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The Western and Eastern Han Dynasties
2012-05-27 20:28:31

The Western and Eastern Han Dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties

Fine Arts in Eastern Han Dynasty

It was a big event in the Eastern Han Dynasty and a landmark of the prosperity of Zhejiang's economy and culture that the celadon appeared. According to the relevant archeological materials, the earliest porcelain wares of the country were excavated from the sites in Shangyu, Yuyao, Ningbo, Yongjia and Cixi of Zhejiang Province. The testing showed that the porcelains excavated from Shangyu Xiaoxiantan Kiln site of Eastern Han Dynasty had met with the standard for the mature porcelains. There were a lot of common points in shapes and decorations between the porcelains of the Eastern Han Dynasty and the primitive porcelains. For example, both of them were decorated with flax, net, fir leave, triangle or pane veins. The Double-Stringed Celadon Bell was the representative porcelain ware of the Eastern Han Dynasty that was made with fine and standard craft and pure in the ceramic glaze. The Black Glazed Candleholder in A Bear' Shape of the late Eastern Han Dynasty was very unique in conception and combined skills of sculpture, line engraving and paste to display a cute bear squatted with his legs across.

The bronze mirror manufacturing had been highly developed in Eastern Han Dynasty and made Huiji County its center. The mirrors were very elegant in shape and delicate in pattern. Among the various kinds of mirrors, the chariot mirrors, the immortal figured mirrors and history-illustrated mirrors were the most common while the mysterious beast mirrors and dragon-and tiger-mirrors revealed mysterious religious senses. The Immortal on the Chariot Mirror was decorated with Jade Emperor's Queen dancing in her long-sleeved shirts and the Figure Mirror of Wu & Yue Kingdom had XiShi's story illustrated on it. Both were of high artistic value.

The Celadon Figure-Piled Jars with Performers

Fine Arts in Three Kingdoms Period and the Northern and Southern Jin Dynasties

In Eastern Wu Kingdom of the Three Kingdoms Period, painting developed quickly. There appeared a famous painter named Cao Buxing. Born in Huzhou, he was the first painter recorded in Zhejiang history. He was good at drawing figures, Bodhisattvas and dragons, and was regarded as the originator of the Bodhisattvas painting genre of the nation. There was a tale about him: while he was painting a folding screen for the king Sun Quan, he accidentally dropped a drop of ink on the unfinished painting. After his revision of the ink spot into a fly, the king tried to drive it away when he saw the screen. This is the famous story of A faulty Point Into A Fly. In his book Appreciations to the Ancient Paintings, Xie He of the Southern Dynasty praised Cao Buxing's paintings as the ones of the best.

During the Three Kingdoms Period and the Northern and Southern Jin Dynasties, the development of the tools made it possible for the porcelain wares to be made in large quantities and various kinds. There were three characteristics of the productions then: the porcelain wares became various in shapes; the figures became various and colorful thus made the porcelains became practical and artistic wares for daily use; the porcelain wares for memorial use became prevailing. The four major branches of Zhejiang kilns came into being, i.e., the Yue Kiln, Ou Kiln, Wu kiln and Deqing Kiln.

The Yue kiln was a very important genre of China, which was mainly located in Shangyu and its vicinity. There had been about one hundred kiln sites in the region. In the Three Kingdoms Period and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Yue kiln reached its first peak of development. The works of the period were delicate which usually presented a kind of light green color in glaze, decorated with beautiful veins and used vivid animal figures as the outer shapes. The gifted handicraftsmen put life into the daily-use wares through their unique skills. For instance, the Cock-headed Pot was developed from the common pots, but with a cock's head and tail pasted onto it, the plain pot was changed into an artwork instantly. The Frog-shaped Water Container combined the container's daily utility with an exaggerated figure of a frog and was very vivid indeed. Among the celadon works of the time, simple, but exaggerated animals figures were widely used and achieved great artistic flavors.

