- China is one of the ancient civilizations in the world with a long history, a large population and a vast territory. In the endless history, their industrious and intelligent ancestors not only created a broad, profound and colorful traditional culture, but also created a splendid and magnificent national art. It has added brilliance to the Chinese nation and made great contributions to world civilization.
From ancient times to the Xia, Shang, and Western Dynasties, it was the initial period of the origin, development and formation of Chinese national art. Various art forms, such as painting, sculpture, music, dance, architecture, crafts, etc., are like strange flowers and flowers, fighting for beauty and glory, from trickling streams to rivers and seas. Many amazing art treasures have been produced, and they have become rare treasures in the treasure house of Chinese traditional culture.
The ancient times were the budding era of Chinese primitive art. As early as the beginning of the Paleolithic Age, humans were already living in the land of China. The earliest Yuanmou people were the earliest ancestors of our Chinese nation. They used gravel to make rough stone tools, and lived a primitive life of hunting, gathering, and drinking. Under the condition of very low social productivity, they stubbornly struggled with the harsh natural environment. It was in this struggle to conquer and transform nature, they gradually mastered the technology of processing stone tools, and were able to produce suitable production tools with a certain shape. It was also in the long-term practice of making stone tools that the primitive plastic arts sprouted. The day when primitive plastic art emerged was the time when primitive art with hazy beauty came into being. The earliest stone tool discovered in China, the stone tool unearthed in Xihoudu, is the earliest known primitive art in China.
To the late Paleolithic period, the original primitive aesthetic consciousness was produced. The cavemen at the top of the Zhoukoudian in Beijing already know how to use rough stone tools to make stone, bone, tooth, and mussel human body decorations. In addition, with the development of stone-making technology, the use of stones with higher hardness and luster to make smaller stone tools appeared. Fine stoneware is an original artwork with a more regular and fixed form and a certain aesthetic value. The appearance of fine stone tools marked the maturity of the original stone-making technology.
With the advent of the Holocene, Chinese ancestors also developed from the Paleolithic Age to the Neolithic Age. At this time, they invented agriculture, domesticated livestock, made and used polished stone tools, and invented pottery, built semi-crypted houses, and jumped from the ancient hunter-gathering lifestyle to primitive farming settled life. Primitive ancestors have already worked and lived in vast areas of China. According to their different natural geographical conditions and living habits, they have created a variety of rich and colorful primitive arts. It can be said that the Neolithic Age was an era of unprecedented development and prosperity of Chinese primitive art.
In the early Neolithic Age, due to the development of polished stone tools, stone tools have the characteristics of beautiful and practical primitive stone carvings. The ancestors of Peiligang Culture and Cishan Culture in the middle reaches of the Yellow River made their own contributions. At the same time, due to the invention of pottery, the ancestors of Pei Ligang have produced pottery sculptures of human heads and livestock such as pigs and sheep. The primitive painting art was first used by the ancestors of the old Guantai culture in the Guanzhong area to decorate pottery to create colored pottery art. On the basis of accumulating experience in making bone utensils, the ancestors of Peiligang culture created primitive bone musical instruments and developed primitive music and dance art. The semi-crypted building of the Pengtou Mountain culture on the south bank of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River is the earliest primitive building discovered in China. The ancestors of the Xinglongwa culture in the upper reaches of the Liaohe River in the southern part of the northeast have made many new developments in the semi-crypted primitive architectural art. In the early Neolithic Age, Chinese primitive art has developed into many forms.
In the middle of the Neolithic Age, the primitive plastic arts first transferred from stone tools to pottery. The ancestors of Yangshao Culture and Dawenkou Culture in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River created many vivid pictograph pottery, which brought primitive pottery art to a mature stage. At the same time, primitive sculpture art such as pottery sculptures, bone sculptures, ivory sculptures, stone carvings and jade carvings have also developed, and a wealth of human body decorations have appeared, and the aesthetic consciousness of the primitive ancestors has been greatly strengthened. At this time, primitive music and dance art represented by Tao Xun, Tao Xiangqiu and Bone Whistle also developed. The most outstanding achievement is that the ancestors of Yangshao inherited the tradition of painted pottery art from the old Laoguantai culture, made them show a colorful appearance, and completed the whole process of development, prosperity and decline. Under the influence of Yangshao Culture, Dawenkou Culture and Daxi Culture in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River developed rich painted pottery art, forming the three centers of the prosperity of painted pottery art in the mid-Neolithic period of China, which had a great impact on the surrounding primitive culture. Especially in the Miaodigou type period of the Yangshao culture, through the connection of painted pottery art, the first great exchange and integration in Chinese history occurred in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and the Yellow River and Yangtze River basins. The discovery of the architectural art of the large-scale village of Yangshao Culture is an inevitable product of the densely populated middle reaches of the Yellow River. The village strengthened the relationship between people, making the role of social relations surpass that of blood relationship for the first time, and at the same time, it also bound the primitive ancestors to the yellow land forever.
