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|Chinese to English: 故宮博物院簡史 Brief History of the Beijing Palace Museum|
|Source text - Chinese|
紫禁城成為了故宮博物院，這座失去了皇帝的宮殿從此成為了對公眾開放的博物館。昔日戒備森嚴的神武門前如今車水馬龍，擁擠空前，出現了從未有過的熱鬧景象。從此時開始，民眾對於故宮的接觸變得更加全面，除了可以進入故宮參觀昔日宮廷建築與各種展覽之外，人們還可以從各個不同角度欣賞這座美麗的宮殿。一九二八年景山公園正式對外開放，人們可以登上當時北京城的最高點，景山萬壽亭，俯瞰故宮和京城。一九一七年與故宮太廟一牆之隔的北京飯店的改造一新，從飯店西側的高層客房也可以看到故宮層疊的紅牆黃瓦。從此之後，很多遊記、畫作中都記錄下了從不同角度看到的故宮。例如：(An American in China)
|Translation - English|
The Palace Museum, formerly the Forbidden City, was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was first constructed during 1406-1420, under the reign of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming, and was twice renovated during the two dynasties. It spans a space of 720,000 m² and consists of more than 9,000 buildings, whose total gross floor area is approximately 150,000 m². The oldest and best-preserved pre-modern architectural complex in China, it was converted into the Palace Museum in October, 1925, and has been known as such since then.
As the former Chinese imperial palace, the Palace Museum has over five hundred years of history. Behind its red walls and beneath yellow tiles, all manners of court intrigue and human drama took place as some twenty emperors came and went, from Zhu Di of the Ming to Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing. But this enormous palace itself underwent the most drastic transformations and endured the most chilling assaults over a course of merely two decades, from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1940’s. During these years, the Forbidden City, which had been closely guarded and inaccessible to common people, became a public museum, and its innumerable treasures changed hands several times following the vicissitudes of politics. Seen from Wanchun Pavilion perched atop of Jingshan Mountain facing the main gate, this vast complex maintains its age-old solemnity and authority, but also delights and charms in myriad different ways from season to season, between night and day.
From Forbidden City to Palace Museum (1911-1925)
The successful Xinhai Revolution of 1911 overturned the Chinese feudal system of imperial rule. With the agreement of the Republican government, Puyi, the last emperor, was secluded in the back half of the palace, behind the three main halls. Known as the Inner Court, this area includes the Twelve Palaces north of the Ganqing Gate, the Xiling Palace, and the Lingshou Palace. The three halls of the Outer Court, on the other hand, became the place where warlords took turns to realize their dreams to be Emperor. The first was Yuan Shikai, who announced the restoration of the imperial system in December, 1915, establishing the Empire of China and naming the era Hongxian. Yuan’s self-coronation did not receive general support. Not only did people like Sun Yat-sen and Li Qichao oppose the imperial system, generals of his Beiyan Army like Duan Qirui and Feng Guozhang were also deeply resentful. On December 25, Cai E, Tang Jiyao, and others announced a revolution in Yunnan, beginning the National Protection War against Yuan. Yuan Shikai was forced to abolish the imperial system on March 22, 1916, and to restore the Republic of China. His career as Emperor of China lasted only 83 days. On July 1 of the next year, Zhang Xun restored the 12-year-old Puyi to the throne and named the year “Ninth Year of the Xuantong era,” appointing himself Chief Cabinet Minister, Governor???, and Beiyang Minister???. Twelve days later, however, Duan Qirui invaded Beijing with his “Rebel Army” and sent the defeated Zhang fleeing to the Dutch Embassy. Puyi once again announced his abdication, ending this short-lived fiasco. In two decades of political turmoil, the Beijing region went through the hands of five “presidents,” one “minister,” and one “generalissimo.” In 1924, Feng Yuxiang and others initiated a coup d’etat in Beijing, and the cabinet of a regent government was established on November 2. In a meeting two days later, the cabinet decided to strip the residual Qing imperial court of its privileges and ordered Puyi to leave the palace. This decision was unexpected for the abdicated emperor. It is said that when Feng Yuxiang’s army marched into the Forbidden City on November 5, Puyi and his empress, Wanrong, were eating fruit in his study. Although the court’s servants and employees pleaded for more time to pack, they were told to leave within twenty-four hours and that they would be allowed to take with them only “private” items. At 4 pm on November 6, Puyi handed over his two imperial seals—the “Treasure of the Emperor” and the “Treasure of Xuantong”—boarded five cars parked outside Shunjing Gate with his empress, concubines, and eunuchs. In turn, they drove through the Shenwu Gate and headed straight to the Chunwangfu Palace.
When Puyi left the palace, the Republican government forbade him to take any antiques or cultural objects with him. Although he managed to smuggle a few pieces, most of the antiques, paintings, and calligraphic works that had accumulated in the imperial collection through the dynasties were left in the palace. In order to catalogue and organize these objects, a committee was formed for the proper handling of the remains of the Qing court several weeks after Puyi’s exit. A year later, preparatory work for the Palace Museum was finished. On October 10, 1925, an opening ceremony for the Museum was organized at the Qianqing Gate, and a plaque bearing the Chinese characters for “Palace Museum” was hung at the top of the Xuanwu Gate. The first exhibition of the Museum showcased the everyday objects of the Qing emperors, their manuscripts, as well as some two hundred photographs of Puyi and his wives and concubines. The admission fee was 1 yuan at first, and was later reduced to 50 cents, which was still somewhat expensive then. Nonetheless, the exhibition attracted over 50,000 visits on its first two days.
