Art of Early China, Korea, and Japan

Art of Early China, Korea, and Japan


This next video will cover select art
and artifacts from early China, Korea, and Japan. So, we’ll be focusing in on three
important cultures in East Asia. So, focusing in — starting off with China on
the Yellow River Basin, especially the Banpo settlements, so looking along the
Yellow River — right along here — near the modern city of Xi’an. That’s where we will be
looking at the cradle of Chinese civilization. Just comparing a
topographical map and then one that identifies where Banpo is along the
Yellow River. Thinking about pronunciation before we jump into this
period of Chinese art. There are a few early dynasties. It’s just important to
think about how to pronounce them appropriately so we have the XIA
dynasty, the ZHOU dynasty, and the QIN dynasty, and we’ll be encountering some
of these words as we move along so it’s just important to keep the appropriate
pronunciation in mind. So the Banpo settlements were Neolithic
settlements that looked roughly like this. Here are some artistic
reconstructions, as well as archaeological sites — how they look today.
And so you can see how they would have been created with basically poles going
into the earth, as well as a ditch to surround the settlements — most likely for
protection. And we know that they did create ceramics at these sites because
that’s what we have discovered — that’s what archeologists have
discovered, so we’ll look at some of those in just a second.
Kilns were kept outside of the ditch and cemeteries were also kept outside of
this ditch. You can see that there’s a main central structure, as well as
smaller structures throughout. And we’re still trying to figure out what kind of
worship or religious ritual took place around this time.
One possible hint, or at least something that could have been important in the
Banpo settlements is this particular dish or particular bowl where you can
see a red fired vessel that has black slip decoration. And I’m just showing you
a black-and-white image as well as a color image right over here. And you can
see just roughly — let’s move into the next image — that you can see fish as well
as a head and additional fish off to the side from this man’s head.
So there’s a couple of questions about this vessel what does it indicate. So
first of all, the importance of fishing or this possibly [of fishing] as an important food
source for this early Yangshao culture — that’s the word here Yangshao culture.
The diameter is 15 and a half inches, so relatively large in size,
so could have been a significant vessel. So there’s one theory that maybe this is
an ancestral figure that’ll help bring about an abundant catch — maybe some kind
of spiritual or ancestral figure. And the ancestry theory is significant because
ancestor worship will become very important in China as we continue on
looking at this particular culture, so perhaps this idea was already in place
very, very early on, so just thinking about how established Chinese culture
was very early in history. This vessel dates to around 5000 to 4000 BCE so
incredibly early — just in terms of its dating and even earlier than the Indus
Valley culture from the video before. So again, there’s just a close-up of that
same vessel. You can see it has a nice burnished quality to it — quite
refined for such an early vessel with some nice geometric patterns as well as
those abstracted fish and the head that looks a little different than what we
would expect a normal human head to look like, so again giving this idea that
maybe it’s a significant ancestor or a spirit, possibly a god of some kind, but
the ancestor is one of the theories that people have put forth. Alright, let’s move
on to thinking about jade creation. So this is a CONG — so this is an oblong jade
object with a square exterior and rounded hollow interior
and these sizes vary quite extremely between one inch so very very small up
to one foot, so these CONGS were quite varied just in terms of how large they
were. These were buried in elite graves, so those who were very well-off — those
who had a lot of objects in their tombs. So these are often called prisms — just
the sense that it has that kind of square shape with the carved design. Jade
is incredibly hard to carve or this very hard
material. And this dates to around 2000 BCE, and so the fact that it was so
difficult to carve definitely speaks to the fact that it was expensive and that
someone who was wealthy would be able to spend the time or have someone spend the
time to create this for their tomb or as an a power object for them. So we think
the CONGS probably represent power, and also there’s the idea of a circular
center and a square exterior. And the circle in Chinese culture comes to
represent heaven, while the square comes to represent earth, so you have this
combination of Earth and heaven coming together. And for someone who is maybe
transitioning into the afterlife, this could have a great significance — moving
from one realm to the other. These CONGS were often found surrounding the body
and then there were discs — BI disks — that were sometimes found on the chest or
underneath the bodies, so we’ll see a BI disc in just a little bit, but these
CONGS have a very early history in elite Chinese graves. One more thing to note is
that we often see some faces on these CONGS so you can just see the eyes, mouth
here but very large. And so again different theories as to what this might
mean it could be connected to the divine, to the spirit realm. Some people have
interpreted it as a proto-dragon. This idea again of connecting it to power, and so
obviously the dragon is a powerful figure that will come to represent a
connection to heaven. It will be connected to the [Chinese] Emperor, so just kind of
keeping that in mind. Here is a particularly long square tube or CONG
that includes very light — very difficult to see masks — but that same kind of
horizontal lines that have been carved into the side of the CONG. And you can
see that jade isn’t always the bright green color,
although green has a nice connection to the vegetation and plants and growth and
life. We also could see that with some of the Browns and natural colors, but again
it’s an incredibly hard stone and it’s something that could indicate power and
wealth because it is so difficult to carve. So here’s just a variety of CONGS
just to give you a sense of that variety of shapes and here
looking at them in at a museum in Washington DC [Freer Sackler — the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian Art].