The Hemudu culture, which was produced almost at the same time as the Yangshao Culture, represents the outstanding achievements of the primitive culture development in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in the middle of the Neolithic Age. The ancestors of Hemudu planted rice, invented the art of dry fence architecture, created many exquisite primitive sculptures, and invented the earliest primitive painting art in China. All this shows that the Yangtze River Basin, like the Yellow River Basin, is also the cradle of Chinese civilization. In addition, the ancestors of the Liaohe River Valley also created many advanced primitive arts and made their due contributions to Chinese civilization.
In the late Neolithic period, the primitive culture of the Yellow River Basin developed to the Longshan culture era, and the primitive clan society was about to disintegrate. At this time, due to the widespread use of pottery wheels, which promoted the further development of pottery, the gray-black pottery of Longshan Culture replaced the earlier colored pottery of Yangshao Culture. In the lower reaches of the Yellow River, the ancestors of Shandong Longshan culture who inherited the Dawenkou cultural tradition and developed unparalleled eggshell black pottery art. The Majiayao culture in the upper reaches of the Yellow River further prospered the colored pottery art as a primitive painting art. Ganqing and Qinghai became a major center of the development of colored pottery art in China at this time. In the middle reaches of the Yellow River, in the Henan Longshan culture of the Central Plains, there are tall castle buildings surrounded by rammed earth walls, showing the outstanding achievements of primitive architectural art. The primitive art of the Taosi Longshan culture in the Fenhe River Basin reflects the characteristics of severe polarization between the rich and the poor and class antagonism. On the basis of fully absorbing the advanced cultural factors of the surrounding areas and blending with each other, the Central Plains region took the lead in entering the era of civilization.
In the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, Qujialing Culture inherited the painted pottery art of Daxi Culture and created exquisite eggshell painted pottery, becoming another center of the development of Chinese painted pottery art in the late Neolithic period. After the third phase of Qinglongquan culture, the art of pottery was developed, and it is famous for being good at sculpting various animals. It can be seen from the development of primitive art that the middle reaches of the Yangtze River are the same as the upper reaches of the Yellow River. When primitive clan societies in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River are severely divided and are about to disintegrate, they still maintain strong clan social traditions. But in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, it is a different scenario. After the Majiabang culture, the Liangzhu Culture developed a highly developed primitive jade carving art, large-scale sacrificial buildings and primitive lacquer craftsmanship, especially its jade carving ritual vessels, which showed exquisite carving skills and strong religion Color not only brought civilization to this region, but also set a precedent for the jade ritual vessels of the Shang and Zhou dynasties.
The Xia Dynasty, which was founded in the Central Plains, was the first slavery kingdom in Chinese history. The establishment of the Xia Dynasty brought Chinese primitive art to a new stage of slavery art. Since then, primitive art has developed into the art of civilization. Since Xia culture is still a major subject being explored in Chinese archaeology, the art of the Xia Dynasty is also a subject being explored, and it is not yet possible to pinpoint which is the art of the Xia Dynasty. However, from the perspective of the Erlitou culture, an important object of the Xia culture explored in archaeology, the Xia Dynasty has entered the Bronze Age. The art of the Xia Dynasty should be a kind of early bronze art. Various art forms have been further developed and marked with a distinctive class mark. At the same time, it also laid a solid foundation for the development of art in the Shang and Zhou era.
