Artifacts which are found in burial shrines and in tombs are often rich with cultural and religious imagery. Not only are the types of artifacts which are selected to be enshrined within a given tomb of significance for inferring historical and cultural information, but the aesthetics evident in the individual items themselves can be studied in order to discover important cultural, religious, and historical information.
Such is certainly the case regarding the silk funeral banner known as the “name banner” which was uncovered as part of the Mawangdui “tomb of the Marquisite. ” This banner, which is shaped like a “T” depicts a Chinese astrological configuration of the cosmos (including the afterlife) which can be understood as being “current” in the Han Dynasty. The top of the “T” section of the banner shows ‘heaven” while the middle section of the banner depicts earthly life.
One interesting aspect of the sectional representation is that certain figures travel through the sections. There are “angels” of heavenly entities who descend to carry Lady Dai to heaven. The images of the banner suggest a cosmos in constant motion, a dynamic “interdimensional” universe which is both physical and spiritual in nature. Also depicted on the silk banner are images if Lady Dai’s earthly family, who perform rituals for her safe-passage in the afterlife.
The funeral banner indicates a culture which believed in both life-after-death adn in the efficacy of ritual and prayer. There is a graceful harmony present in the banner which suggests that Chinese culture at the time of the Han Dynasty had a vision of life and death which was “seamless” and that death was viewed as a continuation of life — and life as a “prelude” to death. Viewed this way, the banner is an uplifting and spiritually exalting work of art, one which offers a dramatically different view of life and death than is prevalent in the Western world.
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Topic: Banner depicts earthly life
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