Moving on to some other possible representations or creations with Jade
we have a hooked cloud ornament. We tend to see these kinds of swirling elements
early on in Chinese art that are thought to represent clouds. And
again that idea of the dragon, possibly connecting up to the heavens — this
interest in the heavens. So this idea of clouds or Proto-Dragon figures is
something we see consistently again in these elite graves. Again connecting to
the dragon — this one is called a pig- dragon figure. So you have kind of this
snout that maybe indicates a pig, but some elements — the very large eyes, the
ears here, or this area here — indicates more of a proto-dragon perhaps, so we
definitely see these nice hints going towards significant objects and symbols
in Chinese art later on. Moving on to the TAOTIE — this representation of a animal
mask or this kind of elaborate mask that again has been read often times as a
kind of proto-dragon or possibly as a representation of the divine during this period — this idea
of SHANGDI, which was a heavenly deity or supreme deity at this time as we move
into the Shang Dynasty. And we’ll be looking at some bronze work and burial
from that period in just a second, so that’s going to be dating to around 1200
BCE. But you can see just with this one you have that kind of horn — or sea horn
here — that again is similar to the kind of wispy clouds. You also have the tail
and quill moving in different direction, the snout, the fangs, so pretty
intimidating types of creation that we see on bronze work and kind of similar
to those masks we saw on the CONGS. So this is a key work that relates to the
Shang dynasty, so a dynasty that was originally thought more as legendary, but
as archaeologists have found some impressive burials from this period, we
know that in fact, it was not. There also are a lot of oracle bones from this
period — so bones with writing on them, where individuals would have
asked about harvesting, about childbirth different questions, and then these bones
would have been heated and then read in terms of where the cracks were — to read
those various messages. But looking at this particular tomb — it’s actually a
tomb of a woman– so to have a tomb of this size for woman is pretty impressive.
She was one of the consorts of the ruler Wu Ding — so he was the 12th ruler of
Shang — and Fu Hao, this particular woman, was a pretty exceptional woman. She was
associated with a military and religious activities in China at this time. Her
tomb you can see is a shaft tomb, which is basically an inverted pyramid. You can
follow the steps down. It included six sacrificed dogs and sixteen humans, so it
was not uncommon for those in the upper classes to have individuals come with
them into the afterlife. The idea that if you worked with someone in life, or you
honored them in life, you were going to go on with them into death. Also there’s a
huge number of luxury items — over 400 bronzes, over a thousand jade stone and
bone carvings, and over 6,000 shells, which could be used as currency. So this
idea that life was gonna carry on into this next world. This is her heavily
restored tomb to give you a sense of how it was laid out originally. So again this
is Lady Fu Hao, and she was just one of Wu Ding’s consorts. It was not uncommon
for rulers to have multiple wives or multiple consorts with the idea that
these rulers wanted to make a lot of alliances with different noble men, so by
marrying their daughters they were able to do that. And also of course assured
that you would have a heir — a future heir by having more wives. This is one of
the ritual vessels found within Lady Fu Hao tomb. This is her famous owl shaped
ritual bronze wine vessel with elaborate decoration — things like curving
snakes, indication of a dragon on the back here — I’ll show you a drawing —
different faces all around the vessel. Wine as well as meat were really some
things that the upper classes would enjoy, so we’d see these kinds of ritual
vessels intended to hold those types of items in upper-class
graves during this period. It also includes her name on this owl vessel, so
indicating that indeed this is Lady Fu Hao’s vessel. Here you can just see a
line drawing, where you get a better sense of some of that ornate decoration,
additional birds on the background, those swirling snakes, other faces. So this
vessel really has a number of angles in which you could look at it and enjoy it.