The establishment of the Shang Dynasty pushed the development of ancient Chinese slavery art to its peak. Painting, sculpture, music, dance, architecture, and crafts based on bronze have achieved unprecedented development and achieved many unprecedented outstanding achievements. As a decorative craft, the art of painting is widely used in all areas of the life of slave owners and nobles; with the development of textile technology, decorative silk paintings or silk paintings may appear. Sculpture art is developing towards high, fine and sharp, especially bone carving, tooth carving, stone carving and jade carving have high achievements, and are monopolized by slave owners and nobles. Bronze musical instruments appeared in large numbers, which promoted the development of music and dance art. The luxurious palace buildings and the large tombs of the Shang Dynasty royal family have fully demonstrated the achievements of the Shang Dynasty’s architectural art. Especially the bronze art, which integrates sculpture, decoration and craftsmanship, represents the brilliant masterpiece of Shang Dynasty art. The magnificent and majestic bronze rituals, the rich and exquisite shapes, the gorgeous decorations, and the exquisite craftsmanship are rare in the world. The mysterious artistic atmosphere they exhibit can only be seen in Shang Dynasty art. The popularity of oracle bone inscriptions gave birth to the earliest calligraphy art in China in the Shang Dynasty. At the same time, the emergence of glazed pottery or primitive porcelain craftsmanship, the development of lacquer craftsmanship, and the emergence of gilding and wrought iron craftsmanship have all gathered in the vast art treasure house of the Shang Dynasty, revealing posterity and shocking those who come.
Zhou Wuwang destroyed merchants and created the art of slavery in the Western Zhou Dynasty. The art of the Western Zhou Dynasty is also a kind of bronze art built on the basis of civilization. It has inherited the traditions of Shang art in many aspects, especially the bronze ritual instruments, with strong Shang cultural characteristics; Zhouyuan’s oracle bone inscriptions are also the legacy of popular fortune-telling in the Shang Dynasty. However, the art of the Western Zhou Dynasty and the art of the Shang Dynasty have their differences. In order to consolidate their rule, the Zhou people formulated a complete set of Zhou rituals that strictly distinguished hierarchical names, and Western Zhou art was included in the scope of Zhou rituals, forming a strict hierarchy. With Zhou Tianzi as the center, the princes, qing, and scholar-bureaucrats enjoyed different levels of art, and they were not able to arrogate in the slightest. This characteristic was particularly obvious in the late Western Zhou Dynasty. Although there are not many artworks of the Zhou royal family representing the highest level of art in the Western Zhou Dynasty, the physical materials used by the small and medium-sized slave owners and nobles found in various places can still reflect the achievements of various arts in the Western Zhou Dynasty. Like the Shang Dynasty, painting and sculpture were widely used as decorative crafts in all areas of the life of slave owners and nobles, especially jade carving ritual vessels, and it was a sign that showed the status of slave owners and nobles. Bronze ritual vessels with solemn shapes and refined decorations are still rare treasures in the bronze art of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The popularity of its style of casting inscriptions promoted the development of the art of inscriptions in the Western Zhou Dynasty and became the treasure of the three generations of calligraphy in China. The appearance of a large number of bronze chimes reflects the development of music and dance in the Western Zhou Dynasty. The palace (ancestral temple) architecture discovered by Zhou Yuan shows the achievements of the early architectural art of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The original porcelain, painted lacquer and gilding are all further developments of Shang Dynasty art. The appearance of glass feeder is a new achievement of Western Zhou art. All of these prepared the necessary conditions for the development of art in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period. It was even admired as a model by Confucianism and influenced the art of the entire feudal era in China, forming a unique and spectacular traditional art of the Chinese nation.
- Overview of the Art of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period
The Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period was the era of transition from slavery to feudalism. It was the era when advanced feudal production relations defeated the backward slavery production relations. Academically, it was an era of unprecedented vigorous contending among scholars and schools of thought. All kinds of arts are flourishing and vivid.
The Spring and Autumn and Warring States lasted for hundreds of years. The vassal states developed independently and formed different cultural atmospheres. Li Xueqin summarized them into several cultural circles: Central Plains Cultural Circle, Northern Cultural Circle, Qilu Cultural Circle, Chu Cultural Circle, Wuyue Cultural Circle, Bashu Yunnan Cultural Circle. After the reunification of the Qin Dynasty, a rich and diverse Chinese culture was formed together. At the turn of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the Greek culture in Europe was also entering the heyday of development, and the two cultural systems of China and the West were far apart. Comparing the two, Greece is famous for its superb carvings, leaving countless art treasures for later generations, and radiating an indelible brilliance in the history of world art. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, China was famous for its multifunctional bronze wares. It is a comprehensive artwork that integrates sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and craftsmanship. It combines practicality and aesthetics. It is not only a token of communication between human rights and divine power, but also a mark of distinguishing ranks.
