Contemplating the Ancients: Aesthetic and Social Issues in by Audrey Spiro

By Audrey Spiro

Drawing on a wide selection of contemporaneous resources from chinese language heritage, literature, spiritual writings, and artwork and literary feedback, Spiro presents the fashionable reader with a cultured and social context for figuring out early chinese language portraiture. Contemplating the Ancients introduces photos that have been by no means meant to be actual likenesses in their topics and illuminates the that means they held for the audience for whom they have been made.

Spiro focusses on fourth- and fifth-century units of virtually identi- cal pictures of people recognized jointly in chinese language historical past because the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove. in contrast to the sooner Han dynasty photographs whose messages have been common, those exemplary pix addressed a particular elitist viewers. the topics of those snap shots served as idealized representations for a principally nouvel-arrivé aristocracy.

Spiro examines the complicated and infrequently ironic adjustments that happen while ancient people are reworked via culture into classical exemplars. She indicates how the visible arts translate beliefs of non-public personality into stylistic cues and the way those cues, in flip, impact the values and behaviour of human beings.

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Extra info for Contemplating the Ancients: Aesthetic and Social Issues in Early Chinese Portraiture

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51 ― 20. Shan Tao. Detail of figure 2. (Photograph courtesy of Amy and Martin J. ) tombs of the period. D. 210–263). [35] The next figure, depicted in three-quarter view, faces the west wall and gazes in the direction of the figure who follows after him (figs. 19 and 20). His head is covered by a cloth wrapped loosely as a turban. He sits erectly; his left arm is raised from the elbow, his hand holds a wine cup. Both sleeves are pushed back to reveal the lower arms, while the right hand reaches around the raised right knee to clutch the gathered sleeve of the other arm.

Distraught, the empress sought advice from the emperor's minister, Zhang Liang, who, although pessimistic, suggested that the crown prince invite the Four Graybeards to court. Miffed (and frightened, too) at what they considered the emperor's insults to scholar-officials, the team of four had righteously refused to serve him as ministers and taken refuge in the mountains. Yet the emperor admired and searched for them, to no avail. Heeding the blandishments of the crown prince, the Four Graybeards accepted his invitation and came to rescue him.

The new empire was short-lived. Weakened by decades of civil war, China was too vulnerable to the nomadic tribes on its northern and western borders. By 316 they had overrun the entire north China plain. Luoyang fell to the Xiongnu in 311, Chang'an in 317. The country was not to be unified again until 581. With the collapse of the north, remnants of the imperial family, officials, members of the aristocracy, and many of their retainers—indeed, anyone who could flee—fled south and east to establish a new stronghold in the Yangtze Basin.

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