Ancient Chinese Art: Jades and Bronze

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 June 2023) | Viewed by 3505

Special Issue Editor

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Guest Editor
Institute of Asian Studies, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA
Interests: ancient Chinese religion, art, and archaeology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The scope and purpose of this issue is to highlight the role of jade and bronze art in China's earliest cultures, from ca. 3300 to ca. 3rd c. BCE, from the Late Neolithic Jade Age through the Warring States period, the era before dynastic Qin and Han periods. The author may choose to focus on one or more objects, a comparison of objects, or on a jade or bronze theme or symbol that is theoretically challenging and intellectually significant. Stylistic expression is key to understanding chronology and meaning in differentiating, for example, Chu bronze styles from Qin or others of the spring and autumn period or later, or Western Zhou hu from spring and autumn hu style vessels. How does one characterize the style of Sanxixngdui bronzes? Why is Qijia stylistic expression from mainstream ancient Chinese jade working? One needs to ground analysis with the support of archaeologically and historically related data. A particular image, such as the rhinoceros in Shang and Zhou bronze art or the human in jade sculpture are examples for consideration. Yet, defining style and its expression are critical; as Meyer Shapiro once pointed out in Style, 1953, "Style is, above all, a system of forms with a quality and meaningful expression through which the personality of the artist and the overall style is critical" (Style, 1953, Columbia University Press). Style is the unity of form and content.

Excellent recent studies are noteworthy but often shun analyzing style or a work of art whose style may be employed to identify a cultural expression. For example, recent publications on jade and bronze include the study in 2017 by Xiaolong Wu on the Warring State site of Zhongshan titled Material Culture, Power, and Identity in Ancient China, Cambridge Univ. Press; a study in 2021 by Yan Sun titled Many Worlds Under One Heaven: Material Culture, Identity, and Power int he Northern Frontiers of the Western Zhou, 1045-771BCE.; a study by Peng Peng in 2020 on Metalworking in Bronze Age China: The Lost-Wax Process (Cambria Sinophone World); and study in 2022 by Yung-ti Li titled Kingly Crafts: The Archaeology of Craft Production in Late Shang China(Tang Center Series in Early China). My own work, titled Metamorphic Imagery in Ancient Chinese Art and Religion (Routledge 2022), on the other hand, takes an art historical, historical, and archaeological approach to the study of various bronze and jade works of art.

This is not a space for cataloguing works of art from museum or private collections, but rather for exploring how archaeology and style affect cultural expression.

Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Childs-Johnson
Guest Editor

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  • ancient Chinese jade
  • bronze
  • style
  • cultural expression
  • artistic symbols

Published Papers (1 paper)

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70 pages, 27237 KiB  
Jade for Bones in Hongshan Craftsmanship: Human Anatomy as the Genesis of a Prehistoric Style
by Sandrine Larrivé-Bass
Arts 2023, 12(5), 206; - 21 Sep 2023
Viewed by 2520
Jade artifacts produced in prehistoric China continue to generate extensive scholarly interest. In the absence of textual data, inferring how works functioned in Jade Age communities remains challenging. This paper focuses on Hongshan 红山 culture (4500–3000 BCE) jades, a distinctively styled corpus primarily [...] Read more.
Jade artifacts produced in prehistoric China continue to generate extensive scholarly interest. In the absence of textual data, inferring how works functioned in Jade Age communities remains challenging. This paper focuses on Hongshan 红山 culture (4500–3000 BCE) jades, a distinctively styled corpus primarily recovered from late fourth millennium BCE graves in northeastern China. Recent finds within and beyond the Hongshan core zone have enriched the jade inventory and expanded the known scope of its stylistic variations. The analysis sheds light on enigmatic types, reveals the complex representational nature of this corpus, and clarifies the mimetic intentions that resulted in the soft rounded forms characteristic of the style. Most objects examined were unearthed at Hongshan ceremonial centers and have sound excavation pedigrees. Their study relies on contextual archaeological data and comparative visual analysis and draws on the broader Hongshan material world. Further considerations include environment, funerary practices, materiality, cognition, and human anatomy. Ultimately, the paper uncovers new paradigms of figural representation that should open fresh investigative avenues for specialists of early China. Preliminary evaluation of jades unearthed further south at Lingjiatan 凌家滩 and Liangzhu 良渚 sites suggests that some late Neolithic societies adopted Hongshan practices. Current evidence hints at members of prehistoric communities attempting, through jade works, to rationalize their physical circumstances and assert their social power by symbolically fusing with elements of their environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ancient Chinese Art: Jades and Bronze)
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