AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 714

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Session 714: Dynastic Art

Qian Xuan in the Turning Point of Painting History between Song and Yuan Dynasties
Shengguang Tan, Independent Scholar, China

The change of Style from Song to Yuan dynasties is a major change of Chinese painting history. However, the field has not yet fully explored the concrete process of this transformation. The problem is that we cannot find an exact key-point in this immense. Which artist’s life and works is enough to represent the change of style from Song to Yuan? Qian Xuan is one possibility. His paintings include two different styles, the representational form from the court painting and self-expression of literati. Because of a lack of historical documents and numerous forgeries, it brings the field lots of problems and doubts, what kind of painter is he exactly? How did his life experiences influence his art creation? What was the source of his style? What role did he play in the context of Chinese painting history? This thesis intends to seek the boundary and relationship between the representational and expressional styles in Qian’s works and to reconstruct the historical context of these works and Qian’s life. Qian Xuan probably had a close relationship with the powerful Prime Minister Jia Sidao before the overthrow of the Southern Song dynasty. Jia had a large collection of art works and Qian’s painting has a deep relationship with Jia’s art collection. Historically Jia has been considered as being to blame for the overthrow of Southern Song dynasty. After the Mongols had taken over Qian became a hermit and made his living by selling paintings until his death in his hometown Wuxing.

Buried in Gold: A Study of Gold Headgear in Third to Fifth Century Tombs in China
Sarah Laursen, Middlebury College, USA

In spite of the traditional perception of bronze as the premier luxury metal of ancient China, vast quantities of gold ornaments have been excavated from Han and Six Dynasties tombs. Notable among them are a group of sheet gold plaques decorated with some combination of openwork, granulation, stone inlay, and quivering gold leaves attached by wires. Their design and locations relative to skeletal remains suggest that these were originally sewn to caps or worn in the hair. Some scholars have linked them to buyao (“shake-walk”) ornaments, which the dynastic histories described as popular among the Murong Xianbei aristocracy and ladies of the Han and Jin courts. The largest concentrations of gold cap ornaments appear around the Yan states’ capitals along the Daling River in Liaoning and in the Nanjing area of Jiangsu, where the Eastern Jin capital was located. The northern and southern examples diverge somewhat in design, manufacture and iconography, and their exact geographical delimitations are unclear. However, the sheet gold leaves that decorate them have been uncovered in tombs from Hunan to Jilin, possibly indicating that more plaques existed at one time but were subsequently looted. This paper will address some of the as yet unanswered questions about these dazzling but cryptic head ornaments: How and by whom they were used, the origins of their decorative motifs, how they were made, and most significantly, the light they cast on the nature of the relationship between Chinese and the Murong Xianbei cultural practices in the third to fifth centuries.

Grottoes, Exorcism, and the Northern Dipper: Representing the Daoist Master Zhang Daoling in Ming and Qing China
Noelle Giuffrida, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Revered as the first Celestial Master and founding patriarch of Daoism, Zhang Daoling (34-156) has inspired numerous pictures and hagiographies since his reputed vision of Lord Lao spurred him to establish a theocracy in Han era Sichuan. Prior to his imperial canonization in the eighth century, accounts of Zhang emphasized his reputation as an alchemist and recluse. With the rise of Daoist thunder rites and the consolidation of the Celestial Masters, representations of Zhang began to shift toward his roles as patriarch, exorcist, and popular saint, coming to fruition in the Ming and Qing. A diverse body of surviving visual material linked to Zhang Daoling dates from the late fifteenth through early eighteenth century when artists, editors, and publishers re-imagined Zhang and his exploits for a wide range of audiences. Zhang appears not only as the focus of individual paintings and in painted albums of figures from history and legend but also in woodblock-printed illustrated vernacular novels and compendia of deities, even within a set of drinking cards. Well-known painters including Shen Zhou (1427-1509) and Shitao (1642-1707) crafted landscape narratives that commemorated their travels to the grotto heaven of Linwu near Lake Tai and promoted the site’s association with Zhang. How and why did creators and viewers understand and employ such seemingly disparate images? This paper offers a brief exploration of the connections and divergences between the iconographies, contexts, and meanings of a few of these neglected pictures associated with Zhang Daoling.

