Apr 30 2010


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Carving the Liao Way: A New Direction in Japanese Buddhist Statuary at the Turn of the Eleventh Century

Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan

Yale University

In the spring of 998, in the middle of a measles epidemic that would decimate the Kyoto population by summer’s end, the courtier Fujiwara Yukinari commissioned a large wood statue of Acala (Fudō Myōō) in the hopes that it would protect him from harm.  He chose as the carver a man without much of an artisanal pedigree at the time.  This was Kōjō, whose subsequently mercurial career would make him the most celebrated sculptor in Kyoto until his famous son Jōchō took over the studio in the 1020s.

What it was about Kōjō that made him so appealing is a question that needs to be asked.  It is possible that his rise to prominence was simply a matter of chance in a world in flux due to the stochastic rhythms of life in Kyoto at the turn of the 11th century.  Many people died in the repeated epidemics that visited the city between 995 and 1015; Kōjō may simply have survived when his competitors did not.  Whatever rolls of the dice it was that brought Kōjō to prominence and made him the favorite of men like Yukinari—most prominently the volatile and brilliant statesman Fujiwara Michinaga—by 1000 he was turning out wood statuary of a manner so distinctive as to seem to have appeared out of the blue.  Today art historians credit Kōjō with having stimulated a uniquely Japanese turn in sculptural style and technique that incorporated a few Northern Song components but otherwise was entirely local in derivation.  Many think that what Kōjō pulled out of his hat for Yukinari in 998 was so purely Japanese that it captured the hearts of the Kyoto elite as a manifestation of native aesthetics.

Art historians have not been doing their homework.  It is abundantly clear from primary records that, by 1000, people like Yukinari and Michinaga—and no doubt Kōjō as well—were alert to contemporary directions in Buddhist art and culture on the continent.  The ubiquitous Mingzhou sea traders whose ships plied the waters of the Eastern Sea were a constant presence in Kyoto after the late 980s.  Among many desirables they brought Buddhist paintings, statues, and iconographies that fascinated their Japanese hosts.  Some of these objects came from Northern Song sources; in 1001 Yukinari had hurried to the palace to see a new Chinese drawing of his tutelary god Acala.  Others—such as a painting of Avalokitesvara (Kannon) in an Indian style imported in 1012—came from what Michinaga identified as Dairyō (Da Liao), “Great Liao.”  This Khitan state was force majeur on the continent—having brought Northern Song to its knees in 1005—and its Buddhist cultural productions not only rivaled those of the Chinese at Kaifeng but over the course of the 10th century had come to embody the Tang legacy in a post-Tang world.  It is frankly improbable that Kyoto’s rulers were unaware of Liao.

My paper proposes that Liao statuary made its way to Kyoto at the turn of the 11th century and inspired Kōjō to think differently about style and technique.  I make my case on the grounds that a set of relief carvings of the Twelve Divine Generals at Kōfukuji—the tutelary temple of Michinaga’s family—either came from the Liao territories or was inspired by Liao carvings brought to Kyoto possibly via Kaifeng and Mingzhou.  My goal is to celebrate the resiliency of Japanese patrons and sculptors in understanding—and mastering—their global surround in the production of works that came to epitomize the creatively hybrid nature of Japanese cultural productions in the time of Michinaga.

Nomadic Style in Tenth-Century China

François Louis

Bard Graduate Center

The 2008 excavation of a cemetery in Liangcheng, Inner Mongolia, brought to light a small tenth-century tomb of a Turkic horseman, buried with his horse and a number of precious personal items such as golden earrings, an agate arm guard, and a belt with jade ornaments. His Turkic ethnicity was established by DNA analysis. But based on the artifacts in the tomb, he could just as well have been considered Kitan. If we assume that genetic identity reflects cultural identity in this case, the find suggests closely shared cultural preferences between certain Turkic and Kitan elites.

