Art of China The rise and fall of many dynasties dot the timeline of Imperial China, an era that begins in the Han dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D) and ends in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.). Despite aggressive takeovers of power and land, this was a formative period when foreign cultural and political influences helped shape China’s governing systems and meritocracy. It was also an age when art and literature flourished and society valued the “three perfections”: poetry, brush calligraphy, and painting. Pottery and statuary also distinguish the arts of Imperial China. Among the objects in this exhibition, which spans 2,000 years, are a pair of oil lamps of a stag and a ram and a stick figure from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), a pair of green-glazed horses from the Northern Wei dynasty (396-534 A.D), and the Sancai-glazed official, Earth spirit, and horse with cut-fur blanket, and the terracotta court ladies from the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), which was regarded as the golden age of Chinese culture. Other figures include the gilt limestone Buddha from the Shangdon Province of the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577 A.D.), the stone Head of Lohan from the Song dynasty (960-1127 A.D.), and the painted wood Figure of Maitreya from the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The Pair of Buddhistic Lions (fu dogs), also from the late Ming dynasty, are a powerful presence. Traditionally placed in front of Imperial palaces, temples, government offices, and the homes of elite and wealthy families, Fu Dogs were once believed to hold mythic protective powers. The 80-inch-tall guardian lions are a classic pair with the male holding a ball beneath one paw (supremacy) and the female holding a lion cub that lies on its back (nurture). In addition to figurative objects, the China section of the exhibition features 19th century silk embroidery with a bird and floral motif. Pairs of birds of the same size are generally understood to represent a couple in a state of conjugal fidelity. In some contexts, birds represent official ranks in the Imperial Court, symbolic of power, courage, and strength. Flowers represent different seasons and sometimes indicate the use of the object at appropriate times of the year. The exhibition also includes scholar’s rocks from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) — “found” objects transformed into aesthetic riches that were traditionally placed in enclosed, ornamental gardens and treasured for their contemplative qualities. These are among the latest objects, as the modern era — the Republic of China — began in 1912.
Pair of Buddhistic Lions, Fu Dogs
China, Late Ming Dynasty Stone 80 in. high each 1072
Chinese guardian lions, or â€œfu dogs,â€? once stood sentry in front of Imperial palaces, temples, and the homes of the wealthy and powerful. These large-scale stone lions were meant to ward off evil spirits and protect the elite. They appear in male-female pairs. In this 80-inch-tall stone pairing from Chinaâ€™s late Ming dynasty, the male holds a globe under his right paw, which signifies control over his domain and protection of his home. The female holds a cub under her left paw, representing maternal protective instincts.
China, Ming Dynasty Painting on plaster 48 1/2 x 32 in. 9348
Embroidery with Birds and Floral Motif
China, 19th Century Silk embroidery 99 1/2 x 53 in. AS993
Figure of Maitreya
China, Ming Dynasty (1368 â€“ 1644 A.D.) Painted wood 74 in. high 1094
Maitreya, the â€œhappy Buddhaâ€? of the future, represents the harbinger of a new age and will be reborn in a period of decline to renew the doctrine of Buddhism. The figure sits in vajrasana, the left hand in varadamudra and the right hand in vitarkamudra. This represents reasoning, argumentation, or explanation of a teaching. Adorned with jewelry, high tiara, and elaborately draped garments, the Maitreya exudes majesty and limitless tolerance and generosity.
China, Shandong Province, Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577 A.D.) Gilt limestone 25 in. high 2203
Horse with Cut-Fur Blanket China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) Sancai-glazed pottery 29 1/2 in. high 2486
Sancai, or “three glazes” (green, amber, brown), pottery was typically animated and life-like, depicting all aspects of social and ritual life. The scale of the figures was generally small with the exception of larger works commissioned as traditional funerary wares for the tombs of the elite. This horse, symbolic of an individual’s status and wealth, stands almost 30 inches tall. The ownership of horses was an aristocratic privilege.
