 
successes, it will be cause for rejoicing. 

Fig. 2. After James F CahiU, The 
Compelling Image (Cambridge, 
Mass. : Harvard University Press, 
1982), pi 2.15. 

Fig. 3. After James F CahiU, 
Parting at the Shore (New York 
and Tokyo: Weathcriiill, 197S), 
pis. 78-80. 


1. E. H. Gombrich, Art and 
Illusion: A Study in the 
Psychology of Pictorial 
Representation, The A. W. Mellon 
Lectures in the Fine Arts 1956, 
2d ed. (New York: Pantheon, 
IQ 65), pp. 148-50 (italics 

2. Sherman Lee, cited in Arthur 
C. Danto, "Ming and Qing 
Paintings," in Embodied 
Meanings: Critical Essays & 
Aesthetic Meditations (Farrar, 
Straus and Giroux, 1994), p. 35. 
For the catalog essay, see 
Sherman E. Lee, "Ming and 
Qing Painting," in Howard 
Rogers and Sherman E. Lee, 
Mastem'orks of Ming and Qing 
Painting from the Forbidden City 
(Lansdale, Pa.: International 
Arts Council, 1988), pp. 17-31: 
this quotation is on p. 17. 

3. Danto, "Ming and Qing 
Paintings," pp. 34-35. 

4. Roger Fry, cited in Danto, 
"Ming and Qing Paintings," 
P- 35- 

5. James CahiU, The Compelling 
Image: Nature and Style in 
Seventceth- Century Painting, The 
Charles Eliot Norton Lectures 
(Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1982), p. 5. 

6. Richard Barnhart, "Wang 
Shen and Late Northern Sung 
Painting," in International 
Symposium on Art Historical 
Studies, no. 2,"Ajiya m okeru 
sanzui no hyogen" ("Landscape 
Expression in Asia") (Kyoto: 
Taniguchi Foundation. 1983), 
pp. 62-70. 

7. Maggie Bickford, Ink Plum: 
Tlie Making of a Chinese 
Scholar-Painting Genre (New 
York and Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 

8. Richard Vinograd," Family 
Properties: Personal Context 
and Cultural Pattern in Wang 
Meng's Pien Mountains of 
1366," Ars Orientalis 8 (1982), 
pp. 1-29. 

9. A translation of Chen 
Hongshou is in James Cahill, 
Tlie Distant Mountains: Chinese 
Panning of the Late Ming 
Dynasty (Tokyo and New York: 
Weatherhill. 19S2), pp. 264-65. 

10. Jonathan Hay, "Shitao s Late 
Work (1697-1707): A Thematic 
Map" (Ph.D. diss., Yale 
University), vol. 1, p. 45: and 
vol. 2, pp. 60—61, n. 55. 









Ornament in the shape of hooked clouds 

with central bird motif 

Neolithic period, Hongshan culture 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 

Nephrite jade; 1. 22.4 x w. 11.5 x d. 0.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1979 at Sanguandianzi, Lingyuan city, 

Liaoning Province 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 

Ornament in the shape of a pig-dragon (zhulong) 


(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 BCE) 

Nephrite jade; h. 15.7 x vv. 10.4 X d. 4.3 cm 

Found in Jianping county, Liaoning Province 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 

Prismatic tube (coug) 

Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 

Nephrite jade; h. 8.8 x max. width 17.6 cm 

Unearthed in 1986 from Fanshan tomb No. i2,Yuhang, 

Zhejiang Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and 

Archaeology, Hangzhou 

Prismatic tube (cong) 

Neolithic period, Liangzhu culture 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 

Nephrite jade; li. 5 x max. width 74 cm 

Unearthed in 1982 from Fuquanshan tomb No. 9, 

Qingpu county, Shanghai 

Shanghai Museum 


Prismatic tube (cong) 


(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 29.7 x max. width 0.1 cm 
Unearthed in [982 in Wujin county.Jiangsu Province 
Nanjing Museum 

Knife (dao) with semihuman mask motifs 
Neolithic period, Longshan culture 
(ca. 3000— ca. 1700 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 23.7 x w. 7.7 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

Blade (zhang) 

XlA OR $HANG PBRIOD (c\1. 2200-ca. 1 100 UCE) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 37 x w. 11.2 x d. 0.6 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

Blade (zhang) 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Nephrite jade; 1. 68 x w. io.s cm 

Unearthed in (986 from Sanxingdui pit No. a, 

Guanghan. Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provindal Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Chengdu 

Chime with design of crouching tiger 

Shanc period (ca. 1000-c.i. iioobce) 

Stone: I. S4 x w. 42 \ d. 2.5 cm 

Unearthed in [950 atWuguan village, Anyang, 

I kn.111 Province 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 

Four figures: (1) bird with ram's horns (2) kneeling 

human (3) bird (4) bird-headed human 

Shang period (ca. i6oo-ca. noo bce) 

Nephrite jade; (i) h. 4.9 cm (2) h. 5.6 cm (3) h. 10 cm 

(4) h. 9.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1976 from Fu Hao tomb No. 5, Anyang, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 

Dagger-ax (^e) with grooved blade 
Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 25.4 x w. 6.1 cm 
Unearthed in 1983 at East Sidaoxiang, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

Fourteen-piece burial mask 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1 100-771 bce) 

Nephrite jade; max. width 10.7 cm 

Unearthed in 1990 from Guo State tomb No. 2001, 

Sanmenxia, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 



Ornamental plaque with interlacery and animal 

mask designs 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 7. 1 cm 

Unearthed at Xiasi, Xichuan county, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 



A pair of dragon-shaped pendants 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Nephrite jade; 1. 11. 4 cm 

Unearthed at Pingliangtai, Huaiyang county, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 


Ring (huan) with abstract designs 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Nephrite jade; diam. 10.6 cm 

Unearthed in 1991 at Xujialing, Xichuan county, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 


Disk (hi) with grain pattern 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Nephrite jade; diam. i8.y cm, depth o.y cm 

Unearthed in Zhouzhi county, Shaarud Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 


Winged horse 

Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 ce) 

Nephrite jade; h. 4.2 X 1. 7.8 X w. 2.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

Chimera (bixie) 
Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 ce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 13.5 x w. 8.5 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


Vessel (lian or zun) with design of deities, animals, 

and masks 

(Detail on facing page) 

Western Jin dynasty (265-316) 

Nephrite jade; h. 10.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1991 from the tomb of Liu Hong, 

Huangshantou,Anxiang county, Hunan Province 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics, Anxiang County, 

Hunan Province 




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Sixteen-piece belt 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Nephrite jade; 1. of pieces 3.5-5 cm 

Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum. Xi'an 

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Vessel (Jue) 

Xia period (ca. 2100-ca. 1600 bce) 
Bronze; h. 11.7 x w. 14. 1 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

Square cauldron (fang ding) with thread-relief frieze of 

animal masks, and nipple pattern 

Shang period (ca. i6oo-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 82 x w. 50 cm 

Unearthed in 1990 at Qian village, Pinglu county, 

Shanxi Province 

Sh.mxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 


Square vessel (Jang zun) with four rams 

(Detail on facing page) 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 58.3 cm, w. of mouth 52.4 cm 

Found in 1938 atYueshanpu, Ningxiang, Hunan Province 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 

Vessel (zun) in the shape of a bird, inscribed "Fu Hao" 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 45.9 cm 

Unearthed in 1976 from Fu Hao tomb No. 5, Anyang, 

Henan Province 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 


Vessel (zim) in the shape of an elephant 

SHANG PERIOD (ca. lOoo-ca. noo BCE) 

Bronze; h. 20.5 x I. 22. X cm 

Found in 1975 at Shixingshan, Liling, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Vessel (you), inscribed 

(Details on facing page) 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 37.7 cm 

Found in 1970 at Huangcai village, Ningxiang county, 

Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

Vessel (zun) in the shape of a boar 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 40 X 1. 72 cm 

Unearthed in 1981 at Chuanxingshan, Xiangtan county, 

Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Vessel {gong) in zoomorphic shape 

Suang pbriod (ca. 1600-ca. iioo bce) 

Bronze; h. 19 x 1. 43 x w. 13.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 at Taohua village, Shilou county, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxj Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 


Basin (pan) with coiling dragon design 

(Detail on facing page) 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. uoo bce) 

Bronze; h. 26 cm, diam. of mouth 61.6 cm 

Unearthed in 1984 at Chenshan village, Wenling, 

Zhejiang Province 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics.Wenling 


Mask with protruding eyes 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 

Bronze; h. 65 x w. 138 cm 

Unearthed in 1986 from Sanxingdui pit No. 2, 

Guanghan, Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Chengdu 


Vessel (lei) with elephant trunk handles and 

buffalo liorns 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 70.2 cm, diam. of mouth 22. 8 cm 
Unearthed in tySo at Zhuwajie, Peng county, 
Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 

Vessel (rim), inscribed 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1 100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 38.8 cm, diam. of mouth 28.6 cm 

Unearthed in [963 atjia village. Baoji county, 

Sh.unxi Province 

Baoji Municipal Museum 


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Bell (bo) with four tigers 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 44.3 x w. 39.6 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


Drum (git) with abstract zoomorphic designs 

Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. 1100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 75.5 cm, diam. of drum 39.5 cm 

Found in 1977 in Chongyang county, Hubei Province 

Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan 


Two-handled vessel (gui) with ox-head motifs, 


(Detail on facing page) 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 31 cm, diam. of mouth 25 cm 

Unearthed in 1981 from tomb No. I, Zhifangtou village, 

Baoji county, Shaanxi Province 

Baoji Municipal Museum 


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Vessel (gong), inscribed 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 28.7 x 1. 38 cm 

Unearthed in 1976 at Zhuangbai village, Fufeng county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Zhouyuan Museum, Xi'an 


Vessel (zun) in the shape of an elephant 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 net) 

Bronze; h. 21 x 1. 38 cm 

Unearthed in 1975 at Rujia village, Baoji county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Baoji Municipal Museum 

3 8. 

Covered spouted vessel (he) in the shape of a 

four-legged duck, inscribed 

(Detail on facing page) 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 26 cm 

Unearthed in 1980 from theYing State tomb at 

Pingdingshan, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 



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Two-handled vessel (gui), inscribed 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 26.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1986 from theYing State tomb at 

Pingdingshan, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 


Vessel (/hi), inscribed 

Western Zhou pbriod (ca. 1100-771 bc:e) 

Bronze; h. 65.4 cm, diam. of mouth 19.7 cm 

Unearthed in 1976 at Zhuangbai village, Futeng county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Zhouyuan Museum, Xi'an 


Rectangular vessel {fang yi), inscribed 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100-771 bck) 

Bronze; h. 38.5 x 1. of mouth 20 x vv. of mouth 17 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 at Qijia village, Fufeng county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 


Miniature carriage with human guardians including 

one-legged watchman, birds, and crouching tigers 

Western Zhou period (ca. 1100- — 1 bce) 

Bronze; h. 9.1 x 1. 13.7 x w. 11.3 cm 

Unearthed in lySo at Shangguo village. Wenxi county. 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 


Four-sided vessel (Jiiif.i; hit) with square base and 

lotus-petal crown 

Eastern Zhou, Spuing and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 

Bronze; h. 66 x max. width 34 cm 

Unearthed in l°HK from tomb No. 251,Jinsheng village, 

Taiyuan, Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 


Vessel (/hi) with bird-shaped lid 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 

Bronze: h. 41 x w. 2;. 5 cm 

Unearthed in [988 from tomb No. 2$i,Jinsheng village. 

Taiyuan. Shanxi Province 

Sh.nixi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 


Square-based vessel (fang hu) with lotus-petal crown 

and crane 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Bronze; h. 126 x 1. of mouth 30.5 x w. of mouth 24.9 cm 
Unearthed in 1923 at Lijialou, Xinzheng county, 
Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 

4 6. 

