Comparative arts
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Comparative Arts. Chinese Civilization – Chapters 8 and 19 October 2010. Early cultures in what is now China. Between 800 BCE and 480 BCE culture in the northern plain developed in ways that parallel developments in the Middle East and Greece in the same period

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Comparative arts

Comparative Arts

Chinese Civilization – Chapters 8 and 19

October 2010


Early cultures in what is now china

Early cultures in what is now China

  • Between 800 BCE and 480 BCE culture in the northern plain developed in ways that parallel developments in the Middle East and Greece in the same period

  • Large cities were constructed over 3,000 years ago– little evidence remains as they had earthen walls and were made of wood, which was plentiful

  • Elaborate tombs of rulers have been found – similar to tombs in ancient Egypt as they are filled with items useful in the next world

  • Chinese developed a writing system in the early Bronze Age, the same time that Mesopotamians developed their writing system.

    • The writing system was written with a brush and ink

    • Early writing survives on animal bones – ‘Oracle Bones’


Comparative arts

Evolution of Chinese characters – from pictograms to characters used up to the present

Remarkably consistent over time – allows scholars to easily translate ancient Chinese writing


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“Is my deceased ancestor causing my toothache?”

“How good will the crops be next season?”

“What preparations are necessary for the tomb of my relative?”

Pit filled with Oracle Bones – questions were posed and then the bones were heated – the cracks would be interpreted by oracles, who would then write down the question, the name of the oracle and the date


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Oracle bones, about 1500 BCE


Political stability cultural development

Political stability, cultural development

  • China transformed from a purely agricultural society into a more urban-centered state

  • By the 3rd century BCE, China was unified and the government grew extremely powerful

  • New roads and canal systems were built linking the entire nation

  • Large trade networks were developing – the Silk Road connected China with the Mediterranean


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The Silk road connected China with Central Asia and the Mediterranean (around 5,000 miles!) – the opening up of markets across the continent led to a massive increase in silk production to meet the demand – the Chinese kept the method to create silk a secret to maintain a monopoly


How was political stability manifested in the arts

How was political stability manifested in the arts?


Comparative arts

How was political stability manifested in the arts?

The Great Wall

the government was organized enough to create massive projects using thousands of people. For example, the government built a giant wall to protect themselves from the Huns – 4,100 miles long!


Comparative arts

How was political stability manifested in the arts?

The Great Wall

the government was organized enough to create massive projects using thousands of people. For example, the government built a giant wall to protect themselves from the Huns – 4,100 miles long!

Ritual discs

Jade ritual discs symbolized the unification of China and featured both the dragon and the phoenix, which are still found today at Chinese wedding festivities. Those in the western and central plain worshipped the dragon and those on the east coast worshipped the phoenix.


Shang and zhou dynasties

Shang and Zhou dynasties

  • Civilizations emerged in what is now China about 7,000 years ago

  • The Shang dynasty (1600 BCE) and the Zhou dynasty (11 century – 221 BCE)

    • Transition from hunting to agriculture and feudal society

    • Zhou king ruled as the ‘Son of Heaven’

    • The Shang period used bronze casting with animals motifs for funerary and burial items

    • The Zhou dynasty also focused on bronzes but not only for the dead

      • Inscriptions have been found on bronze vessels that honor the living

      • One indication of the great wealth of Zhou rulers is the set of 65 bronze bells discovered in a ruler’s tomb


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Bronze tomb vessels, Shang dynasty

-animal motifs suggest an emphasis on hunting rather than agriculture

-owning one of these would have been a marker of status

-square vessels are characteristic of the Shang dynasty


Ancient bronze musical instruments

Ancient bronze musical instruments

Ancient bronze bells, Zhou dynasty:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEbcgfuKaUY&feature=related

Ancient bells in performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgGOcZ-FuZk


Confucianism

Confucianism

  • In the middle of the Zhou dynasty, two important religious traditions emerged in China:

    • Confucianism

    • Taoism

  • Confucianism is based on the teachings of one man: Confucius (551-479 BCE)

  • Confucius was the son of aristocratic parents who had lost their wealth during the decline of feudalism

  • Raised in poverty by a single mother

  • He received an education from a village tutor in the subjects of the day: poetry, history, music, hunting, fishing, archery

  • Confucius became a renowned teacher and philosopher – his sayings were collected and compiled after his death

  • http://www.firstshowing.net/2009/09/03/must-watch-beautiful-trailer-for-chow-yun-fats-confucius/


The teachings of confucius

The teachings of Confucius

  • Drew on cultural values anchored in ancient Chinese tradition

  • Practical sayings focus on this world rather than the next

  • He lived in a turbulent period of chaos and moral confusion so he emphasized the following to maintain a productive and good society:

    • The importance of traditional values and self-control

    • Propriety

    • Filial piety

  • Confucius believed that these virtues would end anarchy and restore social cohesion