The paintings of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period are rich in documentary records, especially the murals. From the contents reflected in the book “Shan Hai Jing” written in the Warring States Period and the great poet Qu Yuan’s “Tian Wen” of Chu, we can see the huge scale of the mural paintings at that time, but unfortunately they have not been passed down to this day. We can only understand the paintings of the time from the bronze picture, the lacquer picture and the two remaining silk paintings. Through the huge and complex bronze paintings: mulberry picking, hunting, shooting, feasting, water and land warfare, etc., it can be seen that the artisans at that time had quite high compositional ability and image-shaping ability, and they had initially mastered balance, symmetry, and contrast. And other art rules. Although due to conditions, the characters in the paintings have no facial expressions, they are vivid and proportionate, and indirectly express the mentality of the characters. Just as Xunzi said that the shapes and tools are born of God. The lacquer unearthed from the tombs are all painted with patterns and colors. Simple and lively, the characters on it are also dynamic, the facial expressions are relatively simple, the painting is still in the early age, and the innocent and lively characteristics of childhood are fully expressed. Some lacquer coffin decorations were painted with paint, which can be regarded as the earliest oil paintings. The four silk paintings of the Warring States that have been handed down to this day, especially the “Character Dragon and Phoenix Picture” and “Character Royal Dragon Picture”, represent the highest level of painting at that time. For example, there are changes in composition, balance, dynamic ratio of image, line strength, etc., all have achieved certain achievements. Especially in the “Character Royal Dragon”, the lines are strong and flexible. The depiction of the image of the man with the sword and the expressiveness of the lines are more mature. The characteristics of Chinese painting with line modeling have already emerged.
The widely distributed and colorful rock paintings enrich the painting content from another side.
The carvings in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period are far from the level of Greek carvings in the period. Large-scale carvings with independent significance have not been discovered. The carvings at that time were mainly buried mud-wood figurines and jade carvings, made into animal-shaped and human-shaped bronzes with lacquerware and other arts and crafts. In terms of the complexity of the type and the richness of the material technique, it is beyond the reach of Greek sculpture. The sculptures that have been discovered during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period are made of lacquer, bronze, jade, mud, wood and other materials. The images include animals, figures, gods and monsters, birds, dragons and phoenixes, and the techniques include round carving, relief, painted, and inlaid. The portrayal of characters can not only distinguish the differences in ranks, gender and age characteristics of men, women, and children, but also characterize individual characteristics. The decorative, painterly, symbolic and other characteristics of traditional Chinese sculptures have already taken shape at this time, and the influence of this tradition is extremely far-reaching.
The calligraphy of the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period occupies an important position in the history of Chinese calligraphy. Bronze inscription (bronze) and stone drum inscriptions represent the first climax of the development of Chinese calligraphy art. Its style may be vigorous and simple, or delicate and elegant, with a special sense of beauty, which will be cherished by later generations. The fonts of Mengshu and Short Book, whether it is Danshu or Zhushu, have unique charm. For example, in the book of Houma League, the stroke of the blade is obvious, the turning is strong, and the thickness of the line changes slightly. The pen form the silkworm head, which some people call the tadpole book, forming a special aesthetic feeling. The seal writing provided the earliest model for later seal carving art.
The music and dance of the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period were rich and colorful, and they are valued by the rulers of the past dynasties and loved by people from all walks of life, and their social effects are considerable. For the upper class, music and dance were first used for major ceremonies such as sacrifices and banquets, and for the people, it was mainly entertainment and rest. At first, court music and dance and folk music and dance were strictly separated. In the Warring States Period, court music and dance absorbed many elements of folk music and dance, and produced Zheng Sheng, Chu Dance, Chu Yin, Song Yin, Wei Yin, Qi Yin, etc. These court music and dances with strong folk music and dance colors are historical advances. The unavoidable phenomenon in China has caused panic and opposition from some conservative people, but the transformation of music and dance is the same as the historical progress, and it was irreversible. Judging from documentary records and unearthed objects, the scale of court music and dance activities in the Warring States Period was very large. Judging from the dozens of sets of chimes and chimes unearthed from the tomb of Zenghou Yi, not only were they large in scale, but the instrumental functions were also quite advanced. There are many unanswered questions in the history of music. At that time, in addition to the music and dance used for sacrifices, religious dances used for praying for blessings and removing evil spirits were very developed, such as wax sacrifices and Nuo rites, which were popular from the court to the folk. Chu Yin and Chu Wu are represented by Qu Yuan’s “Nine Songs”.
In terms of music theory, each of the pre-Qin scholars insisted on their own views on music. Taoism, Mohism, and Legalism hold a negative attitude towards music and dance, but the starting point of opposition and the degree of negation are different: Confucianism affirms music and dance, while Confucianism, Mencius, and Xunzi have their own emphasis here. Whether it is affirmative or negative, they all expounded their own reasons, and they all gave enlightenment from a certain aspect, which are worthy of future research.