Mythical beast 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn period (770-476 bce) 

Bronze inlaid with malachite; h. 48 cm 

Unearthed in 1990 from Xujialing tomb No. 9, 

Xichuan county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Institute of Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhen^zhou 


Tapir bearing figure holding interlace tray 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Bronze; h. 15 cm, diam, of tray 11 cm 

Unearthed in 1965 at Fenshuiling, Changzhi, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 

Rectangular basin (pan) with turtle, fish, and 

interlacing dragon designs 

(Detail on facing page) 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Bronze; h. 22.5 x 1. 73.2 X w. 45.2 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


Chariot fitting with mythical hunting scenes 

(Detail on facing page) 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze inlaid with gold, silver, and turquoise; h. 26.4 cm, 

diam. 3.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1965 from Sanpanshan tomb No. 122, 

Ding county, Hebei Province 

Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics, Shijiazhuang 


Incense burner in the shape of a magical mountain isle 

of the immortals 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze inlaid with silver, gold, and turquoise; h. 26 cm, 

max. diam. 12.3 cm, diam. of foot 9.7 cm 

Unearthed in 1968 from the tomb of Prince Liu Sheng, 

Mancheng county, Hebei Province 

Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang 


Covered vessel (Han or zun) with mythical hunting 

scenes, inscribed and dated (26 CE?) 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Gilt bronze; h. 24.5 cm, diam. of mouth 23.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1062 at Dachuan village, Youyu county, 

Shanxi Province 

Sh.mxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 


Screen support in the shape of a kneeling figure biting 

and holding snakes 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Gilt bronze; h. 31.5 X 1. 15.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1983 from the tomb of the king of Nanyue, 

Guangzhou, Guangdong Province 

Museum of the Tomb of the Nanyue King of the Western 

Han Dynasty, Guangzhou 


Lamp in the shape of a goose holding a fish 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze with paint; h. 53.8 X 1. 31.3 cm 

Unearthed in 1985 at Zhaoshiba village, Pingshuo, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 


Lamp with fifteen oil saucers in the form of a 

mythical tree 

(Detail on facing page) 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Bronze; h. 82.6 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the tomb of the king of 

Zhongshan, Pingshan county, Hebei Province 

Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics, Shijiazhuang 


Spear head with hanging men 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze; h. 41.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1956 at Shizhaishan.Jinnmg county, 

Yunnan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 


Buckle ornament with dancers holding cymbals 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Gilt bronze; h. 12 X 1. 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1956 at Shizhaishan.Jinning county, 

Yunnan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 


Low offering stand with two bulls and pouncing tiger 

Eastern Zhou, Warring States period (475-221 bce) 

Bronze; h. 43 x 1. 76 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Lijiashan tomb No. 24, 

Jiangchuan county, Yunnan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 


Man holding parasol 

Western Han dynasty (20ft bce-8 ce) 

Bronze; h. of man 55.5 cm, h. of parasol 110.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1956 at Shizh.iishan, (inning county, 

Yunnan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming 


Rearing dragon 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Gilt bronze and iron; h. 34 X 1. 28 cm 

Unearthed in 1975 at Caochangpo in the southern suburb 

of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 


Six-lobcd plate with design of mythical beast 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. 1.2 cm, diam. is. 3 cm 

Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Sliaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 


Six-lobed plate with design of bear 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. 1 cm, diam. 13.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Shaarud History Museum, Xi'an 

Plate in the shape of two peach halves with design of 

two foxes 

Tanc; dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. i.s x max. width 22.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1070 at Hejia village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Sh.unxi History Museum, Xi'.m 


Censer found with figure of Ganesha 

(Detail on facing page) 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. 41.8 cm, diam. of mouth 24.5 cm 

Discovered in 1987 in underground chamber of the Famen 

Temple Pagoda, Fufeng county, Shaanxi Province 

Famen Temple Museum, Shaanxi Province 

6 4 . 

Storage container with bird designs for holding 

brick tea 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. 17.8 cm, diam. 16. 1 cm 

Discovered in 1987 in underground chamber of the Famen 

Temple Pagoda, Fufeng county, Shaanxi Province 

Famen Temple Museum, Shaanxi Province 


Jar with design of figures in a landscape 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Silver with gilding; h. 24.7 cm, diam. of jar 12.3 cm, 

diam. of foot 12.6 cm 

Discovered in 1987 in underground chamber of the Famen 

Temple Pagoda, Fufeng county, Shaanxi Province 

Famen Temple Museum, Shaanxi Province 





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Vessel based on bronze hu vessel 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 57 cm, diam. of mouth 18. 1 cm, 

diam. of foot 20 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

6 7 . 

Set of eight cups 

Wbstbrn Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 12.2 cm, w. 16-19 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1. 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 



Rectangular box with cloud designs 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 21 X 1. 48.5 X w. 25.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 3 , 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

6 9 . 

Round tray with scroll designs 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 4.5 cm, diam. 53.7 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1 , 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 





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Rectangular tray with scroll designs 

Wbstern Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; 1. 75.6 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Round box with painted and incised designs 

(Detail on facing page) 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 18 cm, diam. 32 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 3, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Reliquary with Buddhist figures 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

Wood-core lacquer with seed pearls; h. 41.2 x w. 24.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1966 at the Huiguang Pagoda site, Rui'an, 

Zhejiang Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Hangzhou 


Sutra boxes with Buddhist figures 

Northern Song dynasty (900-1127) 

Wood-core lacquer with seed pearls; (outside box) h. K> x 

I. 40 x w. [8 cm, (inside box) h. 11.5 x 1. 33.8 x w. 11 cm 

Unearthed in ly'io at the Huiguang Pagoda site. Kui'an, 

Zhejiang Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Museum, Hangzhou 


Round covered box with aged scholar and servant 

Dated to 1351 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Carved lacquer on a fabric-covered wood core; 

diam. 12. 1 cm 

Unearthed in 1953 from the tomb of the Ren family, 

Qingpu county, Shanghai 

Shanghai Museum 


Round covered box with figures viewing a waterfall, 


Ming dynasty, Yonclu mark and period (1403-1424) 

I '.lived lacquer on a fabric-covered wood core; li. 7.7 cm, 

diam. of mouth 22 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

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Potpourri bag 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 
Chain-stitch embroidery on patterned silk; 1. 48 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1 , 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Gauze with patterns of pine-bark lozenges, signifying 


Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Silk gauze; 1. 75 x w. 48 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

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Embroidered silk with designs signifying longevity 

WESTBRN Han dynasty (206 bcu-8 ce) 

Chain-stitch embroidery on silk tabby; 1. 23 x w. 16 cm 

Unearthed in 1072 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1 . 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 


Printed silk with small seroll motifs 
Western Han dynasty' (206 bce-8 ce) 

Silk tabby with pruned and drawn designs; I. 4 s X W. 53 Cm 
Unearthed in nj-: from Mawangdui tomb No. 1. 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum. Changsha 


Embroidered textile with cloud design 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Chain-stitch embroidery on silk tabby; 1. 17 x w. 14.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

Coverlet with dragon design 

LlAO DYNASTY (916-1125) 

Silk tapestry (kesi) with gold threads; h. 90 x w. 56.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1974 atYemaotai, Faku county, 

Liaoning Province 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 

Zhu Kerou 


Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) 

Silk tapestry (kesi), mounted as album leaf; 25. 6 X 25.3 cm 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 


Garden rocks with chrysanthemum, high mallow, and 

begonia, after a painting by Cui Bai (act. ca. 1000-1085) 

Soi iiiiiin Song dynasty \ 1 1^-1^79) 

Silk tapestry (kesi); 102.5 x 4J" cm 
Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 

Heavenly King of the West 

(Detail on facing page) 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Silk embroidery; 250.8 x 247.7 cm 

Donated in 1949 by Mr. Fei Zhenshan 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 

King of Bright Wisdom Budong 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 
Silk tapestry (kesi); 90 x 56 cm 
Administrative Office of Norbu Linka, Lhasa, 
Autonomous Region ofTibet 


Sakyamuni Buddha 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-I9I1) 

Silk tapestry (kesi); 182.7 X 77-6 cm 
Liaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 



S 7 . 

Li Bai's "Evening in the Peach and Plum Garden 

(Full image on facing page; detail above 

Oim. insAsn (1044-1911) 

Silk tapestry (fceji); [35.5 x 70.2 cm 

1 iaoning Provincial Museum, Shenyang 


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QlN DYNASTY (221-207 BCE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 196 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, Shaanxi Province 
Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 



Military officer 

Q[N DYNASTY (221-207 BCE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 198 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1 , Lintong county, Shaanxi Province 
Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 


Military officer 

QlN DYNASTY (221-207 BCE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 192 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1 , Lintong county, Shaanxi Province 
Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses of Qui 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 




QlN DYNASTY (221-207 B CE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 185 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, Sbaanxi Province 
Museum ot Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses ol Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 


Chariot horse 

QlN DYNASTY (221-207 BCE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 163 x 1. 200 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1 , Lintong county, Shaanxi Province 
Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses ot Qui 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 


Chimera (bixie) 

Easturn Han dynasty (25-220) 
Stone; h. 114 x I. 175 x w. 4s cm 
Unearthed in Yichuan county, Henan Pre* in< e 
Guanlin Museum of Stone Sculpture, Luoyang 



Five kneeling musicians 

Western Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Painted wood; h. 32.5-38 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1 , 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 



Standing figure 

Wi STERN Han dynasty (206 bce-8 ce) 

Painted wood; h. 47 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 

Changsha, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha 

9 6. 

Standing performer with a drum 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 
Earthenware with pigment; h. 66.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1963 in Pi county, Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 



Squatting performer with .1 drum 

Eastern Han dynasty (25—220) 

Earthenware with pigment; li. 4S cm 

Unearthed in hjS j from Majiashan tomb No. ;;,. 

Sanhexiang, Xindu county, Sichuan Province 

Administrative Office for Cultural Relics, Xindu county, 

Sichuan Province 



Tomb guardian holding an ax and a snake 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Earthenware; h. 87.2 cm 

Unearthed in 1957 from the Huangshui Xiang'ai tomb, 

Shuangliu county, Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 


Kneeling woman holding a mirror 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Earthenware with red pigments: h. 01.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 in Pi county, Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum. Chengdu 


Model of tower and pond with animals 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 
Glazed earthenware; h. 45 cm, diam. of basin 55 cm 
Unearthed in 1964 in Xichuan county, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 



Recumbent dog 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Glazed earthenware; h. 47 x 1. 44 x w. 20 cm 
Unearthed at Nanyang, Henan Province 
Nanyang Municipal Museum 


Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 ce) 

Earthenware; h. 147 cm 

Unearthed in 1952 at Jmniizhong, Huaiyang county, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 



Tomb tile with scenes of hunting and harvesting 

(Rubbing at right) 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Earthenware; 1. 44.5 x w. 39.6 x d. 6.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 at Anren village, Dayi county, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 


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Tomb tile with carriage and horses 

(Rubbing at right) 

Eastern Han dynasty (25-220) 

Earthenware; 1. 45 X w. 30. 5 x d. 6.} cm 

Unearthed in lyss from Qingbaixiang tomb No. 1, 

Xinlan county, Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum. Chengdu 


Three aristocratic women 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with pigment; h. 73-83 cm 

Unearthed in 1985 at Hansenzhai, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics, Xi'an 




Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with pigment; h. 87 x 1. 93 cm 

Unearthed in Luoyang, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 




Tang dynasty ((jrH-907) 

Earthenware with sancai ("three-color") glaze; 

h. Si x 1.68 cm 

Unearthed iii 1973 at Guanlin, Luoyang, Henan Province 

Luoyang Cultural Relics Work Team, Henan Province 


Set of twelve calendrical animals 

(Detail on facing page) 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with pigment; h. 38.5-41.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1955 in the suburbs of Xi'an, 

Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 



Civil official 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with sancai ("three-color") glaze; h. 107 cm 

Unearthed at Guanlm, Luoyang, Henan Province 

Luoyang Municipal Museum 


I 10. 

