The artist of this calligraphy scroll, Zhao Mengfu, was highly praised by the Yuan emperor Renzong as unrivaled traditional Chinese polymath (for a lack of a better word). It is said that the emperor admired him for possessing the following seven outstanding qualities: wide learning, Song royal ancestry, elegant and charismatic appearance, pure character and righteous conduct, literary accomplishment, mastery of calligraphy and painting skills, and profound knowledge of Buddhist and Daoist teachings.
As an leading and influential calligraphy during his era, Zhao was able to successfully advocate and promote many of the views that he had on Chinese calligraphy. Zhao supported a return to the ancient models, which integrated the Jin (265 – 420AD) and Tang (618 – 906AD) dynasty styles to synthesize a new norm for standard and cursive scripts. In later eras, many printed texts were modeled after the standard script that he helped create. Furthermore, the cursive style script, depicted in this scroll titled Four Anecdotes from the Life of Wang Xizhi, became the foundations of the informal calligraphic styles of those how succeeded him.
One of the four anecdotes from the “Life of Wang Xizhi” tells the story of a time when Xizhi, a ‘calligraphic’ sage, was extremely fond of the [graceful appearance of] geese. In Shanyin there was a Daoist monk who had raised a flock of more than ten fine geese. One morning Wang decided to take a small boat and go there. He was delighted with the geese and wanted to buy them, but the monk refused to sell. Wang tried in vain to persuade him. Finally, the monk told Wang that he loved Daoist philosophy and had always wanted a transcription of Laozi’s Daodejing with its commentary by Heshanggong.
He had already prepared the silk, but no one was qualified to write it. He asked if Wang would condescend to transcribe two chapters each from the Dao and De sections, for which he would give Wang the whole flock. Wang stayed for half a day to write out the chapters, then he caged the geese and returned home. (Citation) In many ways, this story possesses many aspects of traditional Daoist philosophies. Firstly, the events and interactions between the Monk and Xizhi is highly reflective of the ‘interdependence’ between beings.
Furthermore, the fact that the Monk refuse to trade his geese through monetary means underlines Daoist de-emphasis of material objects, especially something as superficial as money. Rather, the Monk was willing to give up his geese for an implementation Xizhi’s skill and mastery of calligraphy. In a way, this reveals belief that an individual should play the role of what he or she was ‘meant’. In other words, the Monk’s offer of his geese for calligraphy mirrors some sort of a natural guidance for Xizhi to walk in accordance to the Way.
In summary, the story told through the calligraphy of this scroll is highly relavent to the Daoist themes that were studied throughout the course. Object : Buddhist stele, Tang dynasty (618–906), ca. 700 Origins: China Material: Black limestone Size: H. 64 1/2 in. (163. 7 cm) This relic originates from the temple in the Xinxiang County in the central Chinese province of Henan. A stele is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief or painted onto the slab.
In this case, the Buddhist stele is made of black limestone and is curved to give the outline of the figure of Guanyin. In this stele, we see many of the symbolism commonly studied in the Chinese Buddhism. Firstly, the graceful of stance the pair of bodhisattvas implicates a noble yet welcoming gesture which is reflective of the characters theor sage-hood. Secondly, judging by the small objects inscribed on the crown – a figure of the Buddha – they represent Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara), one of the principal bodhisattvas associated with the Pure Land cult.
Despite the damages accumulated over time, the gentle S-shape swing of the bodhisattvas’ bodies gives an essence of individuality to each of the figures. The Western Pure Land sect, derived from the teachings of the Buddha Amitabha, was the sect that attracted the largest number of followers. As we have discussed in class, this was most likely due to the motivation that salvation awaits each and every devotee in a paradise situated in the western realm of Buddhist cosmology. The ability of Buddhism to discuss subjects like the afterlife was one of the largest sources of its popularity.
This black limestone stele is one of the best examples of Buddhist devotional art in the Tang period of Chinese history. Object: Central watchtower, architectural model, Eastern Han dynasty (25–220), 1st–early 3rd century Origin: China Material: Earthenware with green lead glaze Size: H. 41 in. (104. 1 cm) The Han dynasty (206 B. C. –220 A. D. ) is deemed to be one of the most important and inflectional dynasties in pre-modern China due to it lasting effects in imperial structure and formation of a national consciousness.
Chinese people, until today, still refer to themselves as ‘Han Chinese”. Furthermore, the architecture styles that were established during the Han period layed the ground works for the architecture of the eras to follow. Han architecture was a grand improvement to the architecture of those that precede them; it includes vast palatial complexes, towered gateways, and city walls were built as symbols of power and prestige as well as for defense.
This model art piece embodies many of the essential features of Han architecture: the overhanging tiles supported by the roof, the four sided style infrastructure and the stacking effect. In many ways, this specific model, less a few details, is reminiscent of the temple building the class visited for the lecture on Buddhism. In relation to our studies, a great variety of these architectural models were used in the decoration of the tomb in the Han era to show the status of the person being buried.
Object: Spouted ritual wine vessel (guang), Shang dynasty, early Anyang period (ca. 1300–1050 b. c. ), 13th century b. c. Origin: Possibly Anyang, Henan Province, China Material: Bronze Size: W. 13 in. (33 cm) This artifact, a bronze casted vessel, dates back to the late Shang era (ca. 1300–1050 B. C. ). The shape of the wine vessel is said to be loosely based on a figure of a bird; this is identifiable through the hooked beak feature and glaring eyes effect from the face on view. As we have studied, the Shang people had many beliefs about the spiritual world.
This vessel is believed to have been used to pour wine and other beverages in ceremonies involving Shang ruler and their ancestors and supernatural forces. Other feature on the vessel includes coiled serpents emerging from the wings, roaring tiger-dragons prowling along the sides, horned bird that serves as a handle. This existence an artifact of this age gives us insights into the superior technology of casting in ancient China. The complicated multilayered designs are unparalleled by other cultures of the time.
It is believed that the technique used for this the bronze casting is through a ceramic mold and the usage of an interior clay core. Motel bronze is then poured into filled the empty space between the intricate design and the core. Once the clay core was emptied out, the result is the astonishing bronzed vessel with complex designed as described. Again, such artifacts can be used to validate the hypotheses and speculations about the technologies and lifestyle during an ancient civilization like the Shang.
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