SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS NUMBER 260 December 2015
Greek Influences on the Pazyryk-style Wrestling Motif of the Keshengzhuang Bronze Buckles
Lucas Christopoulos Lausanne, Switzerland
The site of Keshengzhuang (Keshengzhuang yizhi 客省庄遗址) is situated at about ten kilometers west of Xi’an City, near the ancient capital of the first emperor of the Qin (Qin Shihuangdi 秦始皇, 260–210 BC). In 1955 archaeologists found bronze belt buckles (or horse harnesses) at this site with decorations that represent two wrestlers (Fig. 1–5). Dating from the middle to the end of the Warring States period (475–221 BC), it is the oldest representation of wrestling in China.
These buckles are of Western Scythian origin, according to Emma C. Bunker, a metallurgy specialist on ancient China. In earlier publications, these wrestlers have, it appears, been wrongly associated with the Xiongnu of Mongolia (Di Cosmo 2002, Wu 1995, Lin 1994, Shao 1986).
The Keshengzhuang buckles exhibit two tall, elegant horses (not of the shorter Takhi or Mongolian type) in harnesses of a Scythian style, showing also two trees with their leaves turned upward and a flying swan or goose holding an object (perhaps an egg or a weight) that seems to be pinning the two wrestlers together. The swan is represented as having a human hand (Fig. 1–2) that holds an object. The two wrestlers look similar, like twins, with long wavy hair, and both are wearing Scythian-style loose trousers.
The two wrestlers are holding each other tightly, each man’s head on the other’s shoulder, the left wrestler holding the waist of his opponent with his right hand, and catching the back of the other’s knee with his left hand, in a tackling pose. The right wrestler holds his opponent with his right arm around the other’s neck, right hand grasping his opponent’s right shoulder, while his left hand is grasping the underside of his opponent’s right thigh, trying to defend against the tackle.
I have proposed earlier in two articles (Christopoulos 2010, 2012) that these two wrestlers represent the Dioscuri in the act of wrestling. According to Greek mythology, Leda, the queen of Sparta, was impregnated by Zeus, who took the form of a swan to seduce her....................................................