Of the three Xi'an examples, one has a yurt positioned deep in the middle ground. Figures, appearing to be guests, kneel outside on a rug to the left engaged in conversation and enjoying refreshments. The Miho version also depicts a yurt in the middle ground containing a seated Turk. To the left, three more Turks seen from the back kneel on a rug facing the yurt; one of the three turns his head and appears to be looking directly at the groom standing nearby with the horses.
Placed at the center of the scene, the horses, shown from three viewpoints, a side, front and three-quarter back view, create a breathtaking passage capturing well-modeled energetic animals pawing the hillocks or rocks. Even with the gilded backgrounds that survived on the Xi'an panels and did not on the Miho couch and which tend to flatten the space and introduce a decorative element, the energy and spatial evocativeness of these scenes is not diminished.
On the Tianshui panels, there are human figures engaged in a procession, hunting, and drinking, but they do not assume the same prominence as the figures on the other three couches and sarcophagus [Fig. In fact, the Tianshui figures are tucked into the architectural structures and groupings of landscape elements, rocks, and trees and are barely visible, or totally absent. More than on any of the other three mortuary couches, these integrated compositions evoke later vertical landscape scroll compositions. The strong sense of three-dimensional space is achieved by an accumulation of strategies, overlapping, diagonals, changes of scale, translation of an intuitive and empirical understanding into visual vocabulary on a tilted image field--not the rational and systematic approach of a linear perspective system.
The second compositional strategy divides the pictorial space into two registers. With a few significant exceptions, these events are depicted in a shallower more compressed space, with most activity remaining in the foreground.
Figures, animals, buildings, and landscape elements parallel the picture plane. The landscape or architectural elements are positioned to emphasize separation between the two registers. Often the same person is represented engaged in two different activities, perhaps also implying a narrative or sequential time relationship, with the event in the upper register usually preceding the scene in the lower register [Fig.
Michael Sullivan suggests that the convention whereby the same figure might be represented performing different scenes in the successive stages of the narrative on the same plane was an innovation introduced into China from western Asia to meet the demands of illustrating Buddhist teachings, such as the Jataka tales carved on the horizontal transom on Sanchi's north gateway. A similar perhaps less developed concept emerges in programs of tomb decoration in the Eastern Han, such as the tomb of Mixian in Henan.
This two tier compositional strategy also seems to have been reserved for more iconic religious and symbolic or ritual scenes like those on the Xi'an and Miho couches, in particular. In one example, on the Miho couch, the center panel depicts the sagdid ceremony, a Zoroastrian burial rite with a priest wearing a padam presiding over the sacred fire in the top register, while in the bottom register, what appears to be a solemn assemblage of male and female figures stands and look towards a tree; three horses stand behind the figures [Fig.
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Another Miho scene shows a riderless horse being given an offering under an umbrella or canopy that effectively divides the bottom from another mounted procession above [Fig. The center panel of the Xi'an couch has a heraldic arrangement with two dignitaries on horseback above a pavilion with a circle and crescent on the roof and framed in a pearl border; the same two dignitaries appear to be in this pavilion kneeling at a table and engaged in a formal exchange [Fig.
The Anyang stone panels and Yu Hong's sarcophagus share many similar themes and landscape elements with the other three couches, including processions, hunts, feasts, and images of musicians. The organization of the pictorial space on the panels from the Anyang and Yu Hong differs somewhat from that on the other three couches. The picture plane described on the Anyang stones is densely packed with finely carved and layered low relief embellished with repetitive scenes and patterns; the pearl border is particularly ubiquitous, edging almost all the long tunics, the architecture, and the borders enclosing the panels [Fig.
The pictorial space in each panel, divided into registers, is very shallow foreground space and all elements with the exception of the diagonal entrance ramps to the pavilions as seen on Han reliefs are parallel to the picture plane. Highly stylized shapes of trees, rocks and clouds fill or often squeeze into available spaces generally towards the top or bottom edges of the panels; an occasional stylized rock seems to stray into the empty spaces between horses' legs.
