What Was the Terracotta Army For? Lecture by Eugene Wang
Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
Denver Art Museum; Hamilton Building, Sharp Auditorium
The First Emperor’s tomb complex, with its auxiliary pits filled with thousands of life-size terracotta figures, has been hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Other than the massive scale of the underground formation, what is it that we should really wonder about? Mysteries abound.
Join Professor Eugene Y. Wang of Harvard University to explore: Why do these figures wear strange slanting hairdos rarely seen at the time? Why do the terracotta army and the emperor’s “spirit carriages” face opposite directions? If the body is unreliable, as study of Chinese belief suggests, how was afterlife imagined? Was the tomb complex really about the preservation of the emperor’s corpse? Was the terracotta army there to defend the First Emperor’s tomb?
At Radcliffe, Eugene Y. Wang is uncovering how heaven is differently imagined in traditional Chinese art by asking why heaven often appears in unexpected places such as tombs and caves and why going up often involves going down. The larger question he gets at is the Chinese primacy of temporality, often overlooked: is heaven more of a spatial concept or temporal one in Chinese artistic imagination? Can we imagine heaven, as the traditional Chinese did, as a rotating wheel rather than a stable region out there? What is the cognitive mechanism of heaven sighting in earthly omens? Why is the notion of heaven as the apocalyptic vision relatively alien to the Chinese habit of thought?