Tomb guardian 

Tani; dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with sancai ("three-color") glaze; li. 103.5 cm 

Unearthed in 19S1 from the tomb ol 'An I'u at Longmen, 

Luoyang, Henan Province 

Luoyang Cultural Relies Work Team, Henan Province 


Heavenly king 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with sancai ("three-color") glaze; h. 113 cm 

Unearthed at Guanlin, Luoyang, Henan Province 

Luoyang Municipal Museum 


Four brick reliefs with figures 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Earthenware; (1) h. 35 x 1. 35.8 x w. 21 cm (2) h. 34 x 

1. 29 x w. 22.5 cm (3) h. 34 x 1. 31 x w. 19.5 cm (4) h. 35 x 

1. 19.5 x w. 10 cm 

Unearthed in 1973 at Xifengfeng village, Jiaozuo, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 




Bowl with stylized floral or leaf designs 

Neolithic period.Yangshao culture, Miaodigou type 

(4th millennium bce) 

Red earthenware with black pigment; 

h. 23 cm, max. diam. 36 cm 

Unearthed in 1979 in Fangshan county, Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 



Basin with human head and fish designs 

Neolithic period, Yangshao culture, Banpo type 

(late 6th— sth millennium bcl) 

Red earthenware with black pigment; h. [5.5 cm, 

diam. of month 39.5 cm 

Unearthed in lys.S at Banpo village, near Xi'an, 

Sh.i.mxi Province 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 


Vessel in the shape of an owl 

Neolithic period, Yangshao culture, Miaodigou type 

(4th millennium bce) 

Black earthenware; h. 35.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 atTaiping village, Hua county, 

Shaanxi Province 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 


Bottle in the shape of a hird or dolphin 

Neolithic pbriod, Liangzhtj culture 

(ca, 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 

Gray earthenware; 1. 324 x w. 11.7 cm 

Unearthed in iy6o at Meiyan.Wujiang county, 

Jiangsu Province 

Nanjing Museum 



Jar with incised animal mask designs 
Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bce) 
White earthenware; h. 22.1 cm, diam. of mouth 9.1 cm, 
diam. of foot 8.9 cm 
Unearthed at Anyang, Henan Province 
Palace Museum, Beijing 



Jar (zun) with mat impressions 
Shang period (ca. 1600-ca. noo bcc) 
Ash-glazed stoneware (protoporcelain); h. 27 cm, 
diani. of mouth 27 cm 

Unearthed in 196-5 at Zhengzhou, Henan Province 
Zhengzhou Municipal Museum 




Candleholder in the shape of a man riding 

a mythical beast 

Western Jin dynasty (265-316) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 27.7 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

Basin with applied liuddha figure 

Western Jin dynasty (265-316) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon),Yue kiln-; li 7.5 cm, 

diam. of mouth 19.4 cm.diam.of foot 10 cm 

National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing 


Jar with six lugs and incised bird and tree motifs 

Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon); h. 28.5 cm, 

max. diam. of mouth 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1958 from the tomb of LiYun, 

Puyang county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 


Chicken-headed ewer with dragon handle 

Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon); h. 48.2 cm, 

max. diam. 32.5 cm 

Unearthed in 197S from the tomb of Lou Rui.Taiyuan, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Taiyuan 


Octagonal bottle 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Green glazed stoneware (Celadon),Yue kilns; h. 21.7 cm, 

diam. of mouth 2.3,diam. of foot 7.8 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


I \\i. DYNASTS (6l8 007) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon),Yue kilns: h. 6.8 cm, 
diam. of mouth 22.4 cm 

Discovered in [987 in underground chamber of the Famen 
remple Pagoda, Fufeng county, Shaanxi I' 1 ■ ^ ince 
Shaanxi Histon Museum, Xi'an 



Octagonal bottle 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Green-glazed stoneware (Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 21.5 cm, 

diam. of mouth 2.2 cm, diam. of foot 8 cm 

Discovered in 1987 in underground chamber of the Famen 

Temple Pagoda, Fufeng county, Shaanxi Province 

Famen Temple Museum, Shaanxi Province 



Dish in the shape of a five-petaled blossom, base 

inscribed with character guati ("official") 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

White stoneware with transparent glaze, Xing or 

Ding kilns; h. 3.5 cm, diam. of mouth 13.8 cm, of foot 6.45 cm 

Unearthed in 1985 at Huoshaobi, Xi'an, Sli.unxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics, Xi'an 


Dish in the shape of a three-petaled blossom, base 

inscribed with character glian ("official") 

Tangdyv\m\ CMS-907) 

White stoneware with transparent glaze. Xing or 

Ding kilns; h. 2.3 xw. [ 1.7 cm, diam. of foot 5.9 cm 

Unearthed in 19S5 at Huoshaobi, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute tor the Protection ot Cultural Relics, "• 


Covered jar with four lugs 

Five Dynasties (907-960) 

White stoneware with transparent glaze, Xing or 

Ding kilns: h. 26.2 cm, diam. of mouth 10.4 cm, 

diam. of foot 9.1 cm 

Donated by Mr. Zhou Rui 

Shanghai Museum 


Howl inscribed with characters yang ding 

("glorious Ding") 

Fivk Dynasties (907-960) 

White stoneware with transparent glaze. Ding kilns; 

h. 6.3 cm, diam. ot mouth 19. y cm, diam. of foot 7,5 cm 

Donated by Mr. Huang Zhaoxi 

Shanghai Museum 



Bottle with carved and combed peony designs 
Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 
Green-glazed stoneware, Yaozhou kilns; h. 19.9 cm, 
diam. of mouth 6.9 cm, diam. of foot 7.8 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 



Bowl with incised ducks and water weeds 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

White stoneware with transparent glaze and bronze 

rim band. Ding kilns; h. 6.4 cm, diain. of mouth 23.5 cm, 

diam of loot 7.3 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


Tripod vessel in the shape of an archaic 
bronze Han or zun vessel 
Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 
Pale blue-green— glazed stoneware, Ru kilns; 
h. 12.9 cm, diam. of mouth 18 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 



Mallow-shaped bowl 

(View from below at right) 

Southern Song dynasty (i 127-1279) 

Crackk-d pale blue-green-glazcd stoneware, Hangzhou 

G111111 ("official") kilns; h. 4.2 cm, diam. of mouth 17.3 cm, 

diam. of foot 9.0 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


Vase with dish-shaped mouth and raised ribs 

Southern Sonc; dynasty (1127-1271;) 

Crackled pale blue-green-glazed stoneware. 

I ongquan kilns; h. 31 cm, diam. of mouth 10.4 cm, 

di.1111. of foot 11.3 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


Jar with incised floral designs 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

Bluish-glazed while stoneware (i/i'rii;fW),Jingdezher] kilns; 

h. 26.6 cm, diam. of mouth 5 cm, diam. of foot 8.3 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


i 3 6. 

Vase with carved peony designs 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

Cizhou-type stoneware with white slip and transparent 

glaze; h. 34 cm, diam. of mouth 6 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 inTangyin county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 


I'illow with painted design of .1 hawk chasing 

a rabbit among reeds 

Jin dynasty (1115-1234) 

Cizhou-type stoneware with white slip, black pigment. 

and transparent glaze; h. 9.7 x 1. 24.7 x w. 17 cm 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 


i 3 8. 

Vase with two leopards incised on a 

ring-matted ground 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

Stoneware with white slip and transparent glaze, 

Dengfeng kilns; h. 32.1 cm, diam. of mouth 7.1 cm, 

diam. of foot 9.9 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 



Covered jar with floral designs in painted applied 


(View of lid above; full view on facing page) 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue and copper red 

painted and applied decoration, Jingdezhen kilns; . 

h. 42.3 cm, diam. of mouth 15.2 cm, diam. of foot 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1964 from a Yuan dynasty hoard at Baoding, 

Hebei Province 

Palace Museum, Beijing 



Covered jar with three lugs 

Ming dynasty, Yongle period (1403-1424) 

Pale green-glazed porcelain, Jingdezhen kilns; 

h. 10.4 cm, diam. of mouth 9.9 cm, diam. of foot 14. 1 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 



Flower-shaped brush washer 

Ming dynasty, Xuande mark and period (1426-1435) 

Copper red-glazed porcelain, Jingdezhen kilns; 

h. 3.8 cm, width of mouth 15. y cm, diam. of foot 13 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


Moon flask with dragons among lotus scrolls 

Mini; dynasii.Yoni;ii nuion (1401-1 i 

Porcelain with underglazc cobalt blue decoration. 

Jingdezhen kilns; h. 44 cm, di.un. ol mouth 8 cm, 

diam. of foot 14. s cm 

Palace Museum. Beijing 



Jar with flowering plum, bamboo, and pine 
Ming dynasty, Yoncle period (1403-1424) 
Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration, 
Jingdezhen kilns; h. 36 cm, diam. of mouth 6.7 cm 
diam. of foot 13.9 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


Stem bowl with scenes of ladies in a garden 


Porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue decoration, 
Jingdezhen kilns; h. 10.2 cm, diam. of mouth i>.s cm, 
diam. of foot 4.S cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 



Vase with flower and bird designs 


Porcelain with wucai ("five-color") decoration, 

Jingdezhen kilns; h. 46.4 cm, diam. of mouth 11.2 cm, 

diam. of foot 14.7 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


Vase with flower designs 


Porcelain with doucai ("clashing" or "matched color") 
decoration, Jingdezhen kilns; h. .:<> cm, diam. of mouth 
s.-i cm, diam. ol foot n .8 cm 
Palace Museum. Beijing 


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Stele with Maitreya 

Dated to 471 

Northern Wni dynasty (386-534) 

Sandstone; h. 86.9 x w. 55 cm 

Unearthed in Xingping comity, Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 


Sakyamuni on lion throne 

Dated to 502 

Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) 

Sandstone; h. 48.5 x w. 27.7 cm 

Found in 1952 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 



Stele with Sakyamuni and bodhisattvas 

Northern Wei dynasti (386-534) 

Stone: h. 9<S \ w. 4.;..-; cm 

Unearthed in [974 in Qi county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 



Stele with Sakyamuni and attendants 

(Reverse on facing page) 

Dated to 523 

Liang dynasty (502-557) 

Sandstone; h. 35.8 x w. 30.3 X d. 20 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 


Stele: (obverse) bodhisattvas; (reverse) lower tier, 
figures, animals, and buildings in mountainous land- 
scape; middle panel, lotus pond; upper tier, Buddha 
preaching to monks in garden setting 
(Detail of reverse on facing page) 
Liang dynasty (502-557) 
Sandstone; h. 121 x w. 60 x d. 24.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 
Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 



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Engraved panel with Buddha beneath canopy 

Dated to 524 

Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) 

Stone; h. 39.5 x 1. 144 x w. 14 cm 

Unearthed in the late 19th century in Luoyang, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 



Pillar base with mountains, dragons, and fijiurcs 

Northern Wei dynast* (386-534) 

Stone; h. 16.5 x w. 32 cm 

Unearthed in 1966 from the Simajinlong tomb, Shijiazhai, 

IXitong city, Sh.inxi I'roviiu'i* 

Sh.inxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 

1 54- 

Stele with Sakyamuni and Maitrcya 

Dated to 532 

Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) 

Sandstone; h. yo x w. 46 x d. 14 cm 

Institute for the Protection Reins. Xi'.iii 

Stele: (obverse) Sakyamuni and attendants; 

(reverse) Maitreya 

Western Wei dynasty (535 $57 

Sandstone; h. 48.2 x w.21.3 x d. 12. 1 cm 

Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics, Xi'an 


I 5 6. 


Dated to 540 

Eastern Wei dynasty (534-550) 

Sandstone; h. 35 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the Huata Temple site.Taryuan, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 


Stele with enthroned Buddhas and attendant 

bodhisattvas and monks 

Dated to 559 

Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) 

Limestone; h. no x w. 58.5 x d. 10 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 in Xiangcheng county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 


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Stele: (obverse) Sakyamuni and attendants; 

(reverse) myriad Buddhas 

(Detail on facing page) 

Dated to 565 

Nobthbhn Zhou dynasty (557-5S1) 

Stone; h. 250 x w. 73.4 x d. 10.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1063 in Luoning county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum. Zhengzhou 

iHi ■! 