Activities on this funerary couch center around a high ranking official who is depicted drinking in a grape arbor, journeying on horseback with an entourage, and perhaps arriving at the pavilion entrance below to sit and drink with a group of Central Asian ladies. Despite the shallowness and density of the composition, the pictorial space is animated with a sense of movement and energy.
Although the panels from Yu Hong's sarcophagus are also organized vertically and divided into two registers, the upper register occupies two-thirds of the space and is filled with a depiction of an activity or event while the remaining one-third of the space is filled with symbolic or mythical animals, animal combat, and animal and human combat [Figs. But in contrast to the four couches, these compositions use far fewer pictorial elements that exist in two types of pictorial space. In all but the central panel, the sense of space is both indeterminate and evocative, depending upon the placement of the pictorial elements; the depiction of a Turk hunting on camelback has virtually no context yet the sense of space is evoked as the camel strides along snarling and the Turk twists backward to loose an arrow at the attacking lion [Fig.
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In contrast, the image field of the central panel is filled with a large feasting scene positioned in a setting created by using a visual one point perspective—all diagonals, except the musicians' mats, recede to the central pavilion. The organization of this scene is reminiscent of the emerging paradise scenes recorded on the backs of Sichuan Buddhist stele [Figs18,19]. Soper describes as "life-motion. To cite a few examples, on the Anyang panels Sogdian beribboned birds with large tails stand in the sky, while on the Xi'an couch, the boar hunt with grasses behind or the two figures meeting on horseback and the heraldic composition, are hallmarks associated with Sasanian and West Asian cultures [Fig.
Some of the animals on the Miho couch such as the leaping lions are modeled after Kushan versions, while the large bull on the base of Yu Hong's sarcophagus panel also comes from India. Among this group of mortuary furnishings, I believe that the handling of space on Yu Hong's sarcophagus and to a lesser extent on the Anyang stones seems to have been more modified and more reflective of influence from the West than the others. Although busy filled surfaces of the Anyang stones can be found on sixth century funerary monuments without any non-Chinese subjects, here, the imagery is not only much more dense but also compressed and repetitive, creating a decorative and textile-like effect.
Some "life-motion" is expressed near the top of the panels where scudding clouds or flapping flags are tightly compressed.
Here, the rocky landscape that usually runs along the lower edge of the panel has been replaced with the stylized scalloped hill shapes found on Iranian metal work. Yu Hong's sarcophagus also reflects mixed approaches, including rather few typical Chinese motifs or landscape elements; for example, the typically Chinese rocky hill formations are missing, replaced by highly stylized scalloped shapes randomly placed in corners, particularly in the lower panels.
There are many issues raised by the analysis of the pictorial space with its incorporation of landscape elements. Several related questions inevitably emerge from the mixed approaches and diverse sources converging in the pictorial vocabulary and iconography on these mortuary furnishings: What were the sources of the imagery on these stone funerary furnishings?
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Were there Chinese workshops with pattern books from which the client selected stock scenes or did the client bring imagery to the workshop? Or were foreign craftsmen working alongside Chinese artisans in Chinese workshops? The handling of the image field and pictorial elements strongly suggests that they were carved by Chinese artisans incorporating non-Chinese imagery. Finally, on these four couches and the sarcophagus, the range of styles and iconography reflects the impact of a new and complex cultural dynamic of exchange and convergence created during the Period of Disunity from the 4 th through 7 th centuries.
The existing fabric of traditional Han culture confronted, responded to, transformed and absorbed nomadic invasions and rule, a thriving trade with the West, an influx of Central Asian traders, dignitaries, and diplomats, and the Buddhist religion. These couches and the sarcophagus made for foreigners or foreign descendants living in China provide an intriguing model of intercultural discourse—offering insights into the Chinese response to foreign influences and into the significant and prolonged interactions with West during this Period of Disunity.
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Juliano and Judith A. From the newspaper account, this promises to be the most extraordinary of this group of mortuary furnishings depicting activities of Central Asians. During the Northern Zhou, the tomb occupant with the Shi family name had been appointed as a panshi supervisor of Liangzhou region, including the area from Wuwei to Pingliang in modern Gansu, to oversee the affairs of peoples coming from Sogdiana, Central Asia, and Western Asia into China. His grandfather and father were also sabao. In addition to the relief carving on the sarcophagus which has been painted and partially gilded, the tomb contains, for the first time, written materials relating to Sogdians of the western regions.