  • Focus was on the individual rather than society

  • To Confucius, morality depended on context – no ‘thou shalt not’ – instead, moral decisions were guided by the circumstance of a particular problem


Taoism

Taoism

  • Like Confucianism, Taoism is concerned with morality and ethical behavior and how they benefit people in the present world, not the afterlife

  • Often considered a philosophy rather than a religion

  • The founder was Laozi [LOW-ZEE] (604 BCE)

  • The Tao is the ultimate reality behind existence, a transcendent and eternal spiritual essence – the mysterious essence of all things, an ordering principle and governing force of life represented in the rhythm and force of nature (cycling of seasons, flowing of rivers, etc)

  • Taoism can be understood as a way of ordering one’s life to achieve peace and harmony with the rest of creation


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  • Taoists encourage wu-wei (non-action), a kind of creative calm without excessive purposefulness – relaxing the conscious mind

  • Like Buddhism and Hinduism, wu-wei seeks the denial of the personal and the dissolution of the conscious individual self

  • Taoism illustrates the concept of wu-wei with examples from nature

  • Taoists ideal simplicity, represented by unpainted wood – Taoist architecture prefers unvarnished wood in its natural state (unlike Confucians who favor gilt and lacquer)


Qin dynasty

Qin Dynasty

  • Confucianism and Taoism emerged as a response to the instability of the Zhou dynasty – political fragmentation continued into the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE)

  • Brief rule, but established some changes to maintain efficiency and unity:

    • Centralized bureaucracy

    • Divided country into administrative units

    • Standardized writing system, currency, weights, measurements, taxes, laws

  • Qin dynasty initiated major building projects: networks of roads and canals, Great Wall

  • Downside to productivity: suppressed free speech, persecuted scholars, destroyed classical texts

  • Tomb of the first Qin emperor found, providing an ideas of the grandeur of the Qin dynasty


Comparative arts

Tomb of Shihuangdi, First Emperor of China

-discovered in 1974 by peasants digging a well 1,300 yards from the Emperor’s burial mound

-a massive subterranean pit was unearthed that contained 6,000 infantrymen

-two more smaller sites were found in 1976 and 1977 containing 1,400 individual warriors and horses, complete with metal weaponry

-the emperor’s tomb has not been excavated – according to ancient records, a subterranean palace lies beneath the burial mound

-scientific tests conducted recently indicate the presence of a large quantity of metals – the emperors treasure is likely still in the tomb!


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Eleven trenches filled with rows of terra cotta (clay) soldiers standing 4 abreast


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The bodies were mass-produced using molds while the hands and face were added later.

There are no two faces that are the same. Different hairstyles suggest different ethnic or tribal affiliations.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people were employed to prepare the tomb – more than those who built the Great Wall.

It is possible that the terra cotta warriors replaced an earlier practice of human sacrifice.

First Emperor’s grandmother’s tomb found:

http://archaeologynews.multiply.com/journal/item/440


China s ancient global relations

China’s ancient global relations

  • Marco Polo

    • Christian merchant from Venice who wrote Il Milione, which introduced Europeans to Central Asia and China

    • He first traveled with his father and uncle as a teen

    • Met Kublai Khan, Mongolian leader and grandson of Genghis Khan – first non-Chinese emperor to conquer all of China


China s ancient global relations1

China’s ancient global relations

  • Kublai Khan, the great Mongolian emperor


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Kublai Khan’s ambassador travelled to Rome, Paris and other cities to meet with major rulers in 1287-1288


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The Mughal Empire (started in 1526 with their invasion of the Indian subcontinent), started by Kublai Khan as part of his vast land empire


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Kublai Khan’s gift to the world: Indian Bollywood actors, Sharukh Khan, Salman Khan, Amir Khan

-all descendents of the great Mongolian who once ruled China, Kublai Khan


Admiral zheng he

Admiral Zheng He

  • Admiral Zheng He was a Muslim Chinese man born in 1371

  • He was the great greatgreat grandson of a Persian Muslim who was appointed as governor of part of China by the Mongolian empire

  • Zheng He was admiral of a huge fleet of ships sent on international expeditions

  • The fleet consisted of 317 ships, holding 28,000 crewmen

  • The fleets visited Arabia, Brunei, East Africa, India, what is now Indonesia and Thailand

  • They traded gold, silver, porcelain and silk in return for ostriches, zebras, camels, ivory, giraffes, etc


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Admiral Zheng He’s voyages


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Admiral Zheng He’s ships compared with Christopher Columbus’s


Comparative arts

  • BBC story on Chinese coin found in Africa:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11562927

    • What is significant about the coin found in Kenya?

    • Why are pieces of pottery found in archaeological digs?

    • How are ancient Chinese artifacts found in Africa used for political purposes?