With its imperial occupant gone, the Forbidden City was transformed into a museum open to the public. The heavily-guarded Shenwu Gate now stirred with traffic and crowds, becoming a scene of unprecedented bustle. From this time on, the public had fuller access to the palace; they were not only able to enter its precinct to see its architecture and various exhibitions, but could also admire the entire complex from different angles. In 1928, the Jingshan Mountain Park was opened to the public, who could now ascend to what was then the highest point in Beijing—the Wanshou Pavilion of Jingshan Mountain—and enjoy a grand vista of the palace and the rest of the capital. In 1917, the Beijing Hotel, separated by only a wall from the Ancestral Temple of the palace, underwent a complete renovation. The layered walls and roofs of the palace were visible from the high-class guest rooms on the west side of the hotel. From then on, many travellers recorded various views of the palace in their writings and drawings, such as An American in China.
The great migration of national treasures (1932-1949)
The Palace Museum experienced another major historical change in the early 1930’s. The Mukden Incident of September 18, 1931 signalled Japan’s invasion of Manchuria. The Republican government resolved to transfer the treasures in the Palace to protect them from an impending war. In autumn, 1932, efforts to select and catalogue the objects were already under way. Some people thought that this move was unnecessary and impetuous, but history proved its wisdom: six years later, war spread to Beijing. It took the Japanese army only a month to conquer the capital after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 7, 1937.
The Palace Museum’s secretariat and department of general affairs were responsible for preparing for and organizing the transfer of treasures to the south. The departments of antiques, paintings, and documents were charged respectively to select and package their most important treasures. Behind the high walls of the Forbidden City, precious antiques and cultural objects were silently processed and packaged. In half a year, the work was complete, and the boxes ready for transport. The first batch of treasures were loaded into cars on the night of February 5, 1933, and departed the next morning. In sum, the southern transfer completed in five batches, from February 6 to May 15, taking almost 4 months and comprising 19,557 boxes of treasures. Of these, objects from the Palace Museum numbered 13,491 boxes, including 2,631 from the department of antiques, 1,415 from the department of paintings and books, and 3,731 from the secretariat. Also included in the transfer were 6,066 boxes of other cultural objects, including 5,415 from the Exhibition Hall for Antiques (????), 640 from the Yihe Yuan (Summer Palace), and eleven from the National University. These objects were transported in batches to Shanghai or Nanjing. In 1937, when the Japanese had begun their invasion in earnest, they were further moved westward, to Sichuan and Guizhou. Their journey was full of perils: they escaped the Japanese bombardment of Changsha and Guiyang and the attacks of bandits at Qinling and Dabashan Mountains. Finally, the objects arrived at the Huayan Cave in Guizhou and Bayuan in Sichuan. After the Sino-Japanese War, between January, 1946 and December 9, 1947, all the cultural treasures that had been moved to the west were returned to Nanjing. Approximately all the objects that left for Sichuan were accounted for; there were no significant losses. Originally people thought that the objects, having survived the war, could finally be returned to their home in Beijing, but at the time the People’s Liberation Army had taken Xuzhou and Bengfu and was preparing to attack Nanjing, the capital of the Republican administration. The cultural objects, which had been stored in the Nanjing Museum, would have to be moved yet again. On December 21, 1948, a total of 320 boxes of Palace Museum cultural objects were loaded onto a cargo ship, which eventually arrived in Keelong, Taiwan on December 26. Afterwards, over 2,600 boxes of cultural objects were transported to Taiwan in two batches in January, 1949.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the remaining cultural objects, except for some ceramics, were returned to the Palace Museum.
On a winter night of 1933, they silently departed from the Forbidden City, and from the centuries-old capital. From that moment on, these objects, which had once decorated the palace and delighted emperors and their lovers, would embark upon a perilous journey along a war-torn path and lead a rootless existence. More than a decade later, the Palace Museum could welcome back only a portion of its old treasures, and many of the finest objects would be long separated by a narrow strait.
Guo Baichuan and the Palace Museum under Japanese occupation (1937-1945)
After conquering Beijing, the Japanese army began in 1942 to administer the Palace Museum through their puppet government. Because of the needs of warfare, the Palace Museum’s remaining resources became the objects of robbery by the Japanese army. From 1934, the Japanese army began the “Copper Donation Movement,” under which every household was required to hand over all expensive metals like gold and copper to the authorities. The scheme would include the various copper water tanks placed in front of the main halls of the palace as precautions against fire. These water tanks dated from different generations of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and each had special characteristics in their inscriptions, shapes, and colourings. Thanks to the efforts of the Museum staff members who remained in Beijing, the water tanks were classified as antiques and were thus spared. But the Japanese army still took more than undated 40 copper water tanks and a few dozen copper lamps and cannons. In the period of Japanese occupation, the Japanese army also robbed several hundred books from the library of the Ancestral Temple. From the time of Puyi’s expulsion, the staff responsible for maintaining the daily operations of the Palace Museum was drastically reduced, resulting in the museum’s increasingly poor condition. Dan Shiyuan, the famous scholar of the palace’s architecture, recalled that when he first arrived at the palace, almost every courtyard was overtaken by wild grasses as tall as humans, and the staff could not start working before cutting them. Furthermore, due to the lack of proper care during the Japanese occupation, many buildings in the palace showed signs of age and wear. The Palace Museum of this period, like the country at large, was desolate and scar-ridden.