Stele with Buddhist trinity 

Northern Zhou dynasty (557-581) 

Marble; h. 40 x w. 28 x d. 8.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1975 at Caotan in the northern suburb of 

Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics, Xi'an 



Amitabha altar 
Dated to 584 

SUI DYNASTY (581-618) 

Gilt bronze; h. 41 cm, 1. of altar stand 24. } cm, w. of altar 
stand 24 cm 

Unearthed in 1074 at Bali village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Institute for the Protection of Cultural Relics. Xi'.in 


Stele with Sakyamuni and attendants 

Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) 

Sandstone with polychrome; h. 46 X w. 27 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the Huata Temple site.Taiyuan, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum 


Seated Buddha 

SUI DYNASTY (581-618) 

Marble with pigments; h. 100.7 x w - 74-7 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


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Head of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone; h. 36 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 



Head of Eleven-Headed Avalokitesvara 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Marble; h. 25.5 cm 

Unearthed in [983 in the western suburb of Xi'an, 

Sliaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

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Torso of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Marble; h. no x w. 35 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 in the precincts of the Daminggong, a 

Ting dynasty imperial palace in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 


Head of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Marble with gold; h. 15.7 cm 

Unearthed in [959 at the Anc.uo Temple site, Xi'an. 

Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum. Xi'an 




Torso of a guardian king 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Marble; h. 100 cm 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'.i 


Torso of a vajrasattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone; h. Sri em 

Unearthed m [954 at the Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum. Chengdu 



Heavenly King 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Gilt bronze; h. 65 cm 

Unearthed in Baoji, Shaanxi Province 

Baoji Municipal Museum 


Tang dynasty (61S-907) 

Marble; h. 71 x w. 42 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 at the Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 

Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 



Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Marble with traces of gold; h. 67.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 at the Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 

Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 




Tanc dynasty ((iiH-007) 

Marble; h. 75 cm 

Unearthed in [959 at the Anguo Temple site, Xi'.in, 

Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 


Head of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone; h. 30 x w. 19 cm 

Unearthed in 1957 at Nanmeshui village, Qin county, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 


Standing bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone with gold; h. 60 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the Huata Temple site, Taiyuan, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, Taiyuan 



Torso of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone; h. 112 cm 

Unearthed at the Guanghua Temple site, Baicheng village, 

Taigu county, Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum. Taivuan 


Head of Avalokitesvara 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Sandstone; h. 41 cm 

Unearthed in [954 at the Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu 



Two arhats, one with dragon, the other with tiger 

Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 

Stone; (1) h. 38 cm (2) h. 38 cm 

Discovered in 1980 at the Boshan Temple site, Fu county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 



Ink stone 

Northi us Wei dynasty i |86 S3 i 

Stone; h. 8.5 x 1. 21.2 x w. ^1 cm 

Unearthed in [970 near Datong, Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, I'.miun 


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ZhuYunming (1461-1527) 

"The Terrace of Ode to the Wind" and other poems 

composed by Zhu Yunming, written in wild cursive 

script (kuangcao) 

Dated to 1523 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink on paper; 24.6 X 655.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


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Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641) 

Transcription of Wang Wei's "Song of the Aged 

General," written in cursive script (caoshu) 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink on silk; 29. 5 X 629.5 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 






Wang Duo (1592-1652) 

Transcription of Wang Wei's "Enjoying a Repast at the 

Home of Elder Zhao in Qizhou" and "Passing by the 

Herbal Garden of Master Hesui in Spring," written in 

standard script (kaishu) 

Dated to 1643 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink on satin; 21.2 x 165.5 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


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Zhanp Zhao (1691-1745) 

Transcription of "Seventh Month" from the Odes of 

Bin, written in standard script (kaishu) 

QlNC. DYNASTY (1644-lyil) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 176 x 92 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


Deng Shiru (i _ 4.;-iSos) 

Couplet in seven-character lines, written in clerical 

script {lishii) 

QlNG !"- NASTI 1644 

1 langing scrolls, mk on gold-flecked paper. 130.1 \ 27 (> cni 

Palace Museum. Beijing 


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Wang Shen (ca. 1048— after 1104) 
Misty River and Layered Hills 
Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) 
Handscroll, ink and color on silk; 45.2 x 166 cm 
Shanghai Museum 




Zhao Kui (1185-1266) 

In the Spirit of Poems by D11 Fit 

(Detail on facing page) 

Southern Song dynasty (1 127-1279) 

Handscroll, ink on silk; 24.7 x 212.2 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

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Snowy Landscape 

Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) 

Handscroll, ink and light color on paper; 24 x 48.2 cm 

Shanghai Museum 






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Song Boren (act. mid-i3th c.) 
Album of Plum Blossom Portraits 

(Above and following three pages) 

1238; reprint, 1261 

Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) 

Woodblock print book; each leaf 23.1 x 28.6 cm 

Shanghai Museum 







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Ni Zan (i306[?]-i374) 

Six Gentlemen 

Dated to 1345 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 61.9 X 33.3 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


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Wang Mcng (ca. 1308-1385) 

Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains 

Dated to 1366 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; [40.6 x 42.2 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

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Shang Xi (act. ca. 3nd quarter of 15th c.) 

77ie Xuande Emperor on an Outing 

Ming dynasty (136S-1644) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper; 211 x 353 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 


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Xie Huan (act. 1426-1452) 

TTie Literary Gathering in the Apricot Garden 

Ca. 1437 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink and color on silk; h. 37 cm 

Zhenjiang Municipal Museum 

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Dai Jin (1388-1462) 

Landscape in the Manner oJYan Wengui 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Hanging scroll, mk on paper; 98.2 x 45.8 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


Wu Wei (1459-1508) 

Fishermen on a Snowy River 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Hanging scroll, ink on silk; 245 x 156 cm 

Hubei Provincial Museum, Wuhan 


Zhou Chen (ca [455— after 1536) 

Peach Blossom Spring 

Dated to 1533 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

I langing scroll, ink and color on silk; [(Si. 5 x 102. s cm 

Suzhou Municipal Museum 

Qiii Ying (ca. I 1 

Playing the Flute by Pine •m,l Strain 

Mini, di N v 

I hinging scroll, ink and color on Mlh: IKS 

Nanjing Museum 


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Shen Zhou (1427-1509) 

Eastern Villa 

(Above and following three pages) 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Album, ink and color on paper; each leaf 28.6 x 33 cm 

Nanjing Museum 


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Wen Zhengming (1470 i>- 

Studio of True Appreciation 

Dated to [549 

Ming dynasti , 

1 [andscroll, ink and color on papei v cm 

Shanghai Museum 


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Peonies, Banana Plant, and Rock 

Ming m nasth 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 120.6 x sS 4 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


Chen Hongshou (1598-1652) 
77ie Pleasures of He Tianzhang 

(Detail on facing page) 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink and color on silk; 25.3 X 163.2 cm 

Suzhou Municipal Museum 



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Poetic Feeling .» Qixia Monastery 

Dated to 1626 

Mini: dynas 

i I ing scroll, ink on paper; 133.1 \ 52.5 cm 

Shanghai Museum 




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Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy 
and Painting 

(Above and following three pages) 

Published 1627-1633 by Hu Zhengyan (1584-1674) 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Woodblock print book; each leaf 25.8 x 31 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 






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Ten Bamboo Studio Letter Papers 

(Above and facing page) 

Published 1644 by Hu Zhengyan (1584-1674) 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Woodblock print book; each leaf 21 x 13.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 







Album of a Hundred Floivers, after paintings by 

Zhang Chaoxiang (act. 19th c.) 

(Above and facing page) 


Woodblock print book; each leaf 24.2 x 16.8 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 


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WangYuanqi (1642-1715) 
Complete in Soul, Sufficient in Spirit 
Dated to 1708 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 137.2 x 71.5 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

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Wu Li (1632-1718) 

Reading " The Book of Changes" in a Streamside Pavilion 

Dated to 1678 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-191 1) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 211.7 x 78.7 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

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Kuncan (1612— ca. 1674) 
C/ear Sky over Verdant Hills 
Dated to 1660 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk; 85 x 40.5 cm 
Nanjing Museum 


Hongren (1610-1664) 

Peaks and Ravines at Jiuqi 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-I9I1) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; no. 6 X 58.9 cm 
Shanghai Museum 




Yuanji (Shitao; 1642-1707) 

Pure Sounds of Hills and Streams 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 102.5 X 42.4 cm 

Shanghai Museum 



Gong Xian (1618-1689) 
Summer Mountains after Rain 


Hanging scroll, ink on ^ilk: 141.7 x >- S cm 
Nanjing Museum 

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Bada Shanren (1626—1705) 
Ducks and Lotuses 

Dated to t6y6 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 166 x 76.3 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

Yuanji (Shitao; 104^-1707) 
< leai Autumn in Huaiyaug 

(Jin,. o\ w-n 1644 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on pape 

Nanjing Museum 


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Zou Zhe (1636-ca. 1708) 
Album of Landscapes 

(Above and facing page) 


Album, ink and color on paper; three leaves each 
12.6 X 28.6 cm, remaining leaves each 12.6 x 14 cm 
Nanjing Museum 



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Yuan Jiang acl ca. 1690-ca. 1746) 

Garden Jot Gazing 

Qing m NAsry (1044-1911) 

Handscioll, ink and light coloi on silk; $1.5x3 

Tianjin Municipal Historj Museum 


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Gao Cen (act. ca. 1645— 1689) 

'I'lic Temple on Jinshan 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-lyll) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk; iSo.N x 95.1 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

Gao Xiang [688 [73 ; 

Finger-Snap Pavilion 

1 lis., at NAsn (1644-1911) 

1 langing scroll, ink on paper; 69 x 

Yangzhou Municipal Museum 



Huang Shen (1687— after 1768) 

Willows and Egrets 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper; 113. 7 x 57.7 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


Li Shan (1686-after 1760) 

Pine, Wisteria, and Peonies 

Dated to 1755 


Hanging scroll, mk and color on paper; 238 x 118. 2 cm 

Shanghai Museum 


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Jin Nong (1687-1764) 

Album of Landscapes and Figures 

(Above and following three pages) 

Dated to 1759 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Album, ink and color on paper; each leaf 26.1 x 34.9 cm 

Shanghai Museum 




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HuaYan (1682-1756) 
The Golden Valley Garden 
Dated to 1732 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper; 178.9 x 94.1 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

List of colorplates 

Objects are listed in catalogue order. 



i. Ornament in the shape of 
hooked clouds 
with central bird motif 
Neolithic period, Hongshan 


(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 22.4 X 
w. 11. 5 x d. 0.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1979 at 
Sanguandianzi, Lingyuan city, 
Liaoning Province 
Liaoning Provincial Museum, 

2. Ornament in the shape of 
a pig-dragon (zhulong) 
Neolithic period, Hongshan 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 15.7 x 
w. 10.4 x d. 4.3 cm 
Found in Jianping county, 
Liaoning Province 
Liaoning Provincial Museum, 

3. Prismatic tube (cong) 
Neolithic period, Liangzhu 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 8.8 x 
max. width 17.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1986 from 
Fanshan tomb No. i2,Yuhang, 
Zhejiang Province 
Zhejiang Provincial Institute of 
Cultural Relics and 
Archaeology, Hangzhou 

4. Prismatic tube (cong) 
Neolithic period, Liangzhu 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 5 x max. 
width 7.4 cm 
Unearthed in 1982 from 
Fuquanshan tomb No. 9, 
Qingpu county, Shanghai 
Shanghai Museum 

5. Prismatic tube (cong) 
Neolithic period, Liangzhu 

(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 29.7 x 
max. width 6.1 cm 
Unearthed in 1982 in Wujin 
county, Jiangsu Province 
Nanjing Museum 

(>. Knife (dao) with 
semihuman mask motifs 
Neolithic period, Longshan 

(ca. 3000-ca. 1700 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 23.7 x 
w. 7.7 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

7. Blade (zhang) 
Xia or Shang period 
(ca. 2200-ca. 1100 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 37 x w. 11.2 x 
d. 0.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

8. Blade (zhang) 
Shang period (ca. 1600— 
ca. 1100 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 68 x 

w. 10.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1986 from 
Sanxingdui pit No. 2, 
Guanghan, Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Chengdu 

9. Chime with design of 
crouching tiger 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 

ca. 1100 bce) 

Stone; 1. 84 x w. 42 x d. 2.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1950 at Wuguan 

village, Anyang, Henan 


National Museum of Chinese 

History, Beijing 

10. Four figures; (1) bird 
with ram's horns 

(2) kneeling human (3) bird 

(4) bird-headed human 

Shang period 

(ca. 1600-ca. 1100 bce) 

Nephrite jade; (1) h. 4.9 cm 

(2) h. 5.6 cm (3) h. 10 cm 

(4) h. 9.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1976 from Fu 

Hao tomb No. 5, Anyang, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


1 1 . Dagger-ax (ge) with 
grooved blade 
Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 25.4 x 
w. 6. 1 cm 

Unearthed in 1983 at East 
Sidnoxiang, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, 

12. Fourteen-piece burial 

Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Nephrite jade; max. width 
10.7 cm 

Unearthed in 1990 troni Guo 
State tomb No. 2001, 
Sanmenxia, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

13. Ornamental plaque with 
interlacery and animal mask 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and 
Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Nephrite jade; h. 7.1 cm 
Unearthed in 1987 at Xiasi, 
Xichuan county, 
Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

14. A pair of dragon-shaped 

Eastern Zhou, Warring 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Nephrite jade; 1. 11.4 cm 
Unearthed at Pingliangtai, 
Huaiyang county, 
Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

15. Ring (huan) with abstract 

Eastern Zhou, Warring 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Nephrite jade; diam. 10.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1991 at 
Xujialing, Xichuan county, 
Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

16. Disk (bi) with grain 

Western Han dynasty 

(206 bce-8 ce) 

Nephrite jade; diam. 18.9 cm, 

depth 0.9 cm 

Unearthed in Zhouzhi county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum. 