My paper proposes to examine further potential manifestations of such a shared Turkic-Kitan taste in prestigious cultural goods during the late Tang and the Five Dynasties era. I see this taste reflected in ceramic and silver bottles shaped like leather bags, angular wine cups and small-handled pitchers, personal adornment, horse gear, certain silk fabrics (samits in particular), as well as in a group of paintings depicting nomadic elites. In what way, if any, did the Shatuo Turk and Kitan domination of politics in northern China between 900 and 950 affect the local production of artifacts in a “nomadic” style?

Cultural affinities between Kitan and Turks should not be surprising, as the groups had been enmeshed with each other for centuries. But with the rise of the Shatuo Li clan and the Kitan Yelü and Xiao clans at the beginning of the tenth century, such affinities would have become especially relevant in northern China. Even before the founding of the Shatuo and Kitan dynasties, Li Keyong and Yelü Abaoji had become sworn brothers; and the Kitan Xiao clan itself is recorded to have been of Uyghur Turkic descent. After the declarations of imperial dynasties, ties between the Turks and Kitan elite remained close, especially during Shi Jingtang’s Later Jin dynasty, which considered itself subordinate to the Kitan empire. It was at Shi Jingtang’s court in Kaifeng that Yelü Bei, Abaoji’s eldest son and the original Kitan heir-apparent, found refuge and gained renown as a painter of nomadic scenes. The meager history of his art was written during the Northern Song, at a time when dominant attitudes toward Turks and Kitan were determined by a newly empowered Chinese elite, and the imagery of nomads was conceptualized in terms of otherness. I suspect that, in contrast, the ruling elites in northern China during the first half of the tenth century were differently predisposed toward “nomadic” style.

A Civilized Warlord in Early Tenth Century Hebei: The Tomb of Wang Chuzhi and Its Cultural Significance

Yang Lu

University of Kansas

Two important trends appeared in the center of the Chinese imperial realm in the ninth and tenth century. These two trends are seemingly contradicting yet connected to each other: One is the rise of a new type of regionalism coupled with that of the local cliques; the other is the spread of the mainstream courtly culture that steadily influenced the peripheral regions. The literary culture championed by the Tang imperial court experienced a new rigor during the ninth century.  Surprisingly, it became an admired cultural model to the rest of the realm even as the Tang political authority was in an irrevocable process of decline.  As a culture based on the new understanding of “Wen,” this model received increasing acceptance of regional elites and informed their political and cultural perspectives. The purpose of this study is to illuminate this change through an examination of both textual and visual sources of the burials that were recently excavated.  Many of the burials of important local warlords from the late ninth to the early tenth century show dynamic interaction between regional elements (religious and secular) and imperial court culture.  The study starts with a survey of the main characteristics of such interaction that are represented in the burials of several regional warlords, including the tomb of Li Maozhen and his wife in Guanzhong, the tomb of Wang Jian in Sichuan, and the tombs of Feng Hui in Henan.  Then the study concentrates on investigating the cultural significance of one particular tomb: that of Wang Chuzhi in Hebei dated to the early part of the tenth century.

Since the latter half of the eighth century, Hebei had been treated as a region that challenged the political authority of the Tang court. Modern scholarship on the political and social structure of this region has hitherto concentrated on two aspects — the so-called “barbarization” (hu hua) and the professionalization of the army — as if they had caused the cultural and political antagonization between Hebei and the Tang court. The emphasis on these two aspects makes scholars less perceptible to the changes that occurred in the region during the late ninth and tenth centuries. The governing elite of Hebei, in particularly the regional courts of the military governors, became increasingly attracted to the literary culture of the Tang Court, even though such preference did not lead to a renewed sense of political allegiance. Wang Chuzhi is a perfect example. Through analyzing the visual motifs of the murals in his tomb in conjunction with the writing of his epitaph, this study investigates the ways through which the image of Wang Chuzhi is represented.  This study further aims to understand the self-representation of Wang Chuzhi in a broader context of the changing culture of the Hebei region at the time. The paper further suggests that Wang Chuzhi was not unique in this respect.  In fact, this switch from the “martial” (Wu) to the civil (Wen) is a continuing process, which is also reinforced by the dynamic religious traditions in the region. This transformation appears to have at least two significant consequences: 1. It allows the future consolidation of this region with the Center under the Northern Song; 2. The court culture of the Late Tang was assimilated and became influential to the court culture of Liao.