The Japanese occupation coincided with the painter Guo Baichuan’s main period of residence in Beijing. His work from this time is filled with patriotic passion, recalling the Tang poet Du Fu’s famous line, “The country is broken, while mountains and rivers remain.” The Palace Museum was a favourite subject of Chinese artists, including Guo, a native of Taiwan. He taught at the Beijing School of the Arts for many years, returning to Taiwan only in 1947. Beijing Palace Museum was painted in that year. The resistance movement against the Japanese had just succeeded then, and the civil war had not yet reached Beijing. In his painting, the palace is seen from Wanshou Pavilion on Jingshan Mountain. Although it is a palace without an emperor and a museum without art, its sea of rooftop tiles, reflecting the sun, remains imposing and magnificent. The fiery red glazed tiles dazzle the eye, by turns interweaving with and penetrating the dense verdure. Having survived dynastic cycles and wars, the palace continues to display its beauty resolutely, a witness to the vicissitudes of this grand country.
|Chinese to English: A Study of the Northern Zhou Standing Buddha Statues Excavated in Xi’an |
|Source text - Chinese|
Original in pdf format, available upon request
|Translation - English|
Only a handful of small-scale grottoes dating from the Northern Wei through the Northern Zhou dynasties exist in and around Xi’an, or indeed in the entire Shaanxi province. It is therefore difficult to understand the Buddhist art of these dynasties based on grotto sculptures. Since the Sixteen Kindgom period (220-589), however, Xi’an and its environs saw much activity in Buddhist temple construction, which reached an unprecedented height during the Northern Zhou in particular. The Tang-dynasty monk Fa-lin records in the Shidaifengfo chapter 十代丰佛篇of the Bianzhenglun 辩证论that Yu Wentai, Emperor Wen of Zhou, “established in Chang’an the six temples of Zhuiyuan追远, Zhiqi 陟屺, Dacheng 大乘, Weiguo 魏国, Anding 安定, and Zhongxing 中兴, ordaining a thousand monks.” His successors, Yu Wenjue, Emperor Min, and Yu Wensuo, Emperor Ming, likewise supported the religion, leading to a flowering of temples and monasteries in Chang’an, an enlarged clergy population, and a surge in the production of religious images. In the Yongzhou area of Chang’an alone, there were tens of documented monasteries. Emperor Wu’s campaign against Buddhism in 574 and the subsequent construction of the Sui capital city of Daxing destroyed almost all the Buddhist monasteries in and around Chang’an, but a large number of temple images have survived underground. The excavation of free-standing figural sculptures in recent years has made it possible to estimate the style of Buddhist images of this period. In May, 2004, at a brick factory in Wanzi Village of Baxiao District, an eastern suburb of Xi’an, workers discovered five large Northern Zhou standing buddhas and four “lotus lion” bases, all of which are now in the collection of the Xi’an Beilin Museum. One of the buddhas is inscribed with the date “Second Year of the Daxiang Era of Northern Zhou” (580). This article surveys past research on the five buddhas, a brief report on which follows in the next section, and delineates the characteristics of Buddhist figural sculpture of the Northern Zhou dynasty.
1. Condition of the Buddhist Figures
Based on the style of clothing, the five statues can be divided into two types:
1. Buddhas in “loose robes [kasaya] with wide sashes 褒衣博带”
2. Buddhas in kasaya of the “across-the-shoulder 通肩” style.
Type I is represented by two works.
1. BL04-001. A Shakyamuni made of dark grayish limestone, 178 cm in height. Beneath a double-collared draping kasaya, it is clothed in an untied long skirt lapelled towards the right. The right-hand fingers, forming the abhaya (“no fear”) mudra, are broken, whereas the left hand clutches a corner of the robe. (Figs. 1, 2)
The pedestal, in the shape of two layered lotuses with intercalated petals, is 51 cm in height, 78.5 cm in length, and 73 cm in width. The plumb lotus petals retain traces of color and of gold-leafs shaped into small flowers. Sculptured lions sit at all fours corners of the square base. (Fig. 3)
2. BL04-003. A Shakyamuni made of dark grayish limestone, 216 cm in height, missing a pedestal. The Buddha’s body is tall and robust, wearing sanghati (monk’s undergarment) that leaves bare the right chest. It has a low and flat ushnisha (cranial bump) and a square face with a wispy “foreigner’s” (hu) moustache. The sash that loops around its waist is tied into a two-layered knot in the middle. Its right hand forms the “no fear” mudra, while its left hand clutches a corner of the robe. (Figs. 4, 5)
Type II is represented by the following three works, which are clothed in “across-the-shoulder” garments and share the characteristics of Buddhist sculptures from the Gupta Empire.