17. Winged horse 
Han dynasty 
(206 BCE-220 ce) 

Nephrite jade; h. 4.2 x 1. 7.8 x 

w. 2.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

in Chimera (bixie) 
Han dynasty 

(206 BCE-220 ce) 

Nephrite jade; 1. 13.5 x 
w. 8.5 cm 

I'.il.h e Museum. Beijing 

19. Vessel (Han or zun) with 
design of deities, animals, 
and masks 

Western Jin dynasty 

Nephrite jade; h. 10.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1991 from the 
tomb of Liu Hong, 
Huangshantou, Anxiang 
county, Hunan Province 
Administrative Office for 
Cultural Relics, Anxiang 
County, Hunan Province 

20. Sixteen-piece belt 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Nephrite jade; 1. of pieces 
3.5-5 cm 

Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia 
village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, 

21. Vessel (jue) 

Xia period (ca. 2100- 
ca. 1600 bce) 

Bronze; I1.11.7x w. 14. 1 on 
Shanghai Museum 

22. Square cauldron 

(fang ding) with thread-relief 
frieze of animal masks, and 
nipple pattern 
Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1100 bce) 
Bronze; h. 82 x w. 50 cm 
Unearthed in 1990 at Qian 
village, Pinglu county, 
Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology, Taiyuan 

23. Square vessel (fang zun) 
with four rams 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1100 bce) 
Bronze; h. 58.3 cm, w. of 
mouth 52.4 cm 
Found in 1938 atYueshanpu, 
Ningxiang, Hunan Province 
National Museum of Chinese 
History, Beijing 

24. Vessel (zun) in the 
shape of a bird, inscribed 
"Fu Hao" 

(one of an identical pair) 
Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1 100 bce) 
Bronze; h. 45.9 cm 
Unearthed in 1976 from Fu 
Hao tomb No. 5, Anyang, 
Henan Province 
National Museum of Chinese 
History, Beijing 

25. Vessel (zun) in the shape 
of an elephant 

(one of an identical pair) 
Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 26.5 x 1. 22. S cm 
Found in 19-5 at Shixingshan, 
Liling, 1 lunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum. 

■:■ Vessel ( poll), inscribed 

Shang pi riod ca moo- 
ca. 1 100 i 1 
Bronze; h. 37.7 cm 
Found in 1970 ai Huangcai 
village. Ningxiang county, 
Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 



27- Vessel (zun) in the shape 

of a boar 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 

ca. 1100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 40 X 1. 72 cm 

Unearthed in 1981 at 

Chuanxingshan, Xiangtan 

county, Hunan Province 

Hunan Provincial Museum, 


28. Vessel (gong) in 
zoomorphic shape 
Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1 100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 19 X 1. 43 x 

w. 13.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 atTaohua 

village, Shilou county, 

Shared Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 


29. Basin (pan) with coiling 
dragon design 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1 100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 26 cm, diam. of 
mouth 61.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1984 at 
Chenshan village, Wenling, 
Zhejiang Province 
Administrative Office for 
Cultural Relics, Wenling 

30. Mask with protruding 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 
ca. 1 100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 65 x w. 138 cm 
Unearthed in 1986 from 
Sanxingdui pit No. 2, 
Guanghan, Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Chengdu 

31. Vessel (lei) with elephant 
trunk handles and 

buffalo horns 

Western Zhou period 

(ca. 1100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 70.2 cm, diam. of 

mouth 22.8 cm 

Unearthed in 1980 at 

Zhuwajie, Peng county, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


32. Vessel (zun), inscribed 

Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1 100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 38.8 cm, diam. of 
mouth 28.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1963 at Jia 
village, Baoji county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Baoji Municipal Museum 

33. Bell (bo) with four tigers 
Western Zhou period 

(ca. 1 100-771 bce) 

Bronze; h. 44.3 x w. 39.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

34. Drum (gn) with abstract 
zoomorphic designs 
Shang period (ca. 1600- 

ca. 1100 bce) 

Bronze; h. 75.5 cm, diam. of 

drum 39.5 cm 

Found in 1977 in Chongyang 

county, Hubei Province 

Hubei Provincial Museum, 


35. Two-handled vessel (gut) 
with ox-head motifs, 

Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 31 cm, diam. of 
mouth 25 cm 

Unearthed in 1981 from tomb 
No. 1, Zhifangtou village, 
Baoji county, Shaanxi Province 
Baoji Municipal Museum 

36. Vessel (gong), inscribed 
Western Zhou period 

(ca. 1 100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 28. 7 x 1. 38 cm 
Unearthed in 1976 at 
Zhuangbai village, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Zhouyuan Museum, Xi'an 

37. Vessel (zun) in the shape 
of an elephant 

Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1100^771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 21 x 1. 38 cm 
Unearthed in 1975 at Rujia 
village, Baoji county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Baoji Municipal Museum 

38. Covered spouted vessel 
(he) in the shape of a 
four-legged duck, inscribed 
Western Zhou period 

(ca. 1100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 26 cm 
Unearthed in 1980 from the 
Ying State tomb at 
Pingdingshan, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

39. Two-handled vessel (gut), 

Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1100^771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 26.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1986 from the 
Ying State tomb at 
Pingdingshan, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Institute ot 
Archaeology and Cultural 
Relics, Zhengzhou 

40. Vessel (/in), inscribed 
Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1 100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 65.4 cm, diam. of 
mouth 19.7 cm 
Unearthed in 1976 at 
Zhuangbai village, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Zhouyuan Museum, Xi'an 

41. Rectangular vessel 
(fang yi), inscribed 
Western Zhou period 
(ca. 1 100-771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 38.5 x 1. of mouth 
20 x w. of mouth 17 cm 
Unearthed in 1963 at Qijia 
village, Fufeng county, 
Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, 

42. Miniature carriage with 
human guardians including 
one-legged watchman, birds, 
and crouching tigers 
Western Zhou period 

(ca. 1100^771 bce) 
Bronze; h. 9.1 X 1. 13.7 X 
w. j 1 . 3 cm 

Unearthed in 1989 at 
Shangguo village, Wenxi 
county, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology, Taiyuan 

43. Four-sided vessel 
(fang hit) with square base 
and lotus-petal crown 
Eastern Zhou period 
(770-256 bce) 

Bronze; h. 66 x 
max. width 34 cm 
Unearthed in 1988 from tomb 
No. 25i,Jinsheng village, 
Taiyuan, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology, Taiyuan 

44. Vessel (litt) with bird- 
shaped lid 

Eastern Zhou, Spring and 
Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Bronze; h. 41 x w. 23.5 cm 
Unearthed m 1988 from tomb 
No. 25i,Jinsheng village, 
Taiyuan, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology, Taiyuan 

45. Square-based vessel 
(fang hit) with lotus-petal 
crown and crane 
Eastern Zhou, Spring and 
Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Bronze; h. 126 X 1. of mouth 
30.5 x w. of mouth 24.9 cm 
Unearthed in 1923 at Lijialou, 
Xinzheng county, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


46. Mythical beast 
Eastern Zhou, Spring and 
Autumn period (770-476 bce) 
Bronze inlaid with malachite; 
h. 48 cm 

Unearthed in 1990 from 

Xujialmg tomb No. 9, 

Xichuan county, Henan 


Henan Provincial Institute of 

Archaeology and Cultural 

Relics, Zhengzhou 

47. Tapir bearing figure 
holding interlace tray 
Eastern Zhou, Warring 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Bronze; h. 15 cm, diam. of tray 
11 cm 

Unearthed in 1965 at 

Fenshuiling, Changzhi, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 


48. Rectangular basin (pan) 
with turtle, fish, and 
interlacing dragon designs 
Eastern Zhou, Warring 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Bronze; h. 22.5 x 1. 73.2 x 

w. 45.2 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

49. Chariot fitting with 
mythical hunting scenes 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce~8 ce) 

Bronze inlaid with gold, silver, 
and turquoise; h. 26.4 cm, 
diam. 3.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1965 from 
Sanpanshan tomb No. 122, 
Ding county, Hebei Province 
Hebei Provincial Institute of 
Cultural Relics, Shijiazhuang 

50. Incense burner in the 
shape of a magical mountain 
isle of the immortals 
Western Han dynasty 

(206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze inlaid with silver, gold, 

and turquoise; h. 26 cm, max. 

diam. 12.3 cm, diam. ot foot 

9.7 cm 

Unearthed in- ; i968 from the 

tomb of Prince Liu Sheng, 

Mancheng county, Hebei 


Hebei Provincial Museum, 


51. Covered vessel (lion or 
zun) with mythical hunting 
scenes, inscribed and dated 
(26 CE?) 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Gilt bronze; h. 24.5 cm, diam. 

of mouth 23.4 cm 

Unearthed in 1962 at Dachuan 

village, Youyu county, Shanxi 


Shanxi Provincial Museum, 


52. Screen support in the 
shape of a kneeling figure 
biting and holding snakes 
Western Han dynasty 

(206 BCE-8 CE) 

Gilt bronze; h. 31.5 x 1. 15.8 cm 
Unearthed in 1983 from the 
tomb of the king of Nanyue, 
Guangzhou, Guangdong 

Museum of the Tomb of the 
Nanyue King of the Western 
Han Dynasty, Guangzhou 

53. Lamp in the shape of a 
goose holding a fish 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze with paint; h. 53.8 X 

1. 31.3 cm 

Unearthed in 1985 at 

Zhaoshiba village, Pingshuo, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 


54. Lamp with fifteen oil 
saucers in the form of a 
mythical tree 

Eastern Zhou, Warking 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Bronze; h. 82.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the 
tomb of the king of 
Zhongshan, Pingshan county, 
Hebei Province 
Hebei Provincial Institute of 
Cultural Relics, Shijiazhuang 

55. Spear head with hanging 

Western Han dynasty 

(206 BCE-8 CE) 

Bronze; h. 41.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1956 at 
Shizhaishan,Jmning county, 
Yunnan Province 
Yunnan Provincial Museum, 

56. Buckle ornament with 
dancers holding cymbals 
Western Han dynasty 

(206 BCE-8 CE) 

Gilt bronze; h. 12 x 1. 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1956 at 

Shizhaishan, jinmng county, 

Yunnan Province 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, 


57. Low offering stand with 
two bulls and pouncing tiger 
Eastern Zhou, Warring 
States period (475-221 bce) 
Bronze; h. 43 x 1. 76 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Lyiashan tomb No. 24, 
Jiangchuan county, Yunnan 