These types of bronzes would have been cast
typically in piece mold techniques. So this idea that you would
create them in pieces and then solder them together to create this complete
vessel. So you have these molds that could be reused, and thus, if you
were going to create a lot of bronze works, it was very efficient to do it
this way. Here we’re seeing another wine container —
this one much larger and again created out of bronze. A more unusual vessel is
or more unusual creation is the standing male figure from a different area. Rather
than connected to the Shang dynasty, it’s from a site called SANXINGDUI in
western china. This particular individual or this representation is
over 8 feet high, so clearly an individual of status. So this was just
discovered in the 1980s, so it’s a relatively recent discovery, there’s a
lot more research that could be done on it, but clearly we’re seeing a figure,
like a power figure a shaman, possibly a god figure, but really it looks like a
powerful figure who’s maybe leading people in ritual or leading people in
worship — very large eyes, very abstracted types of features on his face, large
headdress, very slim body, but just the scale of this figure over 8 feet tall.
You can see it being lifted in the archeological discovery in the 1980s, so
very, very impressive discovery. And here are just some of the other bronze
objects — faces in particular — that have been discovered from SANXINGDUI
that have really led archaeologists to wonder what is going on here because you
have these massive constructions — very, very
impressive works of bronze with these eyes that jut out, huge ears, so clearly
an idea of connecting to beyond the human realm. We’re gonna move on to
the time around the ZHOU dynasty and into what’s called the Warring States Period,
focusing in on a very impressive bell rack from the Warring States period that
does have a date on it from 433 because there is an inscription about the king
who gifted this bell rack to Marquis Yi. This is the individual whose tomb it
comes from. So, Marquis Yi has this very, very large tomb that basically looks
like a palace from this particular period. So this idea of again of enjoying
the life that they lived when they were alive and continuing this into the
afterlife. So for example he probably wanted to be entertained by music so
this bell rack comes with him. The bell rack was also a gift from the king, so
this idea of conveying one social status in the afterlife
was very, very significant. Also demonstrating how wealthy he was, this
type of bell rack would only have been able to be played by five to six
musicians, so this idea that so many people would have assisted him and that
he was used to having a lot of help along the way. And these bells can
playing multiple tones, and it’s a very impressive rack from a very early period
again 433 BCE. Here’s just an aerial view of Marquis Yi’s tomb — around 2500 square
feet. There’s the bell rack, his
military works. This is where his coffin was, and there also were additional women
who were buried here as well as additional coffins right over here, so,
again, individuals came with Marquis Yi into the afterlife. We also can see a BI
disc here created from the eastern ZHOU, and this dates to between the 5th
and 3rd century BCE. Again, you can see those dragons along the top — and that
idea of the circle being connected to the heavens. You have a really nice idea
of the heavens here. Again these were used for burial these BI disks — often
placed on the chest or behind the body, so this idea of the dragon as something
that could move between the celestial and terrestrial
sphere, as something that was connected to the heavens, that could control the
weather and can control the heavenly realm, something that of course you maybe
would want to bring with you into the afterlife. So these BI discs, this one is
particularly elegant and beautifully rendered. You can see this kind of
texture along the outside, and then the dragons with almost these wisps of
clouds coming off along the tail and along the front of these two dragons
here. Alright, let’s move into Korea. In Korea, we see these comb-patterned vessels, so we start to see a real interest in ceramics, also in Korea
and in Japan. Korea, however, is known for these more geometric designs. You
can see just kind of a slashing along the edge here, as well as more consistent
triangular forms all around the base here. This dates to around 3,000 BCE the
legendary founding of Korea dates to to 2333 BCE, however, we do have vessels that date all the way back to around 7,000 BCE, so
there’s a long period of habitation in the Korean Peninsula,
however, these comb pattern vessels are particularly unique and demonstrate how
food storage would have worked in the area near Seoul. Let’s contrast that to
the Japanese Jomon period. In the Jomon period — we’re just looking at a
reconstruction of a Jomon house and a Shiba Inu the kind of dog that Jomon people