1. BL04-002. A Shakyamuni made of dark grayish limestone, 198 cm in height, 246 cm including the pedestal. Shakyamuni wears “across-the-shoulder” kasaya with curved fold-lines that run downwards and rightwards from the left chest. The inner skirt ends in four-tiered folds and expands outwards in a trumpet-like shape. The right hand is broken off at the wrist. The left arm is bent, with the hand clutching the sleeve. (Figs. 6, 7)
The pedestal, in the shape of two layered, downward-facing lotuses with intercalated petals, is 48 cm in height, 83.5 in length, and 82.5 in width. The façade of the square base features relief sculptures of incense burners, prostrating monks, and heavenly kings. (Figs. 8, 9, 10) On the back, left, and right sides, Music Deities and Song and Dance Deities are carved in relief. The Music Deities play instruments such as mouth organs笙, xiao箫, bili 筚篥, standing harps竖箜篌, pipa 曲项琵琶, and zheng筝. The Song and Dance Deities strike dance poses. Lotus flowers, grass and leaves, honeysuckle flowers, and auspicious clouds decorate the spaces between the deities. (Figs. 15, 16)
Based on the instruments depicted, we believe that the scene refers to Xiliang 西凉music. As the Yinyuezhi 音乐志of the Suishu 隋书states, “Xiliang music […] involves the nineteen instruments of bell 钟, qing磬, zheng played with picks弹筝, zheng played with fingernails搊筝, recumbent harp卧箜篌, standing harp竖箜篌, pipa 琵琶, wuxian 五弦, sheng 笙, xiao 箫, large bili大筚篥, long flute长笛, small bili 小筚篥, recumbent flute 横笛, hourglass drum 腰鼓, waistless drum齐鼓, brass cymbal铜钹, and bei贝. These comprise one unit of twenty-seven musicians.” According to historical chronicles, Xiliang music was the national art of the Western Wei and Northern Zhou, an exalted status appropriate for the musical paradise depicted on the pedestal.
2. BL04-004. A Shakyamuni made of dark grayish limestone, 195 cm in height, wearing “across-the-shoulder” kasaya and standing barefoot on an upward-facing lotus pedestal with paired petals. The right arm is broken, and the left hand holds a corner of the garment. (Figs. 17, 18)
The pedestal is 43 cm in height, 75 in length, and 73.5 in width. On top of the square base is a carved inverted lotus with paired petals. The front corners are adorned with sculptured lions, while the back corners feature two opposing sculptured elephants. Servants wearing only trousers sit on the backs of both elephants. (Figs. 19, 20)
A devotional text is engraved onto the façade of the pedestal, the three other sides of which are carved with rule-lines but left uninscribed. The main body of the text is arranged into 20 columns, each of which is 20 characters-long. Including the colophon, the entire inscription consists of 245 characters. A translation follows:
Alas, Truth is like serene silence, transcending representation by mysterious images; fine and delicate, the ultimate Reason is beyond verbal discourse. A jade palace and paired trees marked its past presence. Having earlier fallen into obscurity, it can now again be seen. If not the wise Emperor and the sagacious assisting Minister, who could have found and resurrected these miraculous forms? Few are able to ford the Sea of Suffering and the River of Attachment, for Desire, like dust inescapably polluting, is difficult to excise from the soul. In great compassion, the Thus-come-one mourned profoundly for the drifters and, with his mirror of wisdom, illuminated the world of Delusion. With a single utterance, the Bodhisattvas awakened the wayward, who only now yearned for the other shore. Zhang Zikai, an upright follower of the Buddha, witnessed the resurgence of Buddhist Law, its return like the sun at dawn. He felt faith emanating from within and thought of the fruit of his devotion. [He] therefore hollowed out a famous mountain, drove craftsmen to their wits’ end, and created a sacred image of Shakyamuni for the salvation of his ancestors of seven generations. With its beautiful aspect and eminent quality, the image is no different from [the Buddha’s] authentic presence. Heartfelt devotion to it would grant blessing enough to withstand all deficiencies and calamities. In its praise it was written, “Karma is difficult to comprehend, and whom in the world should one seek? The buried brilliance of the past is again visible today. The drum of the Law resounds as young buds spread across the Jade Tree 玉树. The myriad beings turn back piously towards Buddhism and cleanse their hearts. [Zhang] hollowed out a mountain and exhausted his wits to craft an image of the Buddha’s true likeness, enabling his entire family to worship it humbly and solemnly. Even Mount Song can be ground away, but these wishes will forever be remembered. -- Erected on the twenty-first day of the seventh month of the second year of Daxiang.” (Fig. 21)
3. BL04-005. A Shakyamuni made of dark grayish limestone, 185 cm in height, in “across-the-shoulder” kasaya. On the torso, the drapery folds are represented by a semicircular and six half-“U”-shaped grooves. On the legs, they are represented by half-“U”-shaped grooves. The kasaya appears thin and tight, revealing a full and robust body and a protruding abdomen.
The pedestal is the shape of a pair of layered, upward-facing lotuses with intercalated petals. It is 48 cm in height, 76 cm in length, and 73.5 cm in width. All four sides of the square base are filled with low-reliefs of human figures and mythical creatures against a recessed ground. The front of the base is partitioned into three. The central bracket features a raised-line carving of an incense burner. In the right bracket is a carving of a devotee, and in the left, that of a monk kneeling in a “foreigner’s” (hu) manner. In the space between the left and central brackets, there is an inscription that reads “single-heartedly donated by the monk Fatong.” (Figs. 24, 25)
On the backside of the pedestal, three mythical creatures in individual brackets are articulated in raised lines against a scraped background. The leftmost one kneels and props up a board on which seven drum-like objects are placed. In the middle, a creature with a beastly head and a human body holds a rock. The rightmost bracket contains a falcon-headed creature with a human body clinching an ox with its left arm. (Figs. 26, 27)
The left side of the pedestal similarly features three mythical creatures. The leftmost one, with a human body and a falcon’s head, seizes an elephant with its left arm. In the middle is a creature in a sprinting pose and holding a sack with its left arm. The third creature, also with a human body and a falcon’s head, is half-kneeling and breathing fire. (Figs. 28, 29)
The right side of the pedestal is again carved with three mythical creatures. In the middle, a falcon-headed figure holds in its left hand and lays on its shoulder a long tree-trunk. On the right, a half-kneeling creature buttresses a boulder. The right half of the third figure’s face is damaged. It bows with a basin and spits out a string of beads.