Oil Lamp of a Stag
China, Han Dynasty (206 B.C. â€“ 220 A.D.) Painted pottery 15 in. 2483
Oil Lamp of a Ram
China, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.) Painted pottery 15 in. 2482
China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) Glazed pottery 34 in. high 2480
Sancai-Glazed Earth Spirit China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) Glazed pottery 44 in. high 5323
Head of Lohan
China, Song Dynasty (960 â€“ 1127 A.D.) Stone 10 in. high AS724
Pair of Court Ladies
China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) Painted pottery 15 in. high each 2499
China, Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) Painted pottery 20 in. high 2498
China, Han Dynasty (206 B.C. â€“ 220 A.D.) Pottery 24 in. high each AS833 / AS832
China, Liao Dynasty (907 â€“ 1125 A.D.) Gilt bronze 22 x 9 in. 2191
Art of Japan Some of the most rare, history-rich woodcarvings and silk embroidery come from Japan’s Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji periods (18681912), and encapsulate almost three centuries of craftsmanship and symbolism. Edo, the capital of the Tokugawa shogunate, brought an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity after years of civil unrest. The elite class, part of a strict Confucian social hierarchy based on inherited position, was educated and ran a sophisticated government bureaucracy. Next in the social order were the peasants (farmers), followed by artisans and merchants. Despite its isolationist foreign policy, the Edo economy flourished with domestic trade and agricultural production. Japan transformed from a feudal to a modern society in the Meiji period, when all classes were encouraged to participate in the public discourse on the direction of Japanese society. The industrial revolution (especially textiles) and Western-style education system also advanced the cultural trajectory. Blending art and functionality, decorative screens offer insight into the Japan’s history and culture. The Japanese used the screens as backdrops for important visitors, placing them in entranceways to block the wind and evil spirits from coming inside. Most screens, up to 6 feet tall and 12 feet wide, have six panels made from the pulp of the mulberry tree, ensuring balance and sturdiness. Painted with pigments and sometimes gold or silver leaf, the screens feature birds on a blooming plum tree, cranes under pines, and similar motifs. The animal and flower themes also appear in embroidery from the Edo and Meiji periods. Examples in the exhibition feature dragons, chrysanthemums and other flowers, the “marriage of Kossu ducks,” a dog and a wagon, and a hawk perched on a branch. Symbolism also prevails in the selection of traditional fukusas, silk thread-embroidered textiles that were used as coverings for elegantly boxed gifts that influential people presented on trays during these periods. For example, the carp, or koi, symbolizes faithfulness in marriage or perseverance, suggesting a determined warrior — desirable qualities in young men. The gift giver selected the motif for the occasion. Examples in the exhibition feature three old men comparing ages, a dignitary on horseback with attendants, koi and waves, a deity on a tortoise amid waves, a basket of spring flowers, a farmer and a water buffalo, scholars Kazan and Jittoku with scroll, a drum and fowl, cranes and a golden tortoise, and a procession of noblemen. Three-dimensional objects round out the exhibition. Among them are a deeply carved wood and gild ramma of Apasara playing flute (late Mieji/early Taisho period) and several other panels and figures from the Edo period, including a pair of 71-inch-tall, carved wood temple figures.
Pair of Temple Figures, Nio
Japan, Late Muromachi to Early Edo Period (1467 â€“ 1652 A.D.) Wood 71 in. high each 1072
The Nio (benevolent kings) stand guard outside Japanese Buddhist temples. The fierce and threatening facial expressions ward off evil spirits, demons, and thieves. The Nio are constructed in wood in the traditional multiblock design. Old works were repaired bit by bit, over time, as individual blocks shrank or were damaged by insects. Damaged blocks were replaced with exact copies. Some works, like these, have repairs spanning many years. This pair, standing 71 inches tall, was originally lacquered. Though no lacquer survives, the surfaces contain evidence of the gofun (gess-like) layer.
