Nature in Chinese Art
Nature in Chinese Art
This book is based on a series of articles which originally appeared in The China Journal, of which the author was founder and for fifteen years the editor. It is the outcome of many years of research upon the natural history and art of China, the main object of which has been to determine the species of the plants and animals represented in the paintings, bronzes, stone, jade, wood, and ivory carvings, porcelains, pottery, and embroideries of the Chinese from the earliest periods down to the present day.
The two appendices by Mr. Harry E. Gibson, which also appeared in The China Journal, are the result of similar research upon the pictographic writings on the bones of animals and of the sterna and carapaces of the now extinct land tortoise, Pseudocadia anyangensis (Ping), of the Shang Dynasty (1776- 1122 B.C.) found in the An-yang area of Northern Honan. These pictographs are of the greatest importance in the study of Chinese art, not only because they were the earliest forms of the individual characters in Chinese writing, but because they set the style, so to speak, for the conventionalization of animal and plant forms in the art of subsequent periods.
It was felt that there was need of some such work, on three main scores. In the first place it is a noticeable fact that in many of the captions of illustrations of Chinese paintings and other art objects in books published in European languages the birds, animals, and plants shown are wrongly identified, often ridiculously so. In the second place the proper forms may assist materially in the dating of the works of art in which they appear and the determination of their authenticity. In the third place the identification of these living forms in ancient Chinese works of art is of considerable interest to zoologists and botanists in the study of the fauna and flora of this country.
Many of the illustrations are from photographs of Chinese art objects in the author's own collection, but some are from other sources, all of which are duly acknowledged in the captions.
My thanks are due to Mr. Gibson not only for permission to reprint his two articles, but also for the numerous drawings of Shang pictographs which he supplied to illustrate other passages in the book.
ARTHUR DE CARLE SOWERBY.