Touching the Pre-Qin Era
It is said in Zuo Zhuan: "The important events of the country lie in ritual and military affair." Most of the researches on the history of Chinese art before Qin cannot help but taking into consideration these two fields. The research in the pre-Qin period is extremely difficult to carry out due to the lack of documents and material. The investigation was extremely difficult and therefore some academic interpretations were arbitrary and justified by assumptions. However, Chang Kwang-chih, thanks to years of self-cultivation, knowledge and historical sensitivity, managed to elaborate a convincing interpretative framework for these matters. Although Hayden White states that there is a paradox in the historical research in the book History of Yuan Dynasty, however it can be said that the content of the book is very different from a literary text. The narrative of historical research is an endless retrospection rather than a reconstruction of events. Mr.Chang's book can be definitely taken as a model for interdisciplinary research.
周代，洛阳的理想蓝图。王宫在王城正中，市场在王城北部，祖庙在宫殿之东，社稷坛在宫殿之西，朝堂在宫殿之南。所有建筑的主门都朝南开。Luoyang's ideal blueprint in Zhou Dynasty. The royal palace is in the middle of the city; the market is in the north; the ancestral temple is located on the eastern part of the palace; the altar is on the western part of the palace, and the court hall is on the southern part of the palace. The main doors of all buildings face the south.
In the book, the author described the reasons for the rise of authoritarian politics in the Shang Dynasty. From tribes to "states", the “Zhaomu system”(a system of arranging emperors' temples or memorial tablets) guaranteed that the authoritarian political power would be handed down to the relatives of the ruling families. The monopoly of the writing system ensured an ideological control over the non-ruling classes. The arbitrary rules of the bronze production and of the ritual process during the offer sacrifices justified the role of a legal intermediary between "heaven" (belonging to the realm of the gods) and the "human" (belonging to the realm of human). This function ensured the intermediary could maintain an authoritarian power, benefiting from a legitimate right to natural governance.
《山海经》中的群巫图。 古代人与神不相混杂，当时有些人非常聪颖敏锐，其智慧能辨识天地、其洞察力可光照渊远。有此能力之人，男称“觋”，女称”巫“。他们在祭祀仪式中负责安排诸神灵之位次，向诸神献祭。The picture of witches in Shan Hai Jing. In ancient China, humans and gods were not mixed together. At that time, sharp and clever people were referred to as Xi if they were men or Wu if they were women. They were responsible to implement the orders from the gods and to offer sacrifices to the gods during the ritual ceremonies.
《山海经》的四方之神：东方句芒（左上）、西方蓐收（右上）、南方祝融（左下）、北方禺疆（右下）。这些乘着两龙的使者可能联通上帝与人类的世界。《山海经》因“龙”频繁出现，而被看成是“古代的一部巫觋之书”。The Four Gods in Shan Hai Jing: Eastern Jumang (top left), Western Rushou (top right), Southern Zhurong (bottom left), and Northern Yujiang (bottom right). These messengers riding the two dragons were believed to connect the world of God and mankind. Shan Hai Jing is considered as "an ancient book of witchcraft" because of the frequent appearance of dragon.
The human-beast-themed patterns in the bronze art of the Shang Dynasty show that people put their heads on the mouth of the beast. The graphic theme of "human and animal mouth facing each other" is found all over the world. In various cultures, animal mouth generally represents a gate that separates the two different worlds (namely, the world of life and death). In ancient China, the open animal mouth may also represent the animal's breath. The ancient Chinese believed that the breath of animals generated the wind, and the wind was another basic medium of transportation between heavenly and earthly world.
山东泰安大汶口新石器时代遗址一座墓葬中包含丰富的随葬品。A tomb that contains rich funerary objects from the Neolithic site at Dawenkou, Tai'an, Shandong province.
After carrying out researches about the topics of the above discussion, Mr.K.C.Chang has drawn the conclusion that the development paradigm of ancient China was determined by the change of relationship between people; this is very different from Western countries which the development of society is determined by the change of the relationship between people and nature. Therefore China’s development model is characterized by a regular continuity, whereas Western countries’ development process is more irregular and fragmented. This conclusion is obviously a powerful refusal to take the West as a model to analyze the development process of different civilization. Although the content related to art is only used as an illustration of the argument of the book, this book is still good to study art history, especially from the pre-Qin Dynasty or the Bronze Age and to challenge those prejudices and misunderstandings of some interpretations of art historians. The book has a smooth and vivid style. It is enjoyable for academic and non-academic readers.
这是西伯利亚楚克其人所绘祭祀仪式中正在飞升的动物神灵。萨满在帐篷中做法，地上摆着祭器。动物的灵魂正飞向上空，飞向死神的居所。这些关于礼器和动物功能的复原，仍存在于现代巫术中。This is the ascending animal souls in the sacrificial ceremony painted by the Chukchi people of Siberia. The shaman used to do it in a tent, with sacrificial vessels on the ground. The animal's soul is flying up to the sky, flying towards the deaths. These functions of ritual vessels and animal still exist in modern witchcraft.
Mr. Chang Kwang-chih passed away in his sixties. What a pity! If he had lived longer, he could have created more masterpieces to hand down to the world.
But his words linger throughout time and this is another form of immortality.
Photo credit to ©️Art, Myth and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China
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