The buildings of the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period were mainly the capitals of various countries, such as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty King City of Luoyi, Qi Kingdom Linzi, Yanxiadu, Zhao Kingdom, Handan Ancient City, Qin Xianyang City, Chuying City, Zhenghan City and so on. The architecture of this period also had high achievements like other art categories. For their own survival and expansion, the princely states carefully built their own capitals, making them the center of military, politics, and culture, without hesitation in manpower and material resources. Due to the different geographical locations of capitals of various countries, the construction of the capitals was adapted to local conditions, so each had its own characteristics. However, they were consistent or similar in many aspects. For example, Miyagi was surrounded by city walls and Haogou, and the whole city was composed of Miyagi and Guocheng. The palace of Miyagi was the most prominent on the central axis of the city. The location of Guocheng had a city (commercial area), the palace is separated from Guocheng, the layout is symmetrical, and the main buildings are distributed around the central axis, and so on. In terms of architectural achievements, multifunctional bricks and tiles were invented at that time, which provided great convenience for the development of architecture. The invention and use of Doutong laid the foundation for the unique aesthetic form of Chinese classical architecture. Terraces and pavilions were a unique architectural type of that era. In addition, the strict grade restrictions on buildings have also been followed by successive generations of architecture.
The arts and crafts of the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period were the most energetic, rich in variety, and the greatest achievement. Bronze craftsmanship is in the transitional period from its peak to decline, and it can be described as brilliant. Compared with the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Shang Dynasty, it produced many new features. The shape has evolved from the original solemnity and majesty to lightness and practicality, and many new shapes have been produced. The number of bronze wares used in daily life has increased, and the production has become more and more sophisticated. With some exceptions, most of the bronze inscriptions have become shorter, and bronzes like the Western Zhou Dynasty that show the history of the Hehe family or promote the ritual system by casting long inscriptions have basically disappeared. Bronze patterns have developed to two extremes, one is that the animal face pattern with a majestic and mysterious atmosphere becames a concise geometric pattern; the other is the depiction of real life scenes. The decoration technique is more shallow and finer, and the coarse flowers in the early stage become neat and fine flowers. The improvement and promotion of new techniques (lost wax method, inlaying, and engraving) have brought bronzes to a new era of brilliant craftsmanship. The lost wax method is a superb technology for casting bronzes. Its advantages can make bronzes more diverse and delicate. Its application and promotion have greatly improved the casting level of bronzes. The technique of inlay (or wrong gold and silver) is applied to the decoration of bronze patterns, which can make the shape of bronze wares changeable, complicated and colorful. Because the inlaid ornaments of gold, silver, lead, jade, turquoise, etc. have different textures and colors, which contrast with the surface color of the bronzes, the inlaid decorations are eye-catching and prominent. The ornamentation of engraved copperware is more convenient to make, and the ornamental subject matter is broader than before. In general, the aesthetic function of bronze wares during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period was emphasized and highlighted, practical functions were weakened, and the mysterious rituals were almost gone. This was an important sign that bronze craftsmanship broke free from the slavery system of rituals and music, and embodied the new concept of the emerging landlord class that beauty is beautiful.
Jade craftsmanship, due to social, economic and political changes, brought about the renewal of the concepts of princes’ national etiquette system. Gift jade and decorated jade, which are closely related to the ruling class, also changed, and the types of decorated jade increased. The main types of jade in the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period were of different kinds. Most of them were ritual utensils, and a small part were living utensils. Jade, as a decorative object to show the identity of the nobility, accompanied the adornment day and night. The gentlemen had no reason to let the jade go away. Jade symbolizes the virtues of a gentleman, and there are seven virtues, nine virtues, and eleven virtues. In the evolution of jade, there were many three-dimensional jade carvings in the Shang Dynasty, and there were still traces in the Western Zhou Dynasty. The jade in the Spring and Autumn Period was gradually flattened, with fewer varieties, but more refined production. Most of the tombs of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period that have been excavated contain jade, and they are large in number and beautifully made. For example, more than 3,000 pieces of jade were unearthed from the Chu Tomb in the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period in Xichuan, Henan. There are also one to two hundred jade artifacts unearthed from general tombs. Some of the craftsmanship pieces were just amazing, such as the 16-section dragon jade pendant unearthed from the tomb of Zenghouyi in Suixian County, Hubei; the humanoid jade pendant unearthed from the Han tomb in Jincun, Luoyang (detailed later), from the selection of materials to the cutting process is very good .