陆扬 (堪萨斯大学)



On the Art-historical Narrativization of Tenth-century Chinese Painting

Jonathan Hay

Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

On the basis very largely of transmitted paintings in portable formats, modern scholarship has characterized tenth-century painting as a turning point in the history of Chinese painting—the moment when painting turned from the visualization of aristocratic privilege and religious teachings to an engagement with the world of empirical experience. It was also, we have learnt, the moment when painters shifted their attention from a hierarchical cataloguing of experience to the articulation of the interconnections that make experience of the world continuous. Finally, it was the moment when the world of nature took over from the human sociality as the dominant metaphoric space of painting. That such changes took place has now been well established, but whether they are to be credited to tenth century artists alone is open to question, as is the starkness of the before-and-after contrast that modern scholarship has created between two distinct historical periods, and also the implicitly linear master narrative to which such a contrast belongs. Enough time has passed since the major statements of this view of tenth-century painting were published for it now to be possible to take some historiographic distance, in the light of both recent archaeological discoveries and a general scholarly shift away from linear historical narratives.

As modernism starts to fade into history, it becomes ever clearer that the master narrative of a history of Chinese art structured by periodic revolutionary breaks effectively projects back into the Chinese past the modernist view that modernity exists only as a break with tradition. As Frederic Jameson has shown, the trope of the break has a corollary: periodization, and he (as a good modernist, it might be said) concludes that there is no modernity without these two tropes. I take a different view, and would argue that modernist art history has in effect structured the art historical past as a series of rehearsals for modernism. It is in this context that tenth-century Chinese painting has been called upon to play the role of a revolutionary moment separating two periods, Nanbeichao through Tang on the one hand, and Song-Jin-Yuan on the other. Historiographically, this characterization deserves attention from a formal point of view, because its narrative structure has produced several notable blind spots in terms of scholarly attention. The characterization of the tenth century as a break has entailed, first, the virtual suppression of discussion of ninth-century, late-Tang painting, in favor of a dramatic contrast between tenth-century and eighth-century painting. Equally, there has been little discussion of elements in tenth-century paintings that represent continuity with Tang practice or acknowledge the authority of Tang cultural models. Also understudied has been the question of formats, and more specifically the importance of mural painting in a period that has largely been characterized on the basis of portable formats. A further casualty has been consideration of the ways in which early Song painting was in dialogue with contemporary painting in territories under the control of neighboring powers. Finally, insufficient attention has been paid to the ample textual evidence bearing on the ninth-tenth century art world, which paints a picture of the period rather different from modern scholarship. If one reintroduces into the narrative the evidence bearing on each these questions, as I shall do at the conference, the net effect is to dissolve the supposed break represented by tenth-century painting and create the need for a new narrative characterization.  Currently I am still thinking through the latter aspect of the problem but I expect to make a clear theoretical proposal in my talk.

A Political History of Reconstituting Institutions for Painting in the Early Song Dynasty

Ping Foong

University of Chicago

This paper is concerned with some aspects of incorporating painters   and paintings collected from conquered territories as representations   of the expanding political body of the Chinese empire and its cultural   boundaries.  Possible interpretive directions will be indicated in an   examination of evidence from three areas: the ways some of these   artists, displays of art, and art collections were administered and   absorbed into the newly formed bureaucracy of the early Song Dynasty.    Particular attention with be given to the role of what is termed the   dual Hanlin-system, comprising the Hanlin Academy and Hanlin Institute   of Academicians.  The precedence of the Latter Shu system will be   highlighted as a likely model for the Song rank and classification   system for artists, and additional focus is accorded to the   institutional reasons why Huang Quan and his sons may have proved   attractive to the Song imperial establishment as the Academy standard   for a century.