Each of the right, left, and back sides of this pedestal features three beastly or falcon-headed winged creatures, whose distinctive articles and poses appear to be iconographical keys to specific deities.
Similar Northern Dynasties representations of deities are seen in Northern Wei tomb epitaphs; a Luoyang stone sarcophagus with winged creatures; the north wall of Cave No. 1 at Gongxian 巩县; and the pedestal of a standing Buddha, commissioned by Luo Zikuan 骆子宽 and seventy others in the first year of the Wuding Era during the Eastern Wei (543), now at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. A comparative analysis confirms that the nine half-human, half-beast creatures on the pedestal of BL04-005 are representations of Buddhist heavenly spirit-kings 神王 and enables us to identify them individually. On the left side of the pedestal, they are (from left to right) Elephant Spirit-King 象神王, Wind Spirit-King风神王, Fire Spirit-King火神王; on the back, Thunder Spirit-King雷神王, Lightning Spirit-King电神王, Ox Spirit-King牛神王; and on the right, Pearl Spirit-King珠神王, Tree Spirit-King树神王, Mountain Spirit-King山神王.
2. A Survey of Buddhist Images Preserved in Underground Pits
Multiple batches of Buddhist images have been discovered in underground pits in the Xi’an area in the past seven or eight decades. But few of them have been large-scale Northern Zhou images, and even fewer have been clearly dated. The excavation in Wanzi Village of a large group of Northern Zhou standing Buddhas was thus a rare occurrence. Chang’an served as the capital of the Northern Zhou, which, although lasting merely 25 years, was an important phase in the history of Buddhism. During the early and middle periods of the dynasty, rulers generally subscribed to and promoted Buddhism, leading to the religion’s extreme popularity. The economic might of temples and monasteries, however, was a source of growing tension with secular authority. In the third year of the Jiande Era of the Northern Zhou (574), Yu Wenyong宇文邕, Emperor Wu, decreed the destruction of Buddhas, for which he would be remembered as one of the “Three Wu’s who destroyed Buddhism 三武灭佛.” The Lidai Sanbao ji 历代三宝记 records that “Yongshi, Emperor Wu of the Zhou, did not rest until he had razed to the ground all the pagodas erected in the preceding centuries, east and west of Mount Guan, by officials or by private individuals. [He] melted and scraped the sacred faces and burned sutras.” This campaign caused enormous damage to Buddhist images in temples and pagodas.
The standing Buddhas discovered in Wanzi Village were buried in a pit on the edge of a hill. The pit measures 2.9m from north to south and 3.8m from east to west, and is about 4m deep. Four of the statues were buried upright, whereas one lied flat on the ground. All five statues and four pedestals were positioned in an orderly manner, well-preserved, and grouped together in a specific location; they were likely stashed together with an express purpose. The pedestal of BL04-004 contains a devotional inscription of more than 200 characters and a colophon that reads “made in the seventh month of the second year of Daxiang.” In fifth month of the same year, Cloistered Emperor Xun succumbed to a fatal disease, and his heir Emperor Jing was still a child. According to Gaozuji 高祖纪of the Suishu隋书, Yang Jian, as “Prime Minister, conducted expeditions on behalf of the emperor and supervised military affairs both local and foreign. Seeing that he had all the power to himself, the court officials obeyed him.” In the sixth month, Yang “restored the two religions of Buddhism and Daoism.” The inscription mentions that “the Emperor is wise, the assisting Minister sagacious”—the latter is probably Yang Jian, and the pairing corroborates historical records of Yang’s powerful status. According to the text of BL04-004, the statue was erected in the second year of Daxiang (580), six years after Emperor Wu’s 574 anti-Buddhist campaign. The five Buddhas differ considerably from one another in execution and are thus unlikely to have been made at the same time. BL04-004 was probably made last, only a year before the establishment of the Sui Dynasty. Recall that Emperor Wu “melted and scraped the sacred faces” of Buddhist icons. As Mr. Wang Zhongluo王仲荦 has written, “Buddhist icons were cast in bronze or carved from stone and then leafed with gold, hence the ‘melting’ of bronze into coins and the ‘scraping’ of gold from stone.” Traces of gold leaves remain on the faces, bodies, and pedestals of the standing Buddhas, which may have survived Emperor Wu’s predation. The condition of the pit suggests it was a pottery kiln. The practice of burying sacred objects in kilns is recorded in the Xichan 习禅篇chapter of the Xugaosengzhuan续高僧传. The section titled “Suixijing Chanding Daochang Shitan Qianzhuan 隋西京禅定道场释坛迁传” states: “In the thirteenth year [of the Kaihuang Era], the emperor [i.e. Yang Jian] arrived in Qizhou and commanded the King of Shu to set up camps around the Southern Mountains [in preparation for spring hunting festivities]. The emperor chased his game into a kiln […] which, he discovered, was full of damaged Buddhist icons. […] After inquiring about this burial practice, the emperor decreed, ‘In regards to all such old damaged icons, local officials will be relied upon to examine and catalogue them diligently, and to transport them to nearby monasteries. Throughout the land, every person contributes a donation. The provincial and county officials are appointed to inspect and repair [these images.]’”
