Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Qin and Han Dynasties

You may post your essay and questions here.


Melanie Duzick said...

Bronze Mirrors

Bronze mirrors were originally used to reflect one's face as well as one's heart and soul. Furthermore, the mirror reflects all knowledge and wards off evil by holding and reflecting the sun's rays and lighting darkness. During the time of the Warring States, mirrors found in Luoyang featured dragon like creatures against a background of geometric patterns. Mirrors found in Chu had concentric rings, which were reminiscent of snakes.
Eventually, during the Han dynasty, the dragon motif became more complex, the body was drawn in double and triple lines and the background was crosshatched rather than detailed with geometric patterns. The "TLV" mirrors were most prevalent during the Han dynasty. The mirrors contained T, L, and V-shaped markings; hence the name. These bronze mirrors were circular and often decorated with images of animals and served as a symbol of cosmology. The animals engraved on the TLV mirror signify the four directions, seasons, and colors. Snakes and tortoises as well as birds, tigers, dragons, and the earth symbol, "cong" are animals, which are often prevalent on the mirrors.
Additionally, the mirror symbolizes a system of five elements known as, "wuxing" in which all events and objects are derived. Wuxing consists of the elements water, fire, metal, wood, and earth. Each element is represented in the central circle of the mirror within a square and they serve different functions. For instance, according to the text, water puts out fire and fire melts metal. In general, the bronze mirrors of the Han Dynasty serve as cosmological diagram pertaining to celestial (heavenly) and terrestrial (earthly) symbols. The principles of heaven and earth and wuxing were equated with the idea of yin and yang, a concept most prevalent during the Han dynasty that created a harmonious bond between humans and nature, heaven and earth, and the individual and society. During the Han Dynasty, people often turned to mythological legends, poetic expression from the South, and philosophies from Confucius in the North.
Slowly branching off, the terrestrial elements eventually became the base playing board for a game called, liubo. This game gained its popularity during the Han Dynasty, which is evident from the numerous Han reliefs and clay sculptures. Through extensive research in ancient writings, Professor Yang Liensheng was able to grasp the main concept and object of the game. The players intentions were to steal the opposing teams men or, “drive them into the benders” so that they could get to the middle (Sullivan 85). Acquiring center status is said to have been symbolic for setting an axis in which one could gain control of the Universe. Liubo proved to be most popular within the Dongwanggong, as well at the highly goal oriented heroic individuals that were looking to gain magical powers. Through many hours of examination on the bronze mirrors, researchers are able to confidently state that the game faded away by the end of the Han Dynasty. Later on, the figures represented within the mirrors become entirely relief depictions of Daoist fairies and immortals.

Questions for Class:

1. Did the makers of the mirrors prepare the black surface to protect the underlying bronze, or did it develop from burial in soil for over 2000 years?

2. Did children engage in the activity of liubo? Or was it solely for adults?

3. Why do you think these bronze sculptures were actually called mirrors?


Mirror with TLV Pattern, China, Han Dynasty, (206 BC – AD 220)
Antique Chinese Han Dynasty TLV Bronze Mirror (206 BC to 220 AD)

Diagram demonstrating Concept of Yin and Yang

Kristin said...

Han Dynasty Bronzes

After the Zhou Dynasty fell, the traditional rituals associated with this dynasty were forgotten. As a result of this the bronzes of the Han Dynasty were more utilitarian than those of the Shang and Zhou which were more ritual based. The bronzes of the Han Dynasty had simple and functional forms like deep dishes or wine jars although they tended to be more decorative than Shang or Zhou bronzes.
Many of the bronzes in the early centuries of the Han Dynasty were decorated with images of mythical creatures such as unicorns and winged horses. One object found in the tomb of Liu Sheng in the Western Han called Boschan xianglu is a bronze censer that depicts a fairy mountain with various animals as well as hunters and trees with waves around the bottom. Bronze depictions of buddha also began appearing during the Han giving evidence of cultural changes due to intercultural interactions.
Many of these bronze artifacts have been found in Han tombs. Bronze objects such as harness and carriage fittings, swords, knives, utensils, and belt buckles have been found in abundance within the tombs. Many of these objects have also been inlayed with gold, silver, turquoise, or jade.
Also, in the southwest at Shizhaishan many bronze objects have been found from the late Zhou and early Han that differ from the bronze culture of China proper. Tombs in this region have yielded many bronze weapons and ritual objects. There have also been many drums and drum shaped containers found. On one drum shaped container there are figures depicted to be participating in a sacrificial rite of some sort. There are smaller drums under a wagon roof that are still used in Southeast Asia and Sumatra today. Bronze mirrors from the Han Dynasty have also been found. On some there is a coiled dragon motif that has become more complex with the dragon's body drawn in double or triple lines with a crosshatched background. Others that have been found have a spiral design in which a scalloped device, thought to be of astronomical significance, is superimposed. Also found were "TLV" mirrors, named for their T,L,and V shaped markings. The designs on these bronze mirrors symbolize the five elements, a system of cosmology developed by Zou Yan. In this system the great ultimate produces the duality of yin and yang that gives birth to the five elements.