Snow, Snowscape, and Some Tenth-Century Sources for the Making of Landscape of Exile

Heping Liu

Wellesley College

In the fifth year of the Baoda era (947) of Li Zhongzu 李中主 (Yuanzong 元宗, r. 943-961) there was a heavy snowfall on the New Year’s Day. By royal command the courtiers, from His Highness’s younger brother on down, assembled for a banquet in a palace tower, where all were set to compose poems. Palace eunuchs were sent to the residence of Li Jianxun李建勲 to summon him to compose as well. On the day in question, Jianxun happened to have with him the Secretariat Drafter Xu Xuan 徐鉉 (917-992) and the Scholar Diligent in Administration, Zhang Yifang張義方, all being together in a kiosk by the side of a river. All three immediately composed and submitted their poems. Afterwards Jianxun, Xuan, and Yifang were all summoned into the palace, and the banquet party lasted throughout the night. In the end when the courtiers were dismissed from attendance, they all had their poems and songs finished and Xu Xuan wrote a preface and a postscript for them. Renowned painters were called in to depict the wonders of the occasion to the full. The portrait of His Highness was entrusted to Gao Chonggu高沖古; the courtiers and the musicians and musical instruments were entrusted to Zhou Wenju周文矩. Zhu Cheng 朱澄took charge of the towers, pavilions, and palace halls; Dong Yuan董源, the snow-covered bamboo and wintry groves; and Xu Zhongsi 徐崇嗣the ponds and pools with their birds and fish. The picture when completed was the very perfection of brushwork.

Guo Ruoxu’s 郭若虛 above account of “The Picture Celebrating the Snowfall” (Shangxuetu賞雪圖) tells an elegant gathering of the emperor and his courtiers that ended with a group picture done by a group of highly-selected court specialist-painters. The focus of this study is, however, on the subject of snow, snowfall, and the painted snowscape.  Such a subject is interesting because of the survival of the snow poems of the emperor and his three notable guests, because of the availability of Xu Xuan’s preface and postscript for the poetry collection, and most importantly, because of Xuan’s public life as an epitome of both the vitality and the turmoil of tenth-century China. A preeminent scholar-official and leading literary figure of his time, Xuan served all of the three rulers of the Southern Tang and the two founding emperors of the Northern Song. Like many of his contemporaries drawn into the unpredictable court intrigues, Xuan experienced three banishments and died during his last exile. His autobiographical poems of exile help us visualize his many journeys along the riverbank and in snow. There seems to have been more than a coincidence that the tenth century saw the emergence of a “narrative snowscape” in Chinese landscape painting. Two best surviving works are Zhao Gan’s 趙幹 Traveling Along the River at First Snow (Jiangxing chuxue 江行初雪) and Guo Zhongshu’s 郭忠恕 (ca. 918-977) Traveling Along the River in Clearing Snow (Xueqi jiangxing 雪霽江行). Both artists can be related to Xu Xuan: Like Zhou Wenju and Dong Yuan, Zhao Gan was also a Southern Tang court painter; no wonder his traveling landscape has a close affinity with Xuan’s exile poetry.  Similar to Xu Xuan’s career path, Guo Zhongshu served the short-lived Latter Han (947-951) and Latter Zhou (951-960) rulers before joining the Northern Song court; he was also exiled three times and died during his last exile. Most intriguingly, Zhongshu, a northern painter, did not follow the prevailing monumental style of northern landscape art but invented a new “open-diagonal composition,” which was to become recognized as the landscape of exile in the eleventh century.

Women and Culture in Motion  in Tenth Century Chinese Art

De-nin Lee

Bowdoin College

What roles did women and images of women play in the changing cultures in the tenth century in China? This period, from the last years of the weakened Tang dynasty to the rise and fall of regional powers to the Song reunification of China, offers an opportunity to examine how cultural ideas and practices are transmitted from one locale to another, and how they persist or perish from an earlier time to a later one. This paper proposes to investigate the question of cultural longevity by examining the movements and artistic impacts of women, paintings depicting women, as well as records of those paintings. The hypothesis here combines a gender studies analysis of female bodies as charged sites of cultural valuation and production, with research into the mechanisms and structures for the physical movements of real women. Women move, or are made to move, as refugees, by kidnapping, or through marriage. Additionally, it is important to consider the opposite of movement, captivity and confinement. Through their physical movements or their confinement, women become conveyers and producers of culture whether as artists or as the subject of paintings and of textual records. The paper combines gender studies with art history to add to our understanding of the history of art and visual culture in the multi-centered age of tenth-century China.

