'Oxford Academics in China' Series:
(to watch the lecture/ video of 58.30 min., click above on the picture or click HERE )
China and Central Asia Exoticism in China, Sixth to Eighth Century CE
(Dr Mok Hing Yiu Lecture)
Professor Dame Jessica Rawson CBE, FBA, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford
Thursday, 20 October 2011, 3.00 pm
Cho Yiu Hall, University Administration Building, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong
With the fall of the Han dynasty in the third century CE, northern China came under the rule of several different dynasties, including those set up by the Xianbei people, ruling as the Northern Wei and their successors. During these centuries, Buddhism was introduced and the great caves temples at Yungang and Longmen carved with a multitude of Buddhist figures. This interest in religious figural sculpture was one of many innovations brought to China from Central Asia. At the same time foreign luxuries in gold, silver and glass were popular with the élite.
The talk will describe some aspects of this exotic lifestyle fostered by the sixth century rulers of the Northern Qi and Northern Zhou, a time when their capitals were hosts to Sogdian traders, whose recently excavated coffins and coffin beds have provided an exciting window onto the customs of these important merchants. These sixth century tombs provide a context for the luxuries of the early Tang in the seventh and eighth century. Like their predecessors, the Tang sought influence in and contact with Central Asia. This interest is mirrored especially in the sancai, or three coloured lead glazed, ceramics, used both as vessels and as tomb figures. Among these, flasks and dishes with complex appliqués and figures of camels and horses are especially well known. The talk will argue that these famous wares, being made in China, were intended to present and to suggest a Central Asian taste, and provide a cosmopolitan atmosphere for those who used them. These ceramics were, indeed, deliberately exotic by design.