Embroidery with Dragons
Japan Silk and gold thread embroidery 48 1/2 x 34 1/2 in. 6924
Flower Painting Rimpa School
Japan, Edo Period (1603-1868) Ink and pigments on silk 63 x 30 in. AS1171
Flower Painting Rimpa School
Japan, Edo Period (1603-1868) Ink and pigments on silk 63 x 30 in. AS1170
Dragon and Karabana
Japan, Meiji Period Silk thread embroidery 69 x 41 in. 8995
Fukusa of Cranes and Golden Tortoise Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 29 x 25 in. 7544
When Japanâ€™s Tokugawa rulers tried to curb spending, precepts of etiquette and official instructions regulated behavior, including ceremonial procedures such as the presentation of gifts. The functional practice of laying a decorative and protective fukusa over gifts took on a life of its own. Wealthy families often commissioned famous artists to create the silk and gold thread designs. They selected each fukusa for the occasion, the season, the gift itself, and the status of the donor and the recipient. Fukusas were made of square or oblong pieces of silk, lined and often embellished with tassels, and sometimes beared the monogram or family crest on the reverse. Etiquette called for the recipient to return the fukusa. Elite recipients sometimes elected to keep them.
Fukusa of Noh Mask Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 27 1/2 x 25 in. 4876
Fukusa of Three Old Men Comparing Ages
Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 36 x 28 in. 7548
Fukusa of Drum and Fowl
Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 29 x 25 1/2 in. 7545
Fukusa of Scholars Kazan & Jittoku with Scroll Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 29 x 25 1/2 in. 4878
Fukusa of Long Life
Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1921) Silk thread embroidery 29 x 24 in. 4877
Fudo Myo-o, “The Immovable One”
Japan, Muromachi / Early Edo Period (15th-16th Century) Wood with metal and rope 11 x 11 x 26 in. 3718
Ranma of Apsara playing flute Japan, Late Meiji / Early Taisho Period Deeply carved wood and gilt 20 1/2 x 36 in. 7905
Japan, Meiji Period (c. 1880) Bronze 92 in. high 1068
During the international expositions in the late Meiji period, people from the West gained their first look at exquisite bronzes like this one. The eagles trace to 18th century painting styles, reflecting an earlier European influence that flourished in the Meiji period. In this 92-inch-tall example from around 1880, a spread-winged eagle perches atop a promontory appearing ready to pounce on its serpent prey. The central section has two panels decorated with narrative depictions of figures in the landscape.
Six-Panel Screen with Birds Japan, Edo Period (19th Century) Pigment on paper 68 x 144 in. 3466
Traditional Japanese homes consisted of mostly open rooms softened and subdivided by the placement of a byobu. These decorative screens were used as a dramatic backdrop to highlight a personâ€™s importance, or to create areas for eating, sleeping, or receiving visitors. The goldor silver-leafed screens also reflected the limited light of oil lamps and candles. Japanese stories and ideas inspired the imagery and decoration. Screens were typically made of two, four, six, and eight panels. Six-panel screens like this one typically measure up to 6 by 12 feet. This mid-19th century painting is typical of the Kano school; it depicts sea hawks fishing at the seashore. Birds of prey were a favorite theme of the elite samurai, who were ardent falconers.