Lacquerware craftsmanship. China was the first country in the world to use natural lacquer, and the lacquer craftsmanship was very developed during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. In the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the use of lacquerware became wider, the technique was greatly improved, and local styles appeared. The Warring States lacquerware was a period of great development in the history of lacquerware in our country, with a wide range of distribution, a large increase in varieties, an unprecedented improvement in the production level, and new improvements in many aspects. First of all, the fetal bones are more diverse. In addition to wooden tyres, there are clamped tyres, leather tyres, bamboo tyres, etc.; the colors used are also richer, including red, black, white, purple, brown, green, blue, yellow, gold, and silver. And so on, with black and red as the main tones; patterns and patterns are complicated and regular.
In addition, the combination of lacquer with sculpture, painting, and even inlay is also a major feature of lacquerware in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
The weaving and embroidery craftsmanship of the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States has also made great achievements. Among them, the physical remains of Chu are the most preserved. For example, in 1982, 35 well-preserved clothing items were found in a small tomb in Mashan, Jiangling, Hubei. Unearthed textiles are divided into two categories: silk and linen. Silk fabrics include eight categories of silk, their production was unprecedented.
2. An overview of Qin and Han art
The Qin and Han dynasties are a very eye-catching period in Chinese history. Qin Shihuang swept the six countries in 221 BC, unified the universe, and established the first centralized feudal empire in Chinese history-Qin Dynasty. The Han Dynasty was another unified centralized feudal empire that emerged after the Qin Dynasty, including the Western Han Dynasty and the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Qin and Han dynasties lasted more than 400 years. Although they have experienced many ups and downs, judging from the historical process of the entire feudal society, it is in a rising stage of vigorous development. At that time, the country was unified, the economy was prosperous, the territory was greatly expanded, and the nation was merged in an unprecedented way. In the Western Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian made an envoy to the Western Regions, and the Eastern Han Class was operated beyond the borders, establishing and consolidating the Silk Road that truly communicated the East and the West. The opening of Sino-Western communications further increased the cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, creating conditions for the prosperity of art. The culture of Qin and Han Dynasties was further refined and integrated on the basis of the contending of hundreds of schools of thought and academic prosperity in the Warring States period, forming the Huanglao doctrine in the early Western Han Dynasty and the neo-Confucian doctrine in the mid-West Han Dynasty. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, Taoism and Buddhism were produced on the basis of the doctrines of immortals and Taoism. It was also introduced into China from Central Asia. Four directions blend, grace is great, flourishing times and fresh ideas stimulate artists in the Qin and Han dynasties. They were intoxicated by the majestic and prosperous atmosphere of the Qin and Han empires, and most of them had an unprecedented joy, excitement and pride. The means to describe and express are either through rammed earth and bricks or through carving and pinching; or even using rhythm and tune and through movements and techniques, using lines and colors, modeling and decoration to jointly express the spiritual experience of the art creator and show the style of the times – these special means of expressing the spirit of the times are the forms of art. The art of the Qin and Han Dynasties is also fully embodied from the painting, sculpture, calligraphy and seal cutting, music and dance, acrobatics, architecture, and crafts of this era.
From the perspective of painting, the Qin and Han Dynasties were the first prosperous and vigorous period in the history of Chinese painting. It clearly demonstrated the requirements and power of this art form, and achieved impressive results. Murals, silk paintings, and wooden paintings emerged. Paintings, lacquer paintings, colored paintings, stone carvings and other forms appeared. The murals at the Qin Palace Site No. 3 of the Xianyang Palace in the Qin Dynasty are a series of long scroll paintings. The coloring of the paintings is rich in changes. The outline is flat and the dot is dyed, reflecting the high level of painting in the Qin Dynasty. The Han Dynasty not only had a large number of historical materials to record the grand occasion of painting art, but also had a wealth of painting relics. The murals of the tomb of Bu Qianqiu, the murals of the Han tomb in Wangdu, Hebei, the murals of the Tomb of Lingerhan in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the murals of the Han tombs in Xingyuan Village, Yanshi, Henan, are all very wonderful murals; Han silk paintings are all masterpieces of silk paintings; wood-panel paintings unearthed in Juyan, Gansu and Hanjiang, Jiangsu, and lacquer paintings in craft decoration paintings also have many exquisite works; there are also a large number of portrait stones and portrait tiles; all these make the paintings of the Han Dynasty. The art is colorful and eye-catching.