The five statues are large and thus likely to have been temple icons. The inscription on the BL04-004 pedestal names the donor as a certain “Zhangzi 张子,” whose identity cannot be ascertained. The monk carved in relief on the BL04-005 pedestal is identified in the inscription as “Fatong 法通.” Chapter 25 of Xugaosengzhuan 续高僧转 mentions a certain “Fatong, surnamed Guan, born a commoner in the capital (京兆户人). He entered monastic life at a young age and was extremely feeble. At the end of Emperor Yang’s reign, he fled the political chaos to Nanshan. He died at the beginning of the Wude Era at the age of fifty-six.” Assuming this Fatong’s death was in the first year of Wude (618), he would have been eighteen in the second year of Daxiang, making it possible that he was the person mentioned in the inscription. Wanzi Village is east of River Can, and the pit is located on a plateau at the edge of a cliff. No large amounts of architectural components like bricks and tiles were found on the site, which was unlikely to have originally been a monastery. As for the time of and motivation for the five statues’ burial, these issues await further exploration.
3. Artistic Style and Characteristics of the Standing Buddhas
In recent years, the Xi’an region has yielded some small Northern Zhou niches and icons, but large-scale, free-standing statues have been rare, especially clearly dated ones. The Wanzi Village Buddhas are thus important for the study of Northern Zhou production of Buddhist images, clarifying our understanding of their artistic characteristics. In particular, the statue dated to 580 may serve to illustrate a watershed in Northern Zhou Buddhist image production.
The four Buddhas other than the dated BL04-004 also carry characteristics typical of Northern Zhou Buddhist statues: simple and unostentatious design, robust physicality, protruding abdomens, low and flat ushnisha, and relatively large heads. In execution and composition, they are virtually identical to other dated Northern Zhou Buddhas in the Xi’an Beilin Museum, such as the large standing anniversary Buddha of the second year of Wucheng and Buddhist stele of the second year of Tianhe. The Shanghai Museum’s standing Buddha, made in the second year of Daxiang, also shares basically the same style and execution. In fact, the aforementioned Wucheng statue at the Xi’an Beilin Museum is in some ways inferior to the five newly discovered works, with its somewhat stylized drapery folds and orderly arrangement of the “hair shells.” On the other hand, large standing Buddhas in a similar style can be found in the Northern Zhou grotto shrines on Mount Sumi 须弥山, such as grottos 45 and 46.
As already stated, the Wanzi statues conform to two types. The first, represented by two examples, wears an undergarment that is lapelled towards the right beneath a drooping robe with double collars. This was probably the continuation of the Sinicized Northern Wei type with “delicate bones and a refined aspect 秀骨清像”that was popular during the middle reign of Emperor Xiaowen, but modified the latter’s “long face, slender neck, willowy aspect” by introducing broad, flat shoulders and a general robustness to the body. The second type, emerging around 580, has the characteristics of images in the Mathura mode of the Gupta Empire. This type is represented by three examples, i.e. BL04-002, BL04-004, and BL04-005, which all wear large, “across-the-shoulder” kasaya that appears light and enwraps the body closely, emphasizing its robust physicality and creating the effect of a “Cao-style garment emerging from water曹衣出水.” Some experts refer to such icons as “thinly-draped free-standing Buddhas.” The two types described above are representative of the religious image production in Xi’an during the Northern Zhou.
The articulation of drapery folds in these statues is also quite distinctive. Most of the robes are divided into two parts at the hip. The folds in the torso area are represented by U-shaped lines, either concentric or crisscrossing, or by long curves spanning the left chest and the right abdomen. Beneath the hip, the garment is similarly articulated with U-shaped lines or long arcs. Interestingly, however, a large groove is invariably carved between the legs, from which symmetrical wave-like patterns propagate outwards in an orderly, conventionalized manner. The fold between the legs of the dated statue (BL04-004) is a long straight rectangular slab, which appears somewhat lifeless and formal. These icons built upon the foundation of Northern Wei angular carving techniques (直刀法) and blended them with curved carving techniques (圆刀法), rendering the garments and accessories more rounded and the drapery folds more naturalistic. In particular, downward incisive curved carving and horizontal (向下凹入的圆刀法以及中凹边高的技法) were used to create the smooth and flowing drapery folds of BL04-004, prefiguring the new image types of the Tang Dynasty.
Whether of Type I or II, the five Northern Zhou Buddhas wear skirts that hang down to the soles and expand on both sides in accordion folds, forming an overall trumpet-like shape. The skirts on the Northern Qi Buddha statues in Qingzhou, Shandong Province are the opposite, tapering towards the bottom and often terminating at the ankle.
Each of the five statues strikes the “no fear” mudra with the right hand and clasp part of a sleeve with the left—the typical pose in representations of Shakyamuni from the Gupta 笈多 Empire, whether in the Mathura 秣菟羅or the Sarnath 萨尔那mode. Suggesting direct influence from Gupta, the pose is repeated in other Northern Zhou Buddhas unearthed in the Xi’an area, including the Beilin Museum statue and stele mentioned above and the Xi’an Wenwu Baohu Yanjiusuo’s 文物保护研究所standing Buddha and Buddha in a niche. This iconography is virtually absent in standing Shakyamuni statues from the Southern Dynasties kingdoms of Qi 齐and Liang 梁discovered at three famous sites of Southern Liang Dynasty Buddhist sculpture in or around Chengdu: Xi’an Road 西安路, Shangye Street 商业街, and Wanfosi万佛寺 (Wan Fo temple). It is likewise rare in Northern Qi icons from Qingzhou, Shandong Province. Standing Buddhas from these two kingdoms usually feature the “no fear” and the varada (“wish granting”) mudras. The combination of the “no fear” mudra and drapery clutching can thus be considered a distinctive feature of Northern Zhou Buddhist icons from Xi’an.