Personal Art Made Public-- Studying A Portrait of Purple Bamboo Guanyin Bodhisattva
Miao-lin Hsu, University of Pittsburgh, USA

Wang ZiYing painted 6,348 paintings depicting Guanyin Bodhisattva to show his dedication and his gratitude for "the Goddess who answered the prayers and petitions" of childless Mr. Wang. In 1679, Mr. Wang commissioned one of the painting to be engraved on a stale while he took a trip to the ancient capital-- Xian. The stale is one of more than 3,000 stales now preserved in the Forest of Stale (Bei Lin) Museum, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China. Wang ZiYing's painting is one of the many votive inscriptions and images preserved through dynasties. Engraved this votive drawing, the individual personal belief became a public display. Ink rubbings of the stale, a public display in stone,became mass knowledge in paper. Moreover, digitization of rubbings provided detailed resource, visually, for later researchers to examine the original painting and look into Wang ZiYing's personal life, artistic presentation and glimpse of his era. Through careful examination of the rubbing in Rubel Special Collection in Fine Arts Library at Harvard College, we will be able to establish an example of personal art made public influenced and listen to artistic expression of a believer rather than of an artist.

The Sound of the Dao: Qin Music, Inner Alchemy, and Immortality
Ming-mei Yip, Independent Scholar, USA

The Sound of the Dao: Qin Music, Inner Alchemy, and Immortality Mingmei Yip, Ph.D. In traditional Chinese culture, playing the guqin (ancient Chinese seven-stringed zither) was regarded not simply as entertainment but as self-cultivation. Qin playing has a long history, having been documented from the Warring States to the present. Literary records describe the qin as a way of nurturing life (yang sheng). The benefits of qin playing were conceived in terms of the central concerns of each tradition. Within Confucian tradition qin music was seen as developing ethical sensibility, while Daoism conceived it as enhancing or nurturing life. Factors in qin playing considered to nurture life and hence enhance longevity included selection of a pure, elegant setting, maintaining a peaceful mind set, relaxed and dignified facial expressions, elegant and harmonious fingering, and, most important, regulating breath (tiao qi). The qin’s unique configuration was associated with longevity. The lack of bridges and long strings meant no obstruction to life and free flowing of qi. The free rhythm could be coordinated with the breath. Prominent qin scholars often remarked on these associations. Thus in the Tang dynasty Auyang Xiu stated in his Zashu Jishi that his arthritis was cured by the improved circulation of his qi promoted by his qin playing. The contemporary sinologist and qin musician Rao Zongyi, has extolled the qin’s meditative function and compared it to yoga practice. During the presentation brief recorded examples of qin music will be played to demonstrate these characteristics.

Song (960-1279) Architecture and Decorative Motifs: Popular Aesthetic Concepts and Social Implications
Jiren Feng, University of Hawaii, Hilo, USA

As the major form of ancient Chinese architecture, timber structures had undergone a long history of development by the middle imperial period. Significant building technology and decorative methods as well had been codified in the imperially commissioned treatise Yingzao fashi (Building standards, 1103). The major decorative methods of Song architecture include stone and wood carving, tile ornaments, and colour painting on timber elements. The architectural decorations cover a wide range of motifs, from auspicious animals to elegant flowers, from supernatural beings to frolic boys, from precious and exotic objects such as gold and silver ingots, jades, and agates to a swastika-like character of ten thousands and to abstract motifs arising from the forms of snowflakes, clouds, tortoise-shells, interlocked rings, and the receptacle of a persimmon. These motifs either symbolize auspiciousness, longevity, wealth, and peace, or reflect a popular perception of beauty of nature. Under each category of the decorative themes, the motifs and patterns are classified into different classes. This paper explores the cultural context of some of these decorative motifs and identifies the historical tradition of contemporary popular aesthetic concepts. With the aid of literary materials and physical evidence, it discusses how tradition was preserved while new patterns were created; moreover, how the classification of decorations in Song architecture corresponded to the grades of buildings and social status of their patrons, and thus, how special cultural and social meanings were transmitted through architectural ornamentation.