The publication of this tomb, the contents and the sarcophagus promises to provide critical insights into Sogdian community and culture that existed in northern China during the sixth century. It also emphasizes the importance attached to maintaining one's ethnic and cultural identity even while adapting to culture of China and traditional Chinese burial customs.
This article in the Wen Hui Bao was translated by Professor Victor Mair, who kindly dispersed it by email to interested colleagues in the field. Guoxue Yenjiu , no. The animals in particular seem to jut into the scene from the borders of the stone panels while the horseback riders seem to be disappearing out of or entering into the scene from the border.
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When the eleven Miho panels were first published in , this "cut-off" imagery was cited as a highly suspect feature of these narrative scenes, contributing to the cloud of doubt that surrounded the authenticity of this couch; for examples, see Juliano, "Northern Dynasties," nos.
In , Wu Hung, launched a research project focusing on these four hundred years of disunity as one of the most pivotal periods in Chinese history and art history, see Wu Hung, editor, Between Han and Tang: Religious Art and Archeology in a Transformative Period Beijing, , the first of three volumes. In contrast, during the Six Dynasties period, a body of literary and aesthetic theory emerges, found in both historical and theoretical texts on art, biographies of painters in dynastic histories and other miscellaneous sources.
For a convenient discussion of some of these sources, see Michael Sullivan. First, literary sources preserved from painting texts and other literary sources such as dynastic histories demonstrate the use of the same subject matter in lost paintings and tombs such as paragons of filial piety and the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove," see Alexander C. In wall compositions found in two tombs near Nanjing, Danyang and Xishanqiao Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove , the tiles are assembled on the wall like a puzzle to create a large wall mural—a technique that suggests that popular paintings were transferred to walls, see Wenwu , no.
These tiles also employ raised relief lines in clay that mimic the "silk thread brush line" believed to have been pioneered by the famous 4 th century painter Gu Kaizhi while other tiles from the Dengxian tomb in southern Henan imitate the flexibility of the brush by recreating lines in relief that thicken and thin, undulating to define forms, see Annette L. Juliano, Teng-hsien: An Important Six Dynasties Tomb Ascona, Artibus Asiae Supplemetum 37, , pp, and Dengxian caise huaxiang zhuanmu Colored Images from the Tiles Tomb from Dengxian Beijing, ; and third, the incorporation of and interest in landscape and figural elements, see examples noted below.
Other smaller defined spaces, such as lintels, pillars, and lunettes, usually contain symbolic creatures rather than narrative scenes. The cut off in the pictorial scenes suggests adaptation from another format. This stone sarcophagus depicts the conservative Confucian theme of filial piety utilizing a sophisticated configuration of landscape elements to define and to advance the narrative structure across the sides of the sarcophagus.
See also the sophisticated figure landscape narrative scenes arranged in a vertical two tiered format on the end walls of a sixth century shrine probably a house-shaped sarcophagus of Ning Xiang.. On one end wall, two Paragons of Filial Piety are shown: one above, Dong Yong which is separated from the scene below of Tong Yen's mother conversing with Wang Ji's mother by a pebble strewn ground plane and stylized layered rocks. XL, no. Another stone mortuary bed or couch with back and side panels illustrating Paragons of Filial Piety was shown by Gisele Croes in New York in March of The stories are set in typical early sixth-century stylized Chinese landscape-figure compositions.
After setting up his studio, Zheng has trained more than 20 apprentices, who have all become sword smiths of great reputation. The old sword smith insists that Longquan sword, with a history of more than 2, years, deserves to be carried on in our time, both materially and spiritually.
Scenery of Ra'og Lake in China's Tibet. Night events held in museums in China's Jiangsu. Cooks make delicious food during Asian Cuisine Festival in Beijing. Scenery of terraced lands in Gaokan Township, China's Sichuan.