Yuan dynasty and kublai khan

Yuan Dynasty and Kublai Khan

  • Kublai Khan, the great Mongolian leader and grandson of Genghis Khan, adopted the Chinese name of ‘Yuan’ (1271 CE)

  • The failure of the Great Wall of China:


Yuan dynasty and kublai khan1

Yuan Dynasty and Kublai Khan

  • Kublai Khan, the great Mongolian leader and grandson of Genghis Khan, adopted the Chinese name of ‘Yuan’ (1271 CE)

  • The failure of the Great Wall of China: it did not keep the Mongolians out!

    • In 1279 CE – Kublai Khan became Emperor of China

  • Kublai Khan transformed Beijing into a walled city

  • Kublai Khan imposed Mongolian culture onto his Chinese subjects, although they maintained ethnic separation – appointed Chinese to the lowest government posts (to maintain order, collect taxes, settle disputes)

  • Chinese expressed a quiet resistance to the foreign occupation, particularly through the arts.


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Mongol conquests – from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea


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The country of Mongolia today


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Wu Zhen, Bamboo, Yuan Dynasty, 1350 (ink on paper)

Bamboo is a typical motif produced by Chinese under the Yuan Dynasty. Bamboo is one of the strongest materials and symbol of survival, like the Chinese under foreign rule: they may bend, but they will never break.


Comparative arts

Wu Zhen, Bamboo, Yuan Dynasty, 1350 (ink on paper)

Bamboo is a typical motif produced by Chinese under the Yuan Dynasty. Bamboo is one of the strongest materials and symbol of survival, like the Chinese under foreign rule: they may bend, but they will never break.


Comparative arts

Orchids were another symbol of Chinese resistance to Mongol rule. Orchids nurture themselves without soil around their roots – like the nation, the orchid can survive even though the native Chinese soil had been stolen by Mongol invaders.

Wu Zhen, Bamboo, Yuan Dynasty, 1350 (ink on paper)

Bamboo is a typical motif produced by Chinese under the Yuan Dynasty. Bamboo is one of the strongest materials and symbol of survival, like the Chinese under foreign rule: they may bend, but they will never break.


Ming dynasty 1368 1644

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

  • The Yuan dynasty collapsed and the Mongols were driven back north into the deserts – China once again ruled by the Chinese

  • Extended and strengthened the Great Wall in the hopes of keeping out the Manchurians (second failing of the Great Wall!)

  • Maintained the centralized bureaucracy of the earlier Tang and Song dynasties

  • Strong Confucian society evident at every level:

    • The family, headed by the father, was the model unit

    • The emperor, as Son of Heaven, was the father of the country

  • in order to become a government bureaucrat, one had to pass national civil service exams – only the brightest were rewarded with jobs in the government (extremely meritocratic system)

  • The government officials, known as mandarins, were forced to move to a different part of the country every 5 years to prevent corruption. This constant packing and moving resulted in unique art forms.


Comparative arts

Ming furniture is simple and paired down and has ‘austere beauty’.

Precious tropical hardwoods from Southeast Asia were unpainted and unlacquered, unlike later furniture in the Qing dynasty.

Ming furniture uses no nails or glue! The pieces are held together with elaborate joints which allow them to be taken apart easily, a feature necessary for mandarin owners who had to move frequently.

What do the materials in Ming furniture tell us about China’s international trade network?


Comparative arts

The Great Wall of China, satellite image – upgraded during the Ming Dynasty, this time to ward off the threat of the Manchurians….


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Ancient Chinese export items: mainly silk and porcelain


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Chinese porcelain (left) and Persian copy (right)


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Painted banner from the tomb of the wife of the Marquis of Dai, Hunan, China, 160 BCE

Images represent beliefs about the underworld, the earthly realm, and the cosmos: sun with crow, moon with toad, deity intertwined with a long red serpent tail

The deceased noblewoman stands on the white platform

Vessels containing food and wine for the deceased sit on the lower white platform.

This silk reveals much about the level of craftsmanship the ancient Chinese had reached. It also provides insight about the ancient Chinese beliefs about the afterlife.


Qing dynasty 1644 1911

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

  • The Ming Dynasty ended with the invasion of the Manchurians from the north, who created the Qing (“pure”) Dynasty

  • They continued the centralized bureaucracy of the Ming Dynasty, continued the competitive civil service examinations – scholar-bureaucrats ruled the country and supported the arts


Architecture and city planning

Architecture and city planning

  • Architecture in traditional China signified the connection between the rule of the emperor and the order of the universe.

  • Cities were constructed on a grid system, surrounded by walls

  • The ruler’s palace was situated at the north end looking south, so the emperor’s back was turned against the north from which evil (including Mongol

    Invaders) was believed to come


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Yellow was a color reserved for the emperor – the rooftops in the Forbidden City use only yellow roof tiles.


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This is a carving within the Forbidden City. What makes this an imperial carving?


Comparative arts

  • Peabody Essex Museum:

  • http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703466704575489644228919772.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

  • http://www.pem.org/exhibitions/109-the_emperors_private_paradise_treasures_from_the_forbidden_city


Comparative arts

Ancient bells in performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGH24QepCRE&feature=related


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