From Temple Workshop to Urban Atelier:  Buddhist Sculpture in Japan in the Tenth Century

Samuel C. Morse

Amherst College

The tenth century in Japan is frequently overlooked by historians of Buddhist sculpture.  Most scholars have viewed the period as a transitional one that simply links the transformation of Buddhist artistic production by the introduction of Esoteric and Tendai doctrines at the start of the ninth century and the appearance of a distinctive “indigenous” style (wayō) under the patronage of the Fujiwara clan at the start of the eleventh.  A closer examination of the century reveals that it was a time of great artistic diversity as sculptors responded to a variety of competing forces within the Buddhist community as well as the rise of the Fujiwara clan as major patrons.  Moreover, it was also a moment of significant technical innovation as artists learned to fashion images from multiple bocks of wood freeing themselves from the constraints imposed by single wood-block construction.  At the start of the century temple workshops under the direction of high-ranking monks dominated sculptural production; by its end professional sculptors in the Heian capital were receiving the most important commissions.  This paper will examine the changes that occurred in sculptural production during the tenth century by comparing the careers of the sculptors who mark its beginning and its end, Shōbō (832-909) and his disciple Eri (851-935), and Kōjō (d. ca. 1022), the father of Jōchō (d. 1057), the artist of the Amida at the Byōdo’in.

Shōbō (832-909) is best known as the founder of Daigoji, the powerful Shingon temple located in Yamashina just to the east of the Heian capital.  Trained first in the doctrines of the Hossō sect promoted by temples in the former capital of Nara, he subsequently was fully initiated into Shingon practices by Shinga (801-879), one of the disciples of Kūkai (774-835). Although Shōbō served in influential positions in many important Shingon temples he maintained close ties with Nara and along with his disciple Eri (851-935) directed numerous sculpture projects both for temples there as well as ones in the Heian capital.

Events in Nara in the late eighth and early ninth century provide important insight into the nature of Shōbō’s artistic activity.  Until the end of the eighth century Buddhist imagery in Japan was produced in ateliers under the direct control of the court, the most important of which was the Office for the Construction of Tōdaiji.  When the Office was closed by Emperor Kammu in 789 many of the sculptors moved to the Heian capital to participate in new temple construction projects.  Others clearly remained at Tōdaiji where they worked under the direction of the Intendant, Jitchū (ca. 726-ca. 815), who supervised many projects at the Great Eastern Temple.  One hundred years later when Shōbō and Eri took on projects such as the construction of the monumental Thousand-armed Kannon in the Refectory at Tōji or the statues of Thousand-armed Kannon, Kokūzō, and Jizō for the Refectory at Tōdaiji, they employed artists who were the successors to those at the Official Sculpture workshop.  As a result, while the images they produced often reflected the iconographic prescriptions of the Shingon sect, formally they were often closely tied to styles derived from sculpture produced in Nara at the end of the eighth century.  Moreover, despite their personal associations with Shingon teachings, they also commissioned images that reflected more the immanental concerns that lay behind image-making during the ninth century.  Representative of this phenomenon are the statues at Kami Daigo, begun by Shōbō and completed by Eri.  There they produced a set of images of the Five Bright Kings (of which the statue of Daiitoku remains today) as well as a triad of the Healing Buddha.