Yunnan Provincial Museum, 

58. Man holding parasol 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 

Bronze; h. of man 55.5 cm, 
h. of parasol no. 5 cm 
Unearthed in 1956 at 
Shizhaishan, Jinning county, 
Yunnan Province 
Yunnan Provincial Museum, 





59. Rearing dragon 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Gilt bronze and iron; h. 34 x 
1. 28 cm 

Unearthed in 1975 at 

Caochangpo in the southern 

suburb of Xi'an, Shaanxi 


Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

60. Six-lobed plate with 
design of mythical beast 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 1.2 cm, 
diam. 15.3 cm 
Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia 
village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

61. Six-lobed plate with 
design of bear 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 1 cm, 
diam. 13.4 cm 
Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia 
village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

62. Plate in the shape of two 
peach halves with design of 
two foxes 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 1.5 x 
max. width 22.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1970 at Hejia 
village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an 

63. Censer found with figure 
of Ganesha 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 41.8 cm, 
diam. of mouth 24.5 cm 
Discovered in 1987 in 
underground chamber of the 
Famen Temple Pagoda, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Famen Temple Museum, 
Shaanxi Province 

64. Storage container with 
bird designs for holding 
brick tea 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 17.8 cm, 
diam. 16.1 cm 
Discovered in 1987 in 
underground chamber ot the 
Famen Temple Pagoda, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Famen Temple Museum, 
Shaanxi Province 

63. Jar with design of figures 
in a landscape 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Silver with gilding; h. 24.7 cm, 
diam. of jar 12.3 cm, 
diam. of foot 12.6 cm 
Discovered in 1987 in 
underground chamber of the 
Famen Temple Pagoda, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Famen Temple Museum, 
Shaanxi Province 

66. Vessel based on bronze hu 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Wood-core lacquer; h. 57 cm, 
diam. of mouth rS.i cm, diam. 
of foot 20 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. r, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

67. Set of eight cups 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 12.2 cm, 
w. 16—19 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1 , 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

68. Rectangular box with 
cloud designs 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Wood-core lacquer; h. 21 X 
1. 48.5 x w. 25.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 3, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

69. Round tray with scroll 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; h. 4.5 cm, 
diam. 53.7 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

70. Rectangular tray with 
scroll designs 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 

Wood-core lacquer; 1. 75.6 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

71. Round box with painted 
and incised designs 
Western Han dynasty 

(206 BCE-8 CE) 
Wood-core lacquer; h. 18 cm. 
diam. 32 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 trom 
Mawangdui tomb No. 3, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

72. Reliquary with Buddhist 

Northern Song dynasty 

(960—1127) . 

Wood-core lacquer with seed 

pearls; h. 41.2 x w. 24.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1966 at the 

Huiguang Pagoda site, Rui'an, 

Zhejiang Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Museum, 


73. Sutra boxes with Buddhist 

Northern Song dynasty 


Wood-core lacquer with seed 

pearls; (outside box) h. 16 x 

1. 40 x w. 18 cm, (inside box) 

h. 11. 5 x 1. 33.8 x w. 11 cm 

Unearthed in 1966 at the 

Huiguang Pagoda site, Rui'an, 

Zhejiang Province 

Zhejiang Provincial Museum, 


74. Round covered box with 
aged scholar and servant 
Dated to 1351 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 
Carved lacquer on a fabric- 
covered wood core; 
diam. 12. 1 cm 

Unearthed in 1953 from the 
tomb ot the Ren family, 
Qingpu county, Shanghai 
Shanghai Museum 

75. Round covered box with 
figures viewing a waterfall, 

AND PERIOD (14O3-I424) 

Carved lacquer on a fabric- 
covered wood core; h. 7.7 cm, 
diam. of mouth 22 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

76. Potpourri bag 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Chain-stitch embroidery on 
patterned silk; 1. 48 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

77. Gauze with patterns of 
pine-bark lozenges, signifying 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Silk gauze; 1. 75 x w. 48 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

7S. Embroidered silk with 
designs signifying longevity 
Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Chain-stitch embroidery on 
silk tabby; I. 23 x w. 16 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

79. Printed silk with small 
scroll motifs 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-S ce) 
Silk tabby with printed and 
drawn designs; 1. 48 x w. 53 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1 , 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

80. Embroidered textile with 
cloud design 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Chain-stitch embroidery on 
silk tabby;!. 17 x w. [4.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

8l. Coverlet with dragon 



Silk tapestry (to ri) with gold 

threads. Ii. 90 \ W, $6.$ Cm 

Unearthed in i*j-j acYemaotai, 

Faku county, 

I iaoning Province 

I iaoning Provincial Museum, 


82. Zhu Kerou 


Not mi un Song dynast* 

Silk tapestry (fceri), mounted as 
album leaf; 15.6 x 15.3 cm 
I iaoning Provincial Museum, 

83. Garden rocks with 
chrysanthemum, high 
mallow, and begonia, after a 
painting by Cui Bai 

(act. ca. 1060-1085) 

Southern Song dynasty 


Silk tapestry (kesi); 102.5 X 43.6 


Liaoning Provincial Museum. 


84. Heavenly King of the 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Silk embroidery; 250.8 x 

247.7 cm 

Donated in 1949 by Mr. Fei 


National Museum of Chinese 

History. Beijing 

85. King of Bright Wisdom 

Yuan dynasty (1279— 1368) 
Silk tapestry (kesi); 90 x 56 cm 
Administrative Office of Norbu 
Linka, Lhasa, 
Autonomous Region ofTibet 

S6. Sakyamuni Buddha 

QlNC DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Silk tapestry {kesi); 1S2.7 x — .6 


Liaoning Provincial Museum, 


87. Li Bai's "Evening in the 
Peach and Plum Garden" 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Silk tapestry (kesi); 135.5 x 

70.2 cm 

Liaoning Provincial Museum, 






88. General 

QlN DYNASTY {221-207 BCE) 

Terra-cotta; h. 196 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the 
Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Museum of Terra-cotta 
Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, XT an 

89. Military officer 

Qin dynasty (221-207 bce) 
Terra-cotta; h. 198 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the 
Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Museum ofTerra-cotta 
Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 

90. Military officer 

Qin dynasty (221—207 BCE ) 
Terra-cotta; h. 192 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the 
Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Museum ofTerra-cotta 
Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 

91. Soldier 

Qin dynasty (221-207 bce) 
Terra-cotta; h. 185 cm 
Unearthed in 1977 from the 
Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Museum ofTerra-cotta 
Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 

92. Chariot horse 

Qin dynasty (221-207 bce) 
Terra-cotta; h. 163 x 1. 200 cm 

Unearthed in 1977 from the 
Qin Shihuangdi tomb, 
pit No. 1, Lintong county, 
Shaanxi Province 
Museum ofTerra-cotta 
Warriors and Horses of Qin 
Shihuangdi, Xi'an 

93. Chimera (bixie) 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Stone; h. 114 x 1. 175 x 

w. 45 cm 

Unearthed in Yichuan county, 

Henan Province 

Guanlin Museum of Stone 

Sculpture, Luoyang 

94. Five kneeling musicians 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Painted wood; h. 32.5-38 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

95. Standing figure 

Western Han dynasty 
(206 bce-8 ce) 
Painted wood; h. 47 cm 
Unearthed in 1972 from 
Mawangdui tomb No. 1, 
Changsha, Hunan Province 
Hunan Provincial Museum, 

96. Standing performer with 
a drum 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Earthenware with pigment; 

h. 66.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 in Pi 

county, Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


97. Squatting performer with 
a drum 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Earthenware with pigment; 

h. 48 cm 

Unearthed in 1982 from 

Majiashan tomb No. 23, 

Sanhexiang, Xindu county, 

Sichuan Province 

Administrative Office for 

Cultural Relics, Xindu county, 

Sichuan Province 

98. Tomb guardian holding 
an ax and a snake 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Earthenware; h. 87.2 cm 

Unearthed in 1957 from the 

Huangshui Xiang'ai tomb, 

Shuangliu county, Sichuan 


Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


99. Kneeling woman holding 
a mirror 

Eastern Han dynasty 

Earthenware with red 
pigments; h. 61.4 cm 
Unearthed in 1963 in Pi 
county, Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Museum, 

100. Model of tower and 
pond with animals 

Eastern Han dynasty 

Glazed earthenware; h. 45 cm, 
diam. of basin 55 cm 
Unearthed in 1964 in Xichuan 
county, Henan Province 
Henan Provincial Museum, 

101. Recumbent dog 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Glazed earthenware; h. 47 x 
1. 44 x w. 20 cm 

Unearthed at Nanyang, Henan 


Nanyang Municipal Museum 

102. Tower 

Han dynasty (206 bce- 

220 ce) 

Earthenware; h. 147 cm 

Unearthed in 1952 at 

Jiuniizhong, Huaiyang county, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


103. Tomb tile with scenes of 
hunting and harvesting 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Earthenware; 1. 44.5 x 

w. 39.6 X d. 6.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1972 at Anren 

village, Dayi county, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


104. Tomb tile with carriage 
and horses 

Eastern Han dynasty 


Earthenware; 1. 45 x w. 39.5 x 

d. 6.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1955 from 

Qingbaixiang tomb No. 1, 

Xintan county, Sichuan 


Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


105. Three aristocratic 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Earthenware with pigment; 
h. 73-83 cm 
Unearthed in 1985 at 
Hansenzhai, Xi'an, Shaanxi 

Institute for the Protection of 
Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

106. Horse 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Earthenware with pigment; 

h. 87 x 1. 93 cm 

Unearthed in Luoyang, Henan 


Henan Provincial Museum, 


107. Camel 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Earthenware with sancai 
("three-color") glaze; 
h. 81 x 1.68 cm 
Unearthed in 1973 at Guanlin, 
Luoyang, Henan Province 
Luoyang Cultural Relics Work 
Team, Henan Province 

108. Set of twelve calendrical 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Earthenware with pigment; 
h. 38.5—41.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1955 in the 
suburbs of Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, 

109. Civil official 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Earthenware with sancai 
("three-color") glaze; h. 107 cm 
Unearthed at Guanlin, 
Luoyang, Henan Province 
Luoyang Municipal Museum 

no. Tomb guardian 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Earthenware with sancai 
("three-color") glaze; 
h. 103.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1981 from the 
tomb of An Pu at Longmen, 
Luoyang, Henan Province 
Luoyang Cultural Relics Work 
Team, Henan Province 

in. Heavenly king 
Tang dynasty {618-907) 
Earthenware with sancai 
("three-color") glaze; h. 113 cm 
Unearthed at Guanlin, 
Luoyang, Henan Province 
Luoyang Mumcipal Museum 

112. Four brick reliefs with 

Yuan dynasty {1279-1368) 

Earthenware; (1) h. 35 x 

1. 35.8 x w. 21 cm {2) h. 34 x 

1. 29 x w. 22.5 cm (3) h. 34 x 

1. 31 x w. 19.5 cm (4) h. 35 x 

1. 19.5 x w. 10 cm 

Unearthed in 1973 at 

Xifengfeng village, Jiaozuo, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


113. Bowl with stylized floral 
or leaf designs 
Neolithic period, Yangshao 

culture, mlaodigou type 

(4th millennium bce) 

Red earthenware with black 


h. 23 cm, max. diam. 36 cm 

Unearthed in 1979 in Fangshan 

county, Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of 

Archaeology, Taiyuan 

114. Basin with human head 
and fish designs 

Neolithic period, Yangshao 

culture, Banpo type 

(late 6th-5th millennium bce) 

Red earthenware with black 

pigment; h. 15.5 cm, 

diam. of mouth 39.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1955 at Banpo 

village, near Xi'an, 

Shaanxi Province 

National Museum of Chinese 

History, Beijing 

115. Vessel in the shape of 
an owl 

Neolithic period, Yangshao 
culture, Miaodigou type 
(4th millennium bce) 
Black earthenware; h. 35.8 cm 
Unearthed in 1959 at Taiping 
village, Hua county, 
Shaanxi Province 
National Museum of Chinese 
History, Beijing 

116. Bottle in the shape of 
a bird or dolphin 

Neolithic period, Liangzhu 


(ca. 3600-ca. 2000 bce) 