Both Gupta-style Buddhas and robust, full-bodied Buddhas wearing “loose robes with wide sashes” merged in the Southern Dynasties earlier than in the Northern. The two image types had already reached a high level of sophistication in the Southern Liang city of Yizhou before its incorporation into the Western Wei state. Following the conquests of Yizhou by the Western Wei and by the Northern Zhou, monks entered Chang’an in scores. Many also traveled from Chang’an to Yizhou, leading to increased contact between the Buddhist communities of the two cities. Other scholars have already commented on this phenomenon, and the mutual influence on the style of Buddha imagery is an objective fact reflected by the five statues that I have been discussing. One piece of evidence is the double-layered bands of BL04-003 and the tassels (“liusu 流苏”) that line their edges. These features are almost completely consistent with the standing Buddha, dated to the third year of Datong, excavated at Chengdu’s Wanfosi monastery and with the several Southern Dynasties Buddhist stone sculptures on Shangye Street. In an article comparing Northern Dynasties grotto icons in Luoyang and burial objects from the Southern Dynasties, Mr. Shu Bai writes, “There is no doubt that sculptural arts of Luoyang during the Northern Dynasties, of which Buddhist icons were a part, were profoundly influenced by the arts of the Southern Dynasties.” Roughly the same can be said for the Chang’an region during the Northern Zhou. The various novel stylistic elements in the Wanzi Village statues are intimately connected with the artistic currents of Yizhou, which must have been one of the origins of the new Buddhist imagery emerging in Chang’an under the Northern Zhou.
However, the five statues also contain representational strategies of various types and geographical origins, as in the treatment of the drapery folds, the mudra, and the pose. After the reception of alien styles, Northern Zhou Buddhist icons in Chang’an assimilated them and created a new and distinctive kind of imagery, the basis of a representational mode that was itself to exert an influence on a vast surrounding region. Many techniques and formal features of this new Chang’an mode would in turn be absorbed into Tang-Dynasty Buddhist art, such as the disjointed kasaya patterning between the torso and the lower body and the drapery folds that radiate symmetrically from a central groove between the legs. As more objects are unearthed and as research matures, we will surely come to a clearer understanding of the importance of Buddha images made in Chang’an under the Northern Zhou.
|Chinese to English: 关于当代艺术家展望 （节录） On the work of contemporary Chinese artist Zhan Wang (excerpt)|
|Source text - Chinese|
|Translation - English|
Fan Di’an on “speaking to the heart”
Making jiashanshi with stainless steel, Zhan Wang is actually copying and reproducing jiashanshi. Whether you call it copy, reproduction, or repetition, as a characteristic of an artistic language, it is the representative of industrialization and modernization. We often say that our era is an era of reproduction, an era of simulation. Zhan Wang’s works include the characteristics of this era’s language. On the other hand, however, he uses Chinese resources. He does not copy something that exists now, but something that existed in the past. Thereby he connects the so-called “tradition” and today; the so-called “real” and today’s possibly unreal; traditional Chinese culture and today (the language of stainless steel should be seen as international). Thus, his works have a relatively broad scope. Everyone can see in his works some content that speaks to his heart.
Wang Liaoyuan on “simulation”
Zhan Wang’s Jiashanshi is a rare successful example of “borrowing” and “diverting” in contemporary Chinese art, especially sculpture. In traditional Chinese culture, scholars’ rocks were ornaments as well as symbols of taste and refinement. Their “fakeness” (jia) is not the fakeness of pirated products, but rather in the sense of “borrowing” in the cultural discourse—as in “borrowing a boat and an oar to cross the river” (Xunzi). “Fake” rocks are in fact real rocks, and moreover requirements on their quality are very high, such that some people would only accept authentic ones salvaged from Lake Tai. Therefore, the “fakeness” of scholars’ rocks is actually the same as the “truth” in “removing falsity and preserving truth.” This interplay between true and false, with the two intermixing and interchanging, is precisely the genius of ancient Chinese philosophy. Of course, although scholars’ rocks are dug up from actual ground, they take out “fake” properties from their “living environments.” This is a clever metaphor by the ancient Chinese. Zhan Wang’s “jiashanshi” are truly, literally “real fake rocks.” Made from stainless steel, their surfaces combine modernity with ancient “characteristics,” creating a tone of simulation. This is the authentic way of borrowing from the past to reflect on the present. Zhan Wang’s Jiashanshi are shiny and opaque, their glittering surfaces reflecting and refracting others and themselves. At the same time as they reflect “objective matters,” they also reflect narcissistically on themselves. This is why Zhan’s works are both arrogant and alluring. At once idealizing, fantasizing, and meditating, Zhan Wang makes charming poses even as he sounds the last word and sends a lone echo through the empty mountains.