The paintings of the Han Dynasty used a combination of realism and decoration in art, which played a role in laying the foundation for the paintings of future generations.
From the perspective of sculpture, this period can also is described as a remarkable achievement. In the Qin Dynasty, there were 12 huge bronze figures weighing a thousand stones (one say 240,000 jin), and there were also large-scale and lifelike Qinling Terracotta Warriors and Horses, all of which can be called a model of Qin Dynasty sculpture. The sculpture group in front of Huo Qubing’s tomb in the Han Dynasty can be regarded as one of the masterpieces of Western Han sculpture. The stone lions with their heads upright in front of Gao Yi’s tomb, striding forward, radiating power and magnificent beauty, and the bronze horses in the tombs of the Eastern Han Dynasty in Wuwei, Gansu, can be regarded as immortal sculptures of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Han dynasty portraits and masonry have rigorous composition, bright themes, and immature and concise techniques. Their expressive techniques include purely painterly inscribed carvings, reduced-ground flat carvings with inscribed lines, thin flesh carvings that are hidden under pressure, and inscribed carvings and main bodies. Embossed sculptures, high-relief sculptures and open sculptures that combine shapes, of which reliefs that combine catenary and three-dimensional shapes account for the vast majority. Portrait masonry is a comprehensive art form that integrates the three art forms of painting, sculpture and architecture. It is a painting art that uses swords instead of pen. Its purpose is to achieve the long-term preservation of murals. From which we can see that sculpture and painting are in This period has a fate that is difficult to decompose. In short, with its unique artistic language, sculptures in the Qin and Han Dynasties reflected history and real life in many ways, embodying the magnificent, unrestrained, powerful, proud and confident spirit of that era.
From the perspective of calligraphy, Qin and Han calligraphy is also commensurate with the achievements of Qin and Han paintings and sculptures. During this period, various scripts such as Xiaozhuan, official script, cursive script, running script and regular script have appeared one after another, which laid the foundation for future generations of script. However, the maturity of cursive script, running script and regular script will be pushed to the Wei and Jin dynasties.
During the Qin and Han dynasties, Xiaozhuan and Lishu were mainly the world. The small seals of Li Si in the Qin Dynasty have uniform strokes, round and vigorous, calm and stretched, and contain a strong and vigorous atmosphere. The official script of the Han Dynasty has a square body, which is rich, plump and powerful. These calligraphy works mostly exist on carved stones, and they have made remarkable achievements in art.
By the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, calligraphy had been separated from practicality and became the object of people’s creation and aesthetics, and there appeared the most respected calligraphers and the earliest calligraphy theoretical works. Calligraphy in the Qin and Han dynasties opened the door for future generations of calligraphy to enter a more glorious and sacred palace with its diverse artistic practice and theoretical valuable exploration.
From the perspective of music and dance, due to the increasing frequency of exchanges between various ethnic groups and the increase in cultural exchanges between China and the West, the music and dance art of the Qin and Han dynasties have made a qualitative leap compared with the pre-Qin period. The music and dance style of the Han Dynasty was formed by combining the music and dance art of other ethnic groups and foreign nations based on the sound of Chu sound and Chu dance in the pre-Qin period. Many new instruments such as flute, and pipa were introduced to the mainland from Central Asia and joined Chinese bands.
Sizhu musical instruments replaced the Jinshi musical instruments of the pre-Qin period, which not only changed the structure of the band, but also changed the melody, rhythm and style of the music, and at the same time changed the dance rhythm, dance volume, and dance style. The music and dance of the Han Dynasty not only have the characteristics of the original light song and man dance in the central plains, but also contain the fierce and powerful beauty of the frontier minority and foreign ethnic cultures.
From the perspective of acrobatics, the Qin and Han dynasties were in the formation and growth period of acrobatics. Its achievements were mainly manifested in the basic establishment of the acrobatics system, the initial formation of the artist team and the beginning of the scale of the performing arts. The Qin Dynasty Jiao Arrived Opera formally appeared on the stage. Qin II played the Jiao Arrived Haiyou play in Ganquan Palace. Jiao Arrived here was no longer a narrowly defined wrestling, but as a representative skill of the Qin State. The general term for a new type of art formed by the national acrobatics, acrobatics had become a kind of performing art. In the Qin Dynasty, the national acrobatics, song and dance, and burlesque performances were the first to be held in the country. This grand event was followed by the Han, Tang, and Song dynasties. In the Han Dynasty, the content of Jiao Ren Xi was more substantial, more difficult, and more diverse. Han dynasty acrobatics was also influenced by Western acrobatics. The excellent skills of Western acrobatics were quickly absorbed by Chinese artists and integrated into traditional programs, making Chinese acrobatics more colorful and promoting the maturity of Han dynasty acrobatics. Baixi, as a new variety centered on acrobatics and a collection of various performing arts, was finally born and finalized in the Eastern Han Dynasty, and was active in the courts and the wild, becoming an important part of the art system of the Qin and Han Dynasties.