Gray earthenware; 1. 32.4 x 

w. 1 1. 7 cm 

Unearthed in i960 at Meiyan, 

Wujiang county, 

Jiangsu Province 

Nanjing Museum 

117. Jar with incised animal 
mask designs 

Shang period (ca. 1600- 

ca. 1100 bce) 

White earthenware; h. 22.1 cm, 

diam. of mouth 9.1 cm, diam. 

of foot 8.9 cm 

Unearthed at Anyang, Henan 


Palace Museum, Beijing 

1 1 8. Jar (zun) with mat 


Shang period (ca. 1600- 

ca. 1100 bce) 

Ash-glazed stoneware 
(protoporcelain); h. 27 cm, 
diam. of mouth 27 cm 
Unearthed in 1965 at 
Zhengzhou, Henan Province 
Zhengzhou Municipal 


ii9- Candleholder in the 

shape of a man riding 

a mythical beast 

Western Jin dynasty (265-316) 

Green-glazed stoneware 

(Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 27.7 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

120. Basin with applied 
Buddha figure 

Western Jin dynasty (265-316) 
Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 7.5 cm, 
diam. of mouth 19.4 cm, diam. 
of foot 10 cm 

National Museum of Chinese 
History, Beijing 

1 21. Jar with six lugs and 
incised bird and tree motifs 
Northern Qi dynasty 

Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon); h. 28.5 cm, 

max. diam. of mouth 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1958 from the 

tomb of Li Yun, 

Puyang county, Henan 


Henan Provincial Museum, 


122. Chicken-headed ewer 
with dragon handle 
Northern Qi dynasty 

Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon); h. 48.2 cm, 
max. diam. 32.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1978 from the 
tomb of Lou Rui.Taiyuan, 
Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Institute of 
Archaeology, Taiyuan 

123. Octagonal bottle 
Tank dynasty (618-907) 
Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 21.7 
cm, diam. of mouth 2.3, diam. 
of foot 7.8 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

124. Bowl 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 6.8 cm, 
diam. of mouth 22.4 cm 
Discovered in 19S7 in 
underground chamber of the 
Famcn Temple Pagoda, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Shaanxi History Museum, 

125. Octagonal bottle 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Green-glazed stoneware 
(Celadon), Yue kilns; h. 21. $ 
cm, diam. of mouth 2.2 cm, 
diam. of foot 8 cm 
Discovered in 19.K7 in 
underground chamber of the 
Famen Temple Pagoda, Fufeng 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Famen Temple Museum, 
Shaanxi Province 

126. Dish in the shape of a 
five-petaled blossom, base 
inscribed with character guan 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

White stoneware with 

transparent glaze, Xing or Ding 

kilns; h. 3.5 cm, 

diam. of mouth 13.8 cm, 

diam. of foot 6.45 cm 

Unearthed in 1985 at 

Huoshaobi, Xi'an, Shaanxi 


Institute for the Protection of 

Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

127. Dish in the shape of a 
three-petaled blossom, base 
inscribed with character guan 

Tanc dynasty (618-907) 
White stoneware with 
transparent glaze, Xing or 
Ding kilns; h. 2.3 x w. 11.7 cm, 
diam. of foot 5.9 cm 
Unearthed in 1985 at 
Huoshaobi, Xi'an, Shaanxi 

Institute for the Protection of 
Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

128. Covered jar with four 

Five Dynasties (907-960) 
White stoneware with 
transparent glaze, Xing or 
Ding kilns; h. 26.2 cm, diam. of 
mouth 10.4 cm, 
diam. of foot 9. 1 cm 
Donated by Mr. Zhou Rui 
Shanghai Museum 

129. Bowl inscribed with 
characters yaug ding 
("glorious Ding") 

Five Dynasties (907-960) 
White stoneware with 
transparent glaze, Ding kilns; 
h. 6.3 cm, diam. of mouth 
19.9 cm, diam. of foot 7.5 cm 
Donated by Mr. Huang Zhaoxi 
Shanghai Museum 

130. Bottle with carved and 
combed peony designs 
Northern Song dynasty 

Green-glazed stoneware, 
Yaozhou kilns; h. 19.9 cm, 
diam. of mouth 6.9 cm, diam. 
of foot 7.8 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

131. Bowl with incised ducks 
and water weeds 
Northern Song dynasty 

White stoneware with 
transparent glaze and bronze 
rim band. Ding kilns; 
h. 6.4 cm, diam. of mouth 23.5 
cm, diam. of foot 7.3 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

132. Tripod vessel in the 
shape of an archaic 
bronze Han or zun vessel 
Northern Song dynasty 

Pale blue-green-glazed 
stoneware, Ru kilns; 
h. 12.9 cm, diam. of 
mouth 18 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

133. Mallow-shaped bowl 
Southern Song dynasty 

Crackled pale blue- 
green— glazed stoneware, 
Hangzhou Guan ("official") 
kilns; h. 4.2 cm, diam. of mouth 
17.3 cm, diam. of 
foot 9.9 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

134. Vase with dish-shaped 
mouth and raised ribs 
Southern Song dynasty 

Crackled pale blue- 
green-glazed stoneware, 
Longquan kilns; h. 31 cm, diam. 
of mouth 10.4 cm, 
diam. of foot 11. 3 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

135. Jar with incised floral 


Northern Song dynasty 


Bluish-glazed white stoneware 

(<jiHg/j(i/),Jingdezhen kilns; 

h. 26.6 cm, diam. of mouth 

5 cm, diam. of foot 8.5 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

136. Vase with carved peony 

Northern Song dynasty 


Cizhou-type stoneware with 

white slip and transparent 

glaze; h. 34 cm, diam. of 

mouth 6 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 inTangyin 

county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


137. Pillow with painted 
design of a hawk chasing 
a rabbit among reeds 

Jin dynasty (1115— 1234) 

Cizhou-type stoneware with 

white slip, black pigment, 

and transparent glaze; h. 9.7 X ). 

24.7 x w. 17 cm 

Henan Provincial Museum. 


138. Vase with two leopards 
incised on a ring-matted 

NoRTHi rn Song m NAsn 

Stoneware with white slip and 
transparent glaze, 
Dengfeng kilns; h. \~. 1 cm, 
diam. of mouth 7- 1 cm, 
diam. oi foot '*.<> cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

139. Covered jar with floral 
designs in painted applied 

Yuan dynasty (1279— 1368) 

Porcelain with underglaze 

cobalt blue and copper red 

painted and applied decoration, 

jingdezhen kilns; 

h. 42.3 cm, diam. of mouth 

15.2 cm, diam. of foot 18.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1964 from a Yuan 

dynasty hoard at Baoding, 

Hebei Province 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

140. Covered jar with three 

Ming dynasty, Yongle period 


Pale green-glazed porcelain, 

Jingdezhen kilns; 

h. 10.4 cm, diam. of mouth 

9.9 cm, diam. of foot 14. 1 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

141. Flower-shaped brush 

Ming dynasty, Xuande mark 
and period (1426-1435) 
Copper red-glazed porcelain, 
Jingdezhen kilns; 
h. 3.8 cm, width of mouth 
15.9 cm, diam. of foot 13 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

142. Moon flask with dragons 
among lotus scrolls 

Ming dynasty, Yongle period 

Porcelain with underglaze 
cobalt blue decoration, 
Jingdezhen kilns; h. 44 cm, 
diam. of mouth 8 cm, 
diam. of foot 14.5 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

143. Jar with flowering plum, 

bamboo, and pine 

Minc dynasty', Yongle period 


Porcelain with underglaze 

cobalt blue decoration, 

Jingdezhen kilns; h. 36 cm, 

diam. ot mouth 6.7 cm, 

diam. of foot 13.9 cm 

Palace Museum. Beijing 

144. Stem bowl with scenes 
of ladies in a garden 

Ming dynasty, Xuande mark 

and PERIOD (I426- [435 

Porcelain with underglaze 
cobalt blue decoration, 
Jingdezhen kilns; h. 10.2 cm, 
diam, of mouth 15.5 cm, 
diam. of fool 1 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

145. Vase with flower and 

bird designs 


(l662- I 

1 ; iin \\ it li wucai ["five 
1 olor") dc( oration, 
Jingdezhen kilns; h 40.4 cm, 
diam. of mouth 11.2 cm, 
diam ol fool 14." cm 

Museum, Bei|ing 

146. Vase with flower designs 

MARK AND PERIOD (1723-1735) 

Porcelain with doitcai 
("clashing" or "matched color") 
decoration, Jingdezhen kilns; 
h. 26 cm, diam. of mouth 
5.2 cm. diam. of foot n.S cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 




147. Stele with Maitreya 
Dated to 471 
Northern Wei dynasty 

Sandstone; h. 86.9 x w. 55 cm 
Unearthed in Xingping 
county, Shaanxi Province 
Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

148. Sakyamuni on lion 

Dated to 502 

Northern Wei dynasty 


Sandstone; h. 48.5 x w. 27.7 cm 

Found in 1952 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

149. Stele with Sakyamuni 
and bodhisattvas 

Northern Wei dynasty 


Stone; h. 96 x w. 43.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1974 in Qi 

county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


150. Stele with Sakyamuni 
and attendants 

Dated to 523 

Liang dynasty (502-557) 

Sandstone; h. 35.8 x w. 30.3 x 

d. 20 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the 

Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


151. Stele: (obverse) 
bodhisattvas; (reverse) lower 
tier, figures, animals, and 
buildings in mountainous 
landscape; middle panel, 
lotus pond; upper tier, 
Buddha preaching to monks 
in garden setting 

Liang dynasty (502-557) 

Sandstone; h. 121 x w. 60 x 

d. 24.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the 

Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 

Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 


152. Engraved panel with 
Buddha beneath canopy 

Dated to 524 

Northern Wei dynasty 


Stone; h. 39.5 x 1. 144 x 

w. 14 cm 

Unearthed in the late 19th 

century in Luoyang, 

Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


153. Pillar base with 
mountains, dragons, and 

Northern Wei dynasty 

Stone; h. 16.5 x w. 12 cm 
Unearthed in 1966 from the 
Sima JinJong tomb, Shijiazhai, 
Datong city, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Museum, 

154. Stele with Sakyamuni 
and Maitreya 

Dated to 532 

Northern Wei dynasty 


Sandstone; h. 90 x w. 46 x 

d. 14 cm 

Institute for the Protection of 

Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

155. Stele: (obverse) 
Sakyamuni and attendants; 
(reverse) Maitreya 

Western Wei dynasty 


Sandstone; h. 48.2 x w. 21.5 x 

d. 12. 1 cm 

Institute for the Protection of 

Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

156. Sakyamuni 
Dated to 540 
Eastern Wei dynasty 

Sandstone; h. 35 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the 
Huata Temple site, Taiyuan, 
Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 

157. Stele with enthroned 
Buddhas and attendant 
bodhisattvas and monks 
Dated to 559 
Northern Qi dynasty 

Limestone; h. no x w. 58.5 x 

d. 10 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 in 

Xiangcheng county, Henan 


Henan Provincial Museum, 


158. Stele: (obverse) 
Sakyamuni and attendants; 
(reverse) myriad Buddhas 
Dated to 565 

Northern Zhou dynasty 

Stone; h. 259 x w. 73.4 x 

d. 19.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1963 in Luoning 

county, Henan Province 

Henan Provincial Museum, 


159. Stele with Buddhist 

Northern Zhou dynasty 


Marble; h. 40 X w. 28 x 

d. 8.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1975 at Caotan 

in the northern suburb of 

Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of 

Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

160. Amitabha altar 

Dated to 584 

Sui dynasty (581-618) 

Gilt bronze; h. 41 cm, 1. of altar 

stand 24.3 cm, w. of altar stand 

24 cm 

Unearthed in 1974 at Bali 

village, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 

Institute for the Protection of 

Cultural Relics, Xi'an 

161. Stele with Sakyamuni 
and attendants 

Northern Qi dynasty 


Sandstone with polychrome; 

h. 46 x w. 27 cm 

Unearthed in 1954 at the 

Huata Temple site, Taiyuan, 

Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum 

162. Seated Buddha 
Sui dynasty (581—618) 
Marble with pigments; 
h. 100.7 x w - 74-7 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