In my first individual exhibition in Beijing in 1994, I showed 18 shell-like sculptures made from Mao suits. Most of them hung from the ceiling. They were arranged to look as if they were falling from the sky and also as if they were floating between heaven and earth. At the time, this scene especially reflected my own state of mind and my thinking about the relationship between people and their times. Indeed, my stainless-steel sculptures today are also empty shells. Lightness is a common characteristic between them, and my stainless-steel sculptures should float in the air to be true to themselves. Floating is my ideal of how to live life and how to exist. I use a different material now, but this point remains unchanged.
Stainless-steel jiashanshi are much lighter than natural jiashanshi—almost one to thirty in proportional terms—and are thus very suitable for hanging. A few years ago, I tested them for both floating and hanging. These two pieces were hung both times they were exhibited. The first time was at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, in The Elegance of Silence: Contemporary Art from East Asian, which was organized by the Korean organizer金善姬. Afterwards, they participated in [insert name], an exhibition organized by Wu Hung at the TS1 Contemporary Art Center in Beijing. Finally, edition 1/4 was purchased by the Mass-Transit Railway of Hong Kong and is now hung above the staircase in the newly-constructed Quarry Bay subway station. This beauty of hovering, I am afraid, is forever unattainable by natural garden rocks.
This rock (fig. 1-51) looks a little like a rock in the Shen Yuan garden in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. The latter is inscribed with the two words, “poetic realm” (fig. 1-51), which are immediately recognizable as ancient writing and full of literati archaicist interest. The word jing (“realm” or “space”) is itself very profound. But here it is used in a pun (shi being the pronunciation of both “space” and “rock” in Chinese) to convey a very transparent idea—how the rock inspires poetic feeling. I imagine that if someone in modern society inscribed the words “poetic space” on a Ferrari racecar, it would not be so inappropriate.
I went the Shen Yuan garden in Shaoxing over ten years ago. I remember the tranquility and quiet of the garden very clearly, as well as the poetry by Su Shi on the walls. I imagined the scene of the literati gathering of a past era, their strolling in a leisurely gait and shaking their heads in thought, or the scene of a lone literatus sighing as he read some melancholy poems by candlelight. At that time, people’s thoughts were subtle, and so were their writing. Of course, there would occasionally be scenes of lingering sorrow.
The “poetic realm” inspired by the rock was a frequent metaphor used by the ancients (among them the Tang-dynasty poet Lu You). What interested me now was that I found a recently excavated rock in Shandong that resembled the one in Shen Yuan in size and shape. Both have a slight opening at the top, some holes in the middle, and a bottom part that stands straight, upright but not without dynamism. Resembling each other like brothers, the two rocks can be placed in the same category at the very least. Both have come from underground (or underwater) but face completely different times, simply because they were unearthed in different eras. One was unearthed in the south in the Song dynasty, the other in the north by newly-rich farmers who sold it for money. Across space and time, the fraternal rocks experience completely different circumstances. I cannot compose poetry or lyrics from them like the ancients; my work exists in an entirely different realm—a world of bustling noises, a world where confrontation is preferable to withdrawal and where nobody admits to weakness.
The first edition of this piece is in the Shanghai gallery space of ArtSpace of Hong Kong. The other is in Honglou Xian in the United Kingdom.
The instant of coagulation
I purchased this rock (fig. 1) at a private museum of scholars’ rocks next to Feixian, Shandong. Originally an exhibition item, it had been published in magazines. The owner, who studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, was somewhat fond of me. Moreover, I myself liked the rock. So he gladly agreed to sell it to me.
Some rocks in this world are truly wondrous, showcasing in its entirety a perfect harmony that can only be achieved in an instant. Whenever people pursue their goals recklessly and single-mindedly, they in fact sacrifice the most important thing: the perfection of process. Let us look at the outward form of this rock using the literati’s methods. The rock was formed with an orientation; we see clearly that its arrow-like head and swallow-tail-like end are miraculously and seamlessly combined together. It is like a comet, like a flame. The naturally-formed holes are interlocked and appropriately sized—they are serendipitously well-coordinated. Chunks of different shapes and dimensions are flawlessly proportioned, exactly like the unfolding process of speed and time. The rock’s expression is different from literary expression in that it retains the marks of an instantaneous coagulation, and in that the accidents of its form are unpremeditated, all subsumed under one pace and yet unlimitedly rich. A premise for art to exist is to make the abstract concrete. It is like this rock—it is the material evidence remaining from the universal grinder of time and history.
Every time I purchase a new rock, I basically revisit the traditional process of aesthetic judgment. Afterwards, at the instant that the imaginative material transforms, I feel as if this judgment is both confirmed and rejected, or perhaps rather frozen in indeterminacy. In any case, replication is another way of solidifying the instant of coagulation, but it is not necessarily a permanent solidification.
|Years of translation experience: 11. Registered at ProZ.com: Aug 2008.|
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Two years of experience in Chinese-to-English translation. Has co-translated a book on contemporary Chinese art, to be published by the National Library of China, and a book-length study for the Department of Sociology, City University of Hong Kong. Other previous work includes art- and history-related articles for National Palace Museum, Taipei; Sotheby's; China Institute Gallery (New York); Legation Center for the Arts (Beijing); Jiading Museum of Bamboo Carving (Jiading, China).
Native of Hong Kong fluent in Chinese. Graduate of Columbia University in English Literature and Computer Science. Currently a doctoral student at Harvard University in History of Art and Architecture. Winner of university-wide writing prize at Columbia University in 2000.
Keywords: art, culture, literature, history, China, Asia, academic, academia, scholarship
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