Rimpa School Six-Panel Screen, Chrysanthemum Motif Japan, Meiji Period (19th Century) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 66 1/2 x 142 in. AS461
Six-Panel Screen in the Kano School Style Japan, Edo Period (19th Century) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 49 x 112 in. AS960
Japan, Meiji / Taisho Period (Early 20th Century) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 67 1/2 x 146 in. 3467
Six-Panel Screen of Clouds Japan (Late 19th / Early 20th Century) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 67 1/2 x 146 in. 3468
Six-Panel Screen with Birds on Blossoming Plum Tree Japan, Mid-Edo Period (1603-1868) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 42 x 112 1/2 in. 6307
Japan Pigment and silver leaf on paper 47 1/2 x 87 in. 6385
Six-Panel Screen with Cranes Under Pines Japan (Late 18th / Early 19th Century) Pigment and gold leaf on paper 66 3/4 x 147 3/4 in. 6308
India and Southeast Asia
Art of India and Southeast Asia The art of India and Southeast Asia comes from a cross-section of periods and peoples, from Dongson-culture Thailand and the Gandhara region — a large area consisting of parts of today’s India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — to Khmer-period Cambodia and Indonesia’s Borneo Island. This swath of Southeast Asia envelops many current boundaries, making it difficult to neatly partition its cultural heritage. One of the oldest objects exhibited is the bronze bell associated with Dongson-culture drums from Thailand (1000 B.C.-200 A.D.). Bells with similar broad looping bands have been found in Cambodia, Vietnam, and throughout Indonesia. Hellenistic or Greco-Roman techniques and Indian Buddhist iconography distinguish the artistic legacy of the Gandhara region (now northwest Pakistan). Artists in this area strived for realism and were the first to portray the Buddha in human, rather than symbolic, form. Buddhist art and realist aesthetics were at a height in Khmer-period Cambodia (late 12th/early 13th century), when iconography and symbolism gained importance and the first scenes of contemporary daily life appeared. Khmer art also produced portraiture, such as the gray sandstone, Bayon-style head of Avalokiteshvara, the widely revered bodhisattva thought to embody the compassion of all Buddhas. The Batak people of the western Indonesian island of Sumatra infused their traditional art with their pervasive belief system. Guardian figures, ritual and funerary paraphernalia, and architectural details all held sacred meaning and power. The exhibition includes a traditional helmet mask, as well as a Singa, an apotropaic wood figure with an elongated face representing a benevolent and protective power. Incidentally, masks from other times and places punctuate this installation, including the 19th century Ceylon dance mask and two early-20th century hudoq masks from the Kayan/Kenya Dayak people of Indonesia’s Borneo Island. Likewise, in addition to the Gandharan and Khmer-period Cambodian Buddhas is a Shan-period (17th-18th century) pigment-painted wood head of Buddha from Burma, and a pair of 19th century Thailand gilt bronze standing Buddhas with long embellished robes and one with a tall pointed headdress.
Heads of Buddha
Gandharan (2nd-3rd Century) Terracotta 7 in. high each 2105 / 2104 / 2103
Procession with Horses
India (12th Century) Stone 23 in. long AS1185
In this 12th century carved stone procession scene from a medieval Indian temple, the central rider wears an embellished helmet, or crown, indicative of his royal status. Two companions, both facing him out of deference, accompany the rider. On the frieze behind the three riders, supporters watch the procession. The carver has conveyed a sense of depth by placing the followers on a ledge behind the main figures and by making the secondary figures smaller in scale. In addition, the carver reveals particular skill in the detail on the horsesâ€™ saddles and harnesses and on the ridersâ€™ boots and armored leggings.
Jain Alter Piece India (15th Century) Bronze 10 1/2 in. high 2193
Thailand (19th Century) Gilt bronze 30 1/2 in. high 1059
Thailand (19th Century) Gilt bronze 24 1/2 in. high 1060
Thailand, Dongson Culture (1000 B.C.-200 A.D.) Bronze 22 1/2 in. high AS997
Head of Avalokiteshvara
Cambodia, Bayon Style, Khmer Period (Late 12th / Early 13th Century) Gray sandstone 12 1/2 in. high AS1002
Head of Shiva
Khmer, Angkor Period, Style of Bakheng (1st quarter of the 10th Century) Sandstone 12 1/2 in. high AS1091
The Khmer kings considered the venerated Hindu deity Shiva as the supreme guardian of their empire. The formalist facial style in this 10th century sandstone head of Shiva is specific to the Bakheng style and gives its statuary a geometrically hieratical appearance. In this example with the faint smile, the effect conveys a benevolent expression.
Kayan Dayak culture, Borneo Island, Indonesia Wood and pigment with rare cloud leopard skin atop 20 in. high 1063
Kenyah Dayak culture, Borneo Island, Indonesia (Early 20th Century) Wood and pigment 25 x 22 x 9 in. AS1096
House Door with Buffalo Head Motif Toraja People, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia Wood 42 in. high 1062
Dayak People, Borneo Island, Indonesia Wood 74 x 26 in. 1055
Batak People, Sumatra Wood 26 1/2 in. high AS1075
Batak People, Sumatra Wood 16 in. high AS1076
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Arts of asia catalog