163. Head of a bodhisattva 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone; h. 36 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the 
Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 
Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 

164. Head of Eleven-Headed 
Avalo kites vara 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Marble; h. 25.5 cm 
Unearthed in 1983 in the 
western suburb ot Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

165. Torso of a bodhisattva 

Tang dynasty (618—907) 
Marble; h. no x w. 35 cm 
Unearthed in 1959 in the 
precincts of the Darmnggong, a 
Tang dynasty imperial palace in 
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 
Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

166. Head of a bodhisattva 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Marble with gold; h. 15.7 cm 
Unearthed in 1959 at the 
Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

167. Torso of a guardian king 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Marble; h. 100 cm 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

168. Torso of a vajrasattva 
(a type of bodhisattva) 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone; h. 86 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the 
Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 
Sichuan Province 

Sichuan Provincial Museum, 

169. Heavenly King 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 

Gilt bronze; h. 65 cm 

Unearthed in Baoji, Shaanxi 


Baoji Municipal Museum 

170. Trail okyavijaya 
(conqueror of greed, hatred, 
and delusion) 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Marble; h. 71 x w. 42 cm 
Unearthed in 1959 at the 
Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

171. Ratnasambhava 

Tang dynasty (618—907) 

Marble with traces of gold; 

h. 67.5 cm 

Unearthed in 1959 at the 

Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 

Shaanxi Province 

Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

172. Manjusri 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Marble; h. 75 cm 
Unearthed in 1959 at the 
Anguo Temple site, Xi'an, 
Shaanxi Province 
Forest of Steles Museum, Xi'an 

173. Head of a bodhisattva 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone; h. 30 x w. 19 cm 
Unearthed in 1957 at 
Nannieshui village, Qin 
county, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Museum, 

174. Standing bodhisattva 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone with gold; h. 60 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the 
Huata Temple site, Taiyuan, 
Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 

175. Torso of a bodhisattva 
Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone; h. 112 cm 
Unearthed at the Guanghua 
Temple site, Baicheng village, 
Taigu county, Shanxi Province 
Shanxi Provincial Museum, 

176. Head of Avalokitesvara 

Tang dynasty (618-907) 
Sandstone; h. 41 cm 
Unearthed in 1954 at the 
Wanfo Temple site, Chengdu, 
Sichuan Province 
Sichuan Provincial Museum, 

177. Two arhats, one with 
dragon, the other with tiger 
Northern Song dynasty 

Stone; (1) h. 38 cm 

(2) h. 38 cm 

Discovered in 1980 at the 

Boshan Temple site, Fu county, 

Shaanxi Province 

Shaanxi History Museum, 





178. Ink stone 
Northern Wei dynasty 


Stone; h. 8.5 x 1. 21.2 x 

w. 21 cm 

Unearthed in 1970 near 

Datong, Shanxi Province 

Shanxi Provincial Museum, 


179. Zhu Yunming (1461-1527) 
"The Terrace of Ode to the 
Wind" and other poems 
composed by Zhu Yunming, 
written in wild cursive script 

Dated to 1523 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink on paper; 

24.6 x 655.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

180. Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641) 
Transcription of Wang Wei's 
"Song of the Aged General," 
written in cursive script 

MlNC DYNASTY (1368-I644) 

Handscroll, ink on silk; 29.5 x 

629.5 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

181. Wang Duo (1592-1652) 
Transcription of Wang Wei's 
"Enjoying a Repast at the 
Home of Elder Zhao in 
Qizhou" and "Passing by the 
Herbal Garden of Master 
Hesui in Spring," written in 
standard script (kaishu) 
Dated to 1643 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Handscroll, ink on satin; 21.2 x 
165.5 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

182. Zhang Zhao (1691— 1745) 
Transcription of "Seventh 
Month" from the Odes of Bin, 
written in standard script 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 

176 x 92 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

183. Deng Shim (1743-1805) 
Couplet in seven-character 
lines, written in clerical script 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scrolls, ink on gold- 
flecked paper; 130.1 x 27.6 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

184. Wang Shen 
(ca. 1048— after 1104) 

Misty River and Layered Hills 

Northern Song dynasty 


Handscroll, ink and color on 

silk; 45.2 x 166 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

185. Zhao Kui (1185— 1266) 

In the Spirit of Poems by Du Fu 

Southern Song dynasty 

(1 127-1279) 

Handscroll, ink on silk; 24.7 x 

212.2 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

186. Anonymous 
Snowy Landscape 
Southern Song dynasty 

Handscroll, ink and light color 
on paper; 24 x 48.2 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

187. Song Boren 
(act. mid- 13 th c.) 

Album of Plum Blossom Portraits 

123S; reprint, 1261 

Southern Song dynasty 


Woodblock print book; each 

leaf 23.1 x 28.6 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

188. Ni Zan (i306[?]-i374) 
Six Gentlemen 

Dated to 1345 

Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 

61.9 x 33.3 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

189. Wang Meng 
(ca. 1308-1385) 
Dwelling in the Qingbian 

Dated to 1366 
Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) 
Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
140.6 x 42.2 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

190. Shang Xi 

(act. ca. 2nd quarter of 15th c.) 

The Xuande Emperor on an 


Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color 

on paper; 211 x 353 cm 

Palace Museum. Beijing 

191. Xie Huan (act. 1426—1452) 
The Literary Gathering in the 
Apricot Garden 

Ca. 1437 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Handscroll, ink and color on 

silk; h. 37 cm 

Zhcnjiang Municipal Museum 

192. Dai Jin (1388-1462) 
Landscape in the Manner oj Yan 
1 1 engui 

Mink DYNASTY (1368— 1644) 
Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
98.2 x 45.8 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

193. Wu Wei (1459-150S) 
Fishermen on a Snowy River 
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Hanging scroll, ink on silk; 
245 x 156 cm 

Hubei Provincial Museum, 

194. Zhou Chen 
(ca. 1455— after 1536) 
Peach Blossom Spring 
Dated to 1533 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on silk; 161. 5 x 102.5 cm 
Suzhou Municipal Museum 

195-QiuYing (ca. 1495— 1552) 

Playing the Flute by Pine and 


Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Hanging scroll, ink and color 

on silk; 116. 4 x 65.8 cm 

Nanjing Museum 

196. Shen Zhou (1427-1509) 
Eastern Villa 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Album, ink and color on paper; 
each leaf 28.6 X 33 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

197. Wen Zhengming 

Studio oj True Appreciation 
Dated to 1549 
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Handscroll, ink and color on 
paper; 36 x 107.8 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

198. Xu Wei (1521-1593) 
Peonies, Banana Plant, and 

Ming dynasty (136S-1644) 
Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
120.6 x 58.4 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

199. Chen Hongshou 

The Pleasures of He Tianzhang 
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Handscroll, ink and color on 
silk; 25.3 x 163.2 cm 
Suzhou Municipal Museum 

200. Dong Qichang 

Poetic Feeling at Qixia 


Dated to \(->i6 

Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 

133.1 x 52.5 cm 

Shanghai Museum 

201. Ten Bamboo Studio 
Manual of Calligraphy 
and Painting 

Published [627-1633 by Hu 
Zhengyan (1584— 1674) 
Mim. m \\sn (1368 -1644] 
Woodblock print hook; each 
leaf 25.8 x 31 cm 
Palace Museum. Beijing 

202. Ten Bamboo Studio 
Letter Papers 
Published 1644 by Hu 
Zhengyan (15S4-1674) 
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) 
Woodblock print book; each 
leaf 21 x 13.6 cm 

Palace Museum, Beijing 

203. Album of a Hundred 
Flowers, after paintings by 
Zhang Chaoxiang (act. 19th c.) 


Woodblock print book; each 
leaf 24.2 x 16.8 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

204. Wang Yuanqi (1642— 1715) 
Complete in Soul, Sufficient in 

Dated to 1708 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
137.2 x 71.5 cm 
Palace Museum, Beijing 

205. Wu Li (1632-1718) 
Reading "The Book of 
Changes" in a Streamside 

Dated to 1678 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644-1911) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
2 1 1. 7 x 7S.7 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

206. Kuncan (1612-ca. 1674) 
Clear Sky over Verdant Hills 
Dated to 1660 


Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on silk; S5 x 40.5 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

207. Hongren (1610-1664) 
Peaks and Ravines at jinqi 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
no. 6 x 58.9 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

208. Yuanji (Shitao; 1642-1707) 
Pure Sounds of Hills and 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 
102.5 x 42.4 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

209. Gong Xian (1618 1689 
Summer Mountains after Rain 

QlNG DYNAST* (1644— lOTl) 

Hanging scroll, ink on ->i!k; 
141.7 \ 57. s cm 

Nanjing Museum 

mh H.ul.i Sh.inren 


Ducks and Lotuses 

Dated i" 

QlNC DYNASm (1644- 1 wu'' 

Hanging scroll, ink on papei . 
if>f> \ 76.3 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

211. Yuanji (Shitao; 1642-1707) 
Clear Autumn in Huaiyang 


Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on paper; 89 x 57.1 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

212. Zou Zhe (1636-ca. 1708) 
Album of Landscapes 

QlNG DYNASTY (1644— I9II) 

Album, ink and color on paper; 
three leaves each 
12.6 x 28.6 cm, remaining 
leaves each 12.6 x 14 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

213. Yuan Jiang 

(act. ca. 1690-ca. 1746) 

Garden for Gazing 


Handscroll, ink and light color 
on silk; 51.5 x 254.5 cm 
Tianjin Municipal History 

214. Gao Cen 
(act. ca. 1645-1689) 
The Temple on Jinshan 


Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on silk; 180.8 x 95.1 cm 
Nanjing Museum 

215. Gao Xiang (1688-1754) 
Finger-Snap Pavilion 

QlNC DYNASTY (1644-I9I1) 

Hanging scroll, ink on paper; 

69 x 38 cm 

Yangzhou Municipal Museum 

216. Huang Shen 
(1687-after 1768) 
Willows and Egrets 


Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on paper; 113.7 X 57.7 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

217. Li Shan (1686-after 1760) 
Pine, Wisteria, and Peonies 
Dated to 1755 


Hanging scroll, ink and color 
on paper; 238 x (l8.2 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

218. Jin Nong (1687— 1764) 
Album oj Landscapes and 

Dated to 1759 

QlNG DYNASTY , [644-IQIl) 

Album, ink and color on paper; 
each leaf 26.1 x 34.9 cm 
Shanghai Museum 

219. Hua Yan 

The Golden Valley Garden 
Dated to [73a 
QlNC DYNASTi 1 644- 191 1 ) 
Hanging scroll, ink and - 
on paper; l"S.-j \ ^4.1 Clll 
Shanghai Museum 




Honorary Trustees in Perpetuity 
Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Justin K.Thannhauser 
Peggy Guggenheim 


Peter Lawson-Johnston 


Ronald O. Perelman 

Robert M. Gardiner 
Wendy L-J. McNeil 

Vice-President and Treasurer 
Stephen C. Swid 

Thomas Krens 

Edward F. Rover 

Honorary Trustee 
Claude Pompidou 

Trustee Ex Officio 
Luigi Moscheri 

Director Emeritus 
Thomas M. Messer 


Giovanni Agnelli 

Jon Imanol Azua 

Peter M. Brant 

The Right Honorable Earl Castle Stewart 

Mary Sharp Cronson 

Elizabeth T. Dingman 

Gail May Engelberg 

Daniel Filipacchi 

Robert M. Gardiner 

Barbara Jonas 

David H. Koch 

Thomas Krens 

Peter Lawson-Johnston 

Samuel J. LeFrak 

Rolf-Dieter Leister 

Peter B. Lewis 

Peter Littmann 

Wendy L-J. McNeil 

Edward H. Meyer 

Ronald O. Perelman 

Frederick W. Reid 

Richard A. Rifkind 

Denise Saul 

Rudolph B. Schulhof 

Terry Semel 

James B. Sherwood 

RajaW. Sidawi 

Seymour Slive 

Stephen C. Swid 

John S.Wadsworth,Jr. 

Cornel West 

Michael F. Wettach 

John Wilmerding 

William T Ylvisaker