The details of Kōjō’s early career are unknown, but during the last decade of the tenth century he is recorded as having made imagery for the influential Tendai prelate, Genshin the author of Teachings Essentail for Rebirth, for the Ryōsen’in on Mount Hiei.  Soon thereafter he begins to receive commissions from some of the most influential members of the Heian court, including the calligrapher Fujiwara no Yukinari (971-1027), a close advisor to Fujiwara no Michinaga.  In a six year period between 998 and 1004 Kōjō was involved with the production of a life-sized image of Fudō myōō, statues of Dainichi, Fugen, and Eleven-headed Kannon, a silver image of Nyoirin Kannon, a painting of Myōken, statues of Shō Kannon, Bon-ten and Taishaku-ten, and two Amida triads.  A year later, in 1005,  Kōjō’s name first appears in the diary of Fujiwara no Michinaga, and in 1006 he completes a set of statues of the Godai myōō at Michinaga’s request, from which remains the main image Fudō, housed today at the Dōshū’in on the grounds of Tōfukuji.

Clearly Kōjō could not have produced these images without help, and the pace of the work and its sheer volume reveal that he must have been in charge of a large atelier.  Of particular interest is Kōjō’s relationship with his patrons.  For example the commission from Emperor Ichijō (980-1011) in 1000 for the statues of Shō Kannon, Bonten, and Taishaku-ten was the second occasion he had produced this group of images.  Those that he had sculpted the previous year had not been to Ichijō’s liking and he had given them to Yukinari.  While Kōjō’s aristocratic patrons were most certainly sincere in their Buddhist beliefs, it is clear that their devotion was expressed primarily in aesthetic terms.

Thus, the shift from temple workshop to urban atelier that takes place during the course of the tenth century reveals a change from temple-based artists making sculpture primarily in response to devotional concerns to secular artists responding to the aesthetic requirements of their patrons.

Refashioning the Faces of the Earth: Transformation of a Shensha Figurine in Tenth-century Mortuary Space

Jeehee Hong

Dartmouth College

This paper explores one of the multifaceted transformations in funerary art during the tenth to the eleventh centuries in China. By tracking the evolution of a single type of tomb figurine categorized as the so-called shensha 神煞 (evil-slaying spirits), this paper explores certain features in this evolution as a precursor to the integration of organized religious ideas and practices concerning the world of the dead that became evident after the eleventh century. From among several kinds of shensha figurines that occupied tombs in Tang 唐 (618–907 CE) and later times, I focus on one peculiar form: figurines with double anthropomorphic faces connected by a serpentine body. A close look at the transformation of this single type of shensha figurine enables us to understand an aspect of the complex trajectory of changing funerary practices from the late Tang to the Song 宋 (960–1127 CE).

An intriguing recent discovery of a stone engraving from a Yuan 元 dynasty (1279–1368 CE) tomb in Haikang 海康, Guangdong廣東 province, reveals that figurines of double-human heads with a serpentine body were identified as “dizhou 地軸” (Earth axis) by the late thirteenth century, one of the major types of shensha figures since the Tang. Several scriptures collated in the Daoist Canon (Daozang 道蔵) describe anthropomorphized serpentine deities as Thunder Gods (leishen 雷神) and thus prompted scholars to also identify dizhou as such.  Thunder Gods were popularly featured in the Thunder Ritual (leifa 雷法), developed through the Song and the Southern Song. But, this quick identification may not immediately apply to the earlier versions of the figurine made during the Tang and the Five Dynasties. This is not only because of potential anachronism, but also because it ignores changing referents for the term dizhou from the late Tang through the early Song, which reflect corresponding alterations in the role and ontological status of this figurine in the tomb space.

The spectrum of variations and commonality in excavated examples of dizhou illuminates how visual and semantic shifts manifested in this type of figurine reflect an increasing interaction between the mortuary and religious spheres during the tenth and the eleventh centuries. A set of figurines found in a lavish tomb of the early tenth century, belonging to the Wu 吴 kingdom in Hanjiang 邗江, Jiangsu江蘇 province, showcases a transitional status of this shensha figurine. Contrasted against most Tang examples of the double-headed serpentine figurines that are paired with an anthropomorphized fish, the so-called yiyu 儀魚, the Hanjiang example shows a subtle deviation from the traditional grouping; the yiyu is accompanied by a single-headed serpentine figurine, rather than by the double-headed type. This new pattern is repeated in other contemporaneous tombs. Contextualizing this phenomenon within Tang and Song ritual codes, which evidence a change in the listing of the standard set of shensha figurines, I suggest that while originally a part of one pair, the double human-headed serpentine figurines came to embody an independent shensha as its own type.