From the architectural point of view, the architecture of Qin and Han Dynasties is very charming. There is a group of buildings built on the Beihan of Xianyang, imitating the palaces of the Six Kingdoms. Only the front hall, Afang Palace, left endless reveries for future generations; there is the Mausoleum of the First Emperor which is still 43 meters high with Lishan to the south and Weishui to the north. There is also the majestic Great Wall that stretches for thousands of miles from Jieshi in Liaodong in the east to Lintao, Gansu in the west. The city of Chang’an in the Western Han Dynasty faces Weishui River to the north, and the two palaces of Changle and Weiyang in the south are staggered from east to west. The total area is about 36 square kilometers. It was the largest city since the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. Weiyang Palace Tiger stands on the Dragon Head Mountain, facing Chang’an from the north to the south. It is majestic and magnificent, no less than Afang. There were also majestic and memorial ritual architectures in the Wang Mang period. The Deyang Palace in Luoyang City in the Eastern Han Dynasty was no less than Afang and Weiyang Palaces. The plane layout of the capitals of the Qin and Han Dynasties, especially the capitals of the Han Dynasty, has the characteristics of a transitional period from an irregular type (represented by the capitals of the Warring States period) to a regular type (represented by the capitals of Cao Wei and Sui and Tang Dynasties). During the Qin and Han dynasties, the basic features of Chinese architectural art have been prepared. Its wooden structure system and the comprehensive use of painting, sculpture, crafts and other artistic expression techniques for decoration of various architectural components have formed a difference from other architectures in the world with an independent style. The overall architectural style has the characteristics of boldness and boldness and gorgeous carvings.
The arts and crafts of the Qin and Han dynasties also present a dazzling scene. There are several creations in practical crafts such as ceramics, jade carving, silk, bronze, and lacquer. The emergence of low-temperature lead-glazed pottery in the late Western Han Dynasty marked the superb level of ceramics in the Han Dynasty. The jade carvings of Yurenqitianma unearthed near Weiling in the northern suburbs of Xianyang, Shaanxi, and the jade to ward off evil spirits unearthed from the Eastern Han tombs in the northern suburbs of Baoji, Shaanxi are all treasures of the Han Dynasty. Bronze mirrors and bronze lamps are two of the largest practical handicrafts among the bronzes of the Qin and Han Dynasties. There are also new decoration techniques that inherited the Warring States period-gold and silver complexes and gilt craftsmanship. Its representative works include the gold and silver hunting-patterned bronze car ornaments unearthed from the Western Han Tombs in Dingxian County, Hebei, and the gilt bronze lamps of the Changxin Palace unearthed in Mancheng, Hebei. In addition, ancient art craftsmen from various ethnic groups in the border also added dazzling brilliance to the metal craftsmanship of the Qin and Han Dynasties. For example, the bronze shell container unearthed in Shizhai Mountain, Jinning, Yunnan, and the high-relief gold medallion of lying lamb bag of the northern Huns are all representative works. More than 100 pieces of silk fabrics were unearthed from the Mawangdui Han Tomb in Changsha, Hunan. Among them, a piece of plain fabric is extremely light and weighs only 48 grams, which prominently reflects the superb level of silk reeling in China more than 2,000 years ago. The lacquerware of the Qin Dynasty is represented by the rope-carrying lacquer tube unearthed in Yunmeng, Hubei, the phoenix-shaped lacquer spoon with painted animal heads, and the double-fish single phoenix pattern lacquer cup. Representing the highest level of lacquerware in the Han Dynasty are hundreds of lacquerware unearthed from the Western Han Tomb at Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan. These lacquerware are mostly painted with patterns on the lacquer surface, light in texture, beautiful in shape, and smooth in color.
For more information regarding the highlights and education of this period of Chinese Art Development with graphical and photo collections expositions please contact our center for lectures and workshop arrangements.