During the period, the piled pot was the most characteristic work among the celadon wares. The piled pot was very huge and complicated in its structure. On the basis of a huge pot was added several small pots as well as such figures like gods, josses, characters, birds and animals and houses on the top. In Eastern Jin Dynasty, the custom of luxurious funerals disappeared into history and so did the production of the complicated piled pots.

With the prosperity of Buddhism in the Southern Dynasty, one of the theme patterns of Buddhism, lotus was applied as the decorative vein of the porcelains, such as the Lotus-veined Celadon Jar and the Lotus Petal-veined Celadon Bowl.

Wuzhou Kilns spread over the regions of Jinhua and Quzhou. Due to the iron element in the clay, the craftsman usually daubed some dressing coatings before glazing in order to reduce the influence of the iron element to the green color of the glaze. The products of Wuzhou kiln were rough, thick and unique in shape among which the Figure-Piled Jars were most representative. For example, the calabash-shaped Figure-Piled Jars with Performers displayed the scene of an entertaining party. The foreign players had roman noses and sunken eyes. One of them was sitting straight and playing vertical flute on the top. Under him were some cute acrobats. Deqing Kilns produced celadon and black porcelain. The black porcelain was the representative product of Deqing kiln, which enjoyed high reputation for its fine techniques, lacquer-like glaze, and smooth surface. The celadon produced in Ou Kilns were relatively white in their roughcast color and green in glaze and some of them were unique in shape such as the Cattle-shaped Candleholder excavated in the tombs of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. It was never seen in Yue Kilns. An obvious characteristic of the Ou Kiln porcelains was the brown spots partly decorated on the green glaze.


During the Western and Eastern Han Dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Buddhism had been in fashion for a long time and the temple-related construction arts had developed greatly. A lot of famous temples had been built in this period, such as the Tiantong Temple and Eyuwang Temple in Ningbo, Linyin Temple in Hangzhou, and Huge Buddha Temple in Xinchang. The Huge Buddha Temple was initially called the Yinyue Temple where there was a stone-engraved Laughing Buddha of 15 meters high, the tallest Buddha in Southeast China.

The Chinese Calligraphic Art

During the Wei, Jin, Northern & Southern Dynasties period, the Chinese calligraphic art stepped into its Silver Age. Wang Xizhi (321-379) was the master calligrapher of the Jin Dynasty, who was born in Shangdong province and lately moved to Huiji of Zhenjiang province. He had been the Right General of Jin Dynasty, so people called him Right General Wang. He had learned the cursive hand script from Zhang Zhi and the regular script from Zhong Yao. His regular script works being straight and neat, his running script works being powerful, diverse and natural, he had great impact on later generations and was considered the best of all times. Once in 353, he invited 41 scholars (including such celebrities like Xie An, Sun Tong) to attend a banquet in the Orchid Pavilion in Huiji. While in high spirits, he wrote the Preface to the Orchid Pavilion to memorize this banquet. The work was praised as 'the Best Running script Piece of the World' Wang Xizhi enjoyed the highest reputation among the history of the Chinese Calligraphy; and the books like Jin History ' Wang Xizh' Whole Life, Criticism to the Ancient and Modern Calligraphy Works (by Liang' emperor Wu) and Praise for Wang Xizhi (by Tang Taizong, the famous emperor of the Tang Dynasty) used the most gorgeous words to describe his achievements. His other works like Yue Yi' Statements, Huang Ting scripture, Fast Snow and Occasional Sunny Tablet, Auntie'Tablet and Shangyu Tablet were great calligraphic pieces. He and his son Wang Xianzhi (344-386), were collectively called 'The Two Wangs'. Wang Xianzhi was good at almost all calligraphic styles especially the official, regular and cursive hand styles. He wrote the Moon Festival Tablet with cursive hand style, the Yatouwan Tablet with running script and To Goddess Luo with regular script. All of the three pieces were of unique flavor and revealed the degage characteristic of the calligrapher.

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