This refashioning of the dizhou’s status into an individual shensha is confirmed and further articulated at both visual and semantic levels. While examples from the Five Dynasties period (907–960 CE) still retain a rather wild form, with hairless heads and graphically snake-like bodies, later figurines of the same type made during the Song display more civilized features, such as a civil official’s head gear and clothed body. Such formalization and socialization of the figurines point to a new identity given to the figurine within the mortuary context. That is, the “visual bestowment” of the bureaucratic status on the dizhou signals the dizhou’s subtle transformation as a harbinger of the later full-scale bureaucratization of Daoist deities. This visual development conforms with the semantic shift in the evolvement of the term dizhou. In the contexts of geomancy and tomb-making, the original semantics of dizhou as “earth axis” had been variously associated with dragons or snakes by the late Tang, either as the spirit of the earth or the movement of its hidden force. But, it began to also embrace a corpus of concepts and imagery promoted by Thunder Ritual during the eleventh century.

This focused study of the transformation of the serpentine shensha reveals a subtle interplay between the funerary and the religious spheres during the tenth and the eleventh centuries. Intersecting the visual, semantic, and ritual fields at various levels, the evolvement of the dizhou over time shows that its status as a slayer of evil in the tomb space gradually developed into that of a deity, increasingly institutionalized and interchangeable with a Thunder God.

Wild Cursive Calligraphy, Poetry, and Chan Monks in Tenth-Century China

Hui-Wen Lu

Graduate Institute of Art History, National Taiwan University

Wild cursive calligraphy (kuangcao) was one of the most prominent artistic pursuits in the tenth century, a critical period in the cultural transition between Tang (618-906) and Northern Song (960-1127). Performed predominantly by Chan monks, wild cursive calligraphy adorned silk, paper, and walls and screens in Buddhist temples during this period. Although very few examples are extant, contemporaneous writers, oftentimes also Chan monks, vividly documented its wonder in verse. The poems describe astounding spectacles of untrammeled ink lines and splashes, accompanied by shouting and dance by the calligrapher in drunkenness. Noted calligraphers of wild cursive in the tenth century included Monk Guanxiu 貫休(832-912), Monk Yaqi 亞栖(active ca. late-ninth to early-tenth century), and Monk Bianguang 辯光(active ca. late-ninth to mid-tenth century). In what way did they succeed to, and more importantly, deviate from their predecessors in the eighth century, such as Zhang Xu 張旭(active ca. 8th c.) and Monk Huaisu 懷素(825-785), best known masters of the art? Why did wild cursive calligraphy fall out of favor with most scholar-officials in the eleventh century? And what do these tell us about the culture of the turbulent time of the tenth century, which spanned the late Tang, Five Dynasties, and the first four decades of the Northern Song? Through a close examination of the poems about wild cursive calligraphy, along with other historical documents and visual materials, this paper attempts to define and contextualize this eccentric art in the tenth century, to explore the Jiangnan 江南 region factor for its development, and to illuminate its entangled relationship with poetry and Chan Buddhism.

In order to provide a historical background for the subject, the first part of the paper will trace the development of wild cursive calligraphy from the eighth century to the latter half of the ninth century. In the second part, I will translate and discuss in depth the poems about wild cursive calligraphy of the tenth century (over a dozen in number are still extant), identifying the appeals and implications of this art. The third part will look into the calligraphers’ regional affinities to the Jiangnan area, and how its cultural tradition, and especially thriving Chan Buddhism, helped cultivate the aesthetics of wild cursive calligraphy. The fourth part will examine wild cursive calligraphy in the eleventh century, especially how Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅(1045-1105) transformed it into something drastically different, marking the conclusion of a long and gradual cultural transition from Tang to Song.

Five Dynasties-Liao-Song: Dynastic-ethnic-regional Identities in Jades of the 10th Century?