probably would have hunted with in order to — a similar type of dog — that they would
have hunted with in order to kill animals and to get food. So Jomon
pottery — Jomon means cord-marked — and so we have some beautiful pottery from this
period that has this kind of cord marking or beautiful coil designs. So, the
early Jomon period — here you can see a kind of design using those thin coils to
create a lovely pattern on the exterior, again this could have been used for
storage. Most likely in the Jomon period, it was
come semi-nomadic, so people would leave these villages for a certain amount of
time to go hunt and then return back to these settlements, so, of
course, food storage would have been very important. Here we’re seeing this idea of
cord pattern from the middle Jomon period. This idea of paddling the surface
before the clay is dry with a rope bound stick, and also this idea of the coiling
technique in order to create the vessel. One of my favorite Jomon pottery vessels
is this middle Jomon work that almost looks like flames emerging out from the
top, so you have this really nice texture along this top edge you can see it’s
very irregular along this and you have even more elaborate coil designs along
the base. Here’s just another view or you really get that sense of that kind of
fiery flames emerging out from the top and a really kind of sculptural quality
along the exterior. So these Jomon vessels really are like individual works
of sculpture but of course they also have the more practical association of
being used for a food storage. Also from the Jomon period we have these DOGU
figures or clay figurines that really are a mystery some people have
identified them as more fertility figures because there are slight
indications of breasts, also those wide hips, so somewhat similar to the mother
goddess figures we saw in the Indus Valley culture, but there’s also
indications of possible body scarification — these patterns we see here.
Also the idea of elaborate dress or kind of patterning that people could have
worn. Obviously it’s very cold in some areas of Japan, so some people have even
theorized these are like the goggles that were worn to protect one’s eyes in
the snow — leather goggles that had a slit in them. There’s also of course the
possible reading of a shaman or more of a spiritual figure if it is to be
gendered male, however, those slight indications of breasts seem to give it
more of a female reading, so possibly a female shaman if it is supposed to be
some type of religious figure. Alright, our final culture is just to think about
the Yayoi period — a rather late period in Japan considering the dates we’ve been
looking at in this particular lecture, but we start to see more social
stratification, a change in the population. This is where you start to
see more of these kingdoms develop. There is an architecture that indicates a need
for defense so more walls. Also the rice
agriculture develops so this idea of who controls the rice most likely has the
power. And also bronze casting is developed around this time. So Yayoi
pottery looks like this. It tends to be more pointed in the base — more
minimalistic or simplistic in design, when contrasted to the Jomon pottery.
Some of it has more of a red design or red color, however, some of it is more
white, but clearly a shift from the Jomon tradition showing a new period in
Japanese culture. We also see these DOTAKU bells — these ceremonial bells
from the Yayoi period. These bells are very different from Marquis Yi (from China) types of bells which were meant to be played by many individuals. These make it sound
when you do hit them, however, it is very kind of muffled. And these have been
found actually buried and with other ceremonial objects like mirrors, and so
what we think is that these might have often been buried on hillsides
overlooking rice fields in order to ensure that a plentiful crop would have
been provided for. So these DOTAKU bells could have been significant in that
sense. We also see different animals represented for example deer are pretty
significant because of this idea of antlers and this idea of regrowth. Also the
antler sometimes was connected to the idea of a tree of a life, so again life and regrowth — very significant. Also other auspicious animals were
sometimes represented; hunting scenes could be represented on these DOTAKU
bells, and so they again probably have a kind of ceremonial purpose in order to
bring about a good crop or to bring about good luck in some way — however not
a traditional kind of musical instrument. And then a final kind of fun activity is
just to try to identify which culture these vessels came from. So give it a
second — maybe pause the video — okay I’ll tell you which is which: so (A) would be
Korea, more of that comb style pottery (C) this is Banpo style from China (E) this is
Jomon from Japan (B) also Jomon and then (D) this is Yayoi from Japan, so I hope you
got a hundred percent. See you in the next video.

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