China Magnificent: Five Thousand Years of Chinese Art

By Dagny Carter | Go to book overview

XI
THE ART OF THE T'ANG ERA

NOT until our own day has China been exposed to a more sustained foreign impact than during the T'ang Dynasty. The foreign embassies bringing gifts from afar to the imperial court, the Chinese merchants, officials, and soldiers returning from the expeditions along the caravan routes across Central Asia, the foreign students at the university, and the foreign missionaries--all these and many other contacts brought to China new impressions and visions of distant lands which are reflected in the art of the T'ang era.

Persian art brought color and certain conventionalized forms; Hellenistic-Buddhist influences are seen in the draperies and in the prevalent acanthus and lotus designs. The grape, said to have come to China with Chang Ch'ien in the second century B.C., now was used frequently as a decorative motive especially in the bronze mirrors which sometimes have a silver lining.

Bronzes, in the T'ang era, became almost completely secularized. Highly decorative pieces were made, often with a gold or silver wash. Precious metals were used in the making of personal ornaments; exquisite filigree work was preserved in these dainty decorative objects. Silver and gold also were used in the making of vases and bowls. The gold and silver work from this era, in its beauty and refinement of design and perfection of workmanship, has never been surpassed.

All the art from the T'ang period expresses a joyous freedom from conventional traditions. The pottery bowls and vases show especially youthful vigor and cheerfulness in their highly colored simple designs, so suggestive of a great deal of experimental modern pottery.

Pottery bowls during the T'ang era became identified with the tea cult which was later carried to such lengths in Japan. The earliest ref-

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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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