Jenny F. So

Chinese University

In his 1996 catalogue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition of artifacts from the Taipei National Palace Museum, James Watt pronounced unequivocally that “There is no known jade of the post-Han-pre-Southern Song period that is of the finished quality of, say, the jade cups of the Han period.”[1] The following year, he presented a study on the jades of the Song, Liao, and Jin periods as separate, independent entities.[2] More recently, in a study of Northern Song jades, I have posited that “because of the complex relationship between Liao and Song, their jades should therefore be understood on cultural and artistic grounds, not geographical or political ones.”[3]

In our ongoing reexamination of the arts of the tenth century, I chose to focus on the art of jade-working partly because it is most problematic in terms of scarcity of available material with secure provenance or dates, and partly because it has been much ignored in favor of the other better-known arts of painting, calligraphy, ceramic, and sculpture of the period. However, as the foundation stone of Chinese culture, whose status and role in China dated back to the Neolithic period, it is hard to believe, as Watt puts it, that this much venerated material and quintessentially Chinese art form played no role in the artistic achievements for over one thousand years; or that jade production and consumption should be understood in terms of political and/or ethnic circumstances.

The wealth of jades recovered from archaeological excavations in recent decades are the first to remind us that, as a key player in the political and cultural arena of north China, the Khitan-Liao are not “foreigners” and should not be ignored. At the same time, similar discoveries in Shu and Wu-Yue territory along the Yangzi river valley have provided new information on the artistic achievements in the south. These finds have contributed to the notion of a “north-south” cultural divide that persisted well into the Northern Song period of the eleventh century.

I plan to look these diverse finds, with a special focus on the jade artifacts, to explore to what extent a study of the jades continues to justify our current perception of the artistic characteristics of the tenth century in dynastic/ethnic/regional/north-south terms, or whether some other approach might be more appropriate.

To: Participants and Audience in “10th Century China and Beyond” Conference, Chicago, May 14-15, 2010 From: James Cahill

This is to supplement the necessarily brief me-on-camera introduction that opens the segment prepared by my producer-director Rand Chatterjee and myself as our contribution to the conference. The excerpts are all from Lecture Five, first of two on Five Dynasties painting, in our twelve-lecture series “A Pure and Remote View: Visualizing Early Chinese Landscape Painting.” As noted in the segment, it is partly based on my old conference paper titled “Some Aspects of Tenth Century Painting as Seen in Three Recently Published Works,” presented at a conference in Taipei in 1980 and published in Proceedings of the International Conference on Sinology, Section on History of Art, Taipei, Academia Sinica, 1982, pp. 1-36. Since that is difficult of access, the paper appears on my website (jamescahill.info) as CLP 190. What you will see is of course much changed from the published paper.

Please understand that the series is intended for general audiences, not for learned conference participants; and also that you will be watching and listening to three-quarters of an hour from what will eventually be some thirty hours of talking and pictures, an attempted style history, in the old Gombrich mode, of Chinese painting through Song. The first six lectures, on Pre-Song Painting, will soon be made accessible on my website and on that of the Institute for East Asian Studies at U. C. Berkeley, our sponsoring organization; it will also, eventually, be purchasable from the Institute in sets of high-definition (probably Blu-ray) disks, at cost—this is a completely non-profit project. If you suspect that you are not already on my email list and would like to be notified of this, write me: jamescahill3@aol.com, and I will put you on.

[1] See “Jade” in Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Wen C. Fong & James C.Y Watt, eds. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 54-71), 57

[2] James C.Y. Watt, “Jade Carving in China from the Tenth to Fourteenth Centuries” in Chinese Jades: Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia, no. 18, Rosemary Scott, ed. (London: Percival David Foundation), 189-204.

[3] Jenny F. So, “Finding Paradigms among Northern Song Jades,” Wang Yao-ting, ed., Conference on Founding Paradigms: Papers on the Art and Culture of the Northern Sung Dynasty (Taipei: Taipei National Palace Museum, July 2008, 723-59), 730.

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