China Magnificent: Five Thousand Years of Chinese Art

By Dagny Carter | Go to book overview

VI
THE GRAVES OF THE SONS OF HAN

WE HAVE every reason to believe that some of the best art of this early period was reserved for the grave and the altar. That the cult of the dead gave importance and dignity to the art which was used in its service is shown in a comparison of the ceramics of the Chou and Han periods. During the Chou Dynasty when bronzes were used more generally in the death cult, pottery making shows a marked deterioration. The few Chou potteries which have been preserved are crude and, except for a few carved and moulded designs, have nothing but primitive mat and string impressions, potteries inferior to those made two thousand years earlier.

During the Han Dynasty, on the other hand, when the Confucian ritual became eclipsed by Taoism, we find the bronzes deteriorating and becoming secularized, while pottery making takes on a new significance. Hunting scenes are painted on the unglazed jars while an elaborate design in relief, also usually hunting scenes, are seen on the glazed jars which now appear.

The Han Dynasty graves, excavated from the hard loess soil of the North, which have brought forth a wealth of material, were usually lined with decorated tiles or stone slabs; and pottery jars, lacquer bowls and bronze objects of various descriptions have been found in positions which would lead one to think that they had been surrounding the corpse, although few skeletal remains have been found.

The art of the world everywhere shows that the thoughts of early man were deeply concerned with the hereafter. Where do we come from, where do we go from here, and can this good thing we call life continue after the body has ceased to function, were questions which

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China Magnificent: Five Thousand Years of Chinese Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Part One - Graves and Altars 1
  • I - Stone-Age Graves And Prehistoric Sites 3
  • II - Feudal China 11
  • III - Nomad Invasions 27
  • IV - The Empire Builder 41
  • V - Imperial Expansion 49
  • VI - The Graves of the Sons of Han 59
  • Part Two - Temples and Palaces 73
  • VIII - The Dark Ages 83
  • IX - Cave Temples 95
  • X - The Glory That Was T'Ang 109
  • XI - The Art of the T'Ang Era 117
  • XII - Artistic Fulfilment 135
  • Part Three - Shops and Marts 153
  • XIII - Conquered China 155
  • XIV - Ming Nationalism 165
  • XV- The European Expansion and China 181
  • XVI - The Manchus 191
  • Bibliography 209
  • Index 217
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