Question: If the bronzes of the Han dynasty were more utilitarian and functional, why were they more decorative than the Shang or Zhou bronzes that were used for rituals?

Yadira said...

Scupture and the Decorative Arts of the Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty of China is an integral period of Chinese history in terms of both culture and art. It was the earliest Chinese culture to produce monumental sculpture and revolutionized the face of burial processes and funerary rites. There are three distinct regional styles of Han decorative arts, which are centered almost entirely on tomb decoration. These styles include the crude rendering of figures in the Sichuan region, the predominance of stoic relief in the Shandong region, and the elaborate and copious use of precious stone and metal inlay of the Nanyang region.

Additionally, the advent of Han Dynasty revolutionized the structure of the tomb. Emperor Ming was the first to introduce the custom of including a sacrificial hall which was approached by a ‘spirit road’, the latter flanked by stone creatures serving to guard the sanctity of the tomb and the spirit of the deceased. Inside of the tomb, clay figures, horses and other animals replaced the immolation of the earlier Shang dynasty. Also worth noting is the fact that the grandiosity and auspiciousness of the tombs preserved and publicly proclaimed the piety and prosperity of the surviving family members. This is in direct opposition to the formerly held belief that the tomb and its contents were to benefit only the deceased.

The tomb sculptures of the Han Dynasty were life size or nearly life size and clay was favored in the earlier part of the dynasty and individual pieces were created separately and added to the finished. Bronze as a medium gained predominance and popularity toward the end of the dynasty. By that point, most of the sculptures were mass-produced by way of casting. Just as the Book of Songs gave us insight into the Zhou culture, the funerary sculpture and decorative art of the Han dynasty provided important insight into daily life, entertainment and foreign relations.

Questions for the class:

-Did the Han Dynasty set a precedent for more realistic sculptural figuration?

-What qualifications are taken into consideration when determining what makes a work crude or refined?

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Jades of the Qin and Han Dynasties

There were advancements in carving jade during the Qin and Han Dynasties. It is uncertain about the Qin advancements because the dynasty was short-lived and few jades were found. It is also
possible that these jades of Qin were named under the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty is more recognized for jade and its new styles of carving.
The three dimensional forms of functional objects expressed the Han’s new technical freedom.
Due to the Han having a large abundance of jade, the craftsmen were able to experiment more with the medium. There is a possibility that the Qin Dynasty controlled the way to western jade mines. This could be why the Han Dynasty had a large amount of jade to work with. The jadesmiths were now working with the discolorations of jade, the ancient style of jade carving, and its hues and texture. They also focused on creating small figurines and humanizing forms, more than animals. This shows the
changes of philosophy and religion of China. However, pigs and dragons were animals of importance
and continued to be carved.
The first Chinese dictionary was produced during the Han dynasty. The dictionary defines jade as “the beautiful stone with 5 virtues”. The Han thought jade represented a source of intellect and pleasure to the senses. It expresses knowledge, moral beauty, protection, and preservative powers. Jade was being used as functional objects during the Han while the ritual use of jade declined. The bi disk, a ceremonial and symbolic ritual object, has changed its function during the Han. It was being used
as an ornamental object.
Jade was used for enjoyment as well as rituals, but were only to be worn or possessed by nobility. For example, there were jade shrouds found in tombs of Han kings and emperors. The Han imperial family had jade burial suits made which were sewn jade plaques with gold wire.Other objects found were pendants, garment hooks, and seals.
Eventually, in 222 A.D., due to the fall of the Han Dynasty, the jade shrouds were banned in the
Han tombs. The conquerors did not favor the extravagant use of jade, especially in the jade shrouds.
Tomb shrines were banned as well. The following Six Dynasties had their graves in a simpler manner.
This supports how jade showed the changes in China. It was losing its connection to the old belief
system and now involving Daoism and Buddhism. Jade served more as functional objects and continued
to flourish in the future dynasties.

Questions for the Class:

1.What were the advancements in carving jade during the Han Dynasty?

2.Why do you think jade in the Qin and Han Dynasties reflect the changes in China?

3.What did jade represent during this period? Was it still being used for rituals?

4.Why did the Han Dynasty focus more on humanistic forms than animals?