SEAA Society for East Asian Archaeology

Society for East Asian Archaeology (amEAAN):
Round Table,
in conjunction with AAS Conference
, 13.-16. March 1997, Chicago
Abstracts of Papers presented

The meeting was organized by Kathy Linduff


Arranged in alphabetic order according to authors' family names.

HSU Miao-lin (Univ. of Pittsburgh), "From Luoyang to Changsha: A discussion on Warring States Mirrors"
Mirrors dated earlier than the Warring States period are either plain or very simply decorated, and therefore stand apart from the elaborate embellishment on contemporary bronze ritual vessels. During the Warring States their decoration expands and the mirrors are produced in large numbers. Increased patronage, which occurred as a result of decentralization in the late Zhou dynasty, was localized so that owners/patrons of mirrors began to include wealthy members of society in addition to the nobility. From excavated evidence, we can now see that mirrors were produced in many areas in the Warring States period. During this period, as the central control of the Zhou weakened, mirror-making and use was concentrated more in south China where about two thousand mirrors have been excavated. At this time, an official type of mirror served state-level rituals (the Luoyang type), while a new category of regional models (the Changsha type, or the so-called Hui and Chu types) were made for local rituals. The first type, the distinctive, elaborate "double tier" mirror has been associated with Jincun, Louyang. This style is modeled on bronzes of northern origin--such as tungpao, a knobbed reflective plate--or on round ornaments and tanglu, or openwork. The use of openwork applied to the other surface layer of the mirror created a three dimensional design. Somewhat later and in the south, the other tradition emerged. Characterized by fine, intricate patterns covering the entire background surface, this type included representational imagery with motifs such as intertwining snakes. The use of both types in the south as well as the scale in which they were produced reflects political and economic changes in Chinese society as well as a renewed emphasis on local rituals which now could incorporate materials from previously restrictive, "official" northern customs. The main themes and the regular placement of bronze mirrors in the burial has to do with prevailing beliefs in the south and an ideology about the origins of mirrors. The regular placement of bronze mirrors near the head, waist or legs of the deceased conveys a significance for them which is more specific than merely as an utilitarian object. Systematic examination of their burial placement, decor and numbers has lead to new explanations of their ritual function and meaning.

LINDUFF, Katheryn M. (Univ. of Pittsburgh), "The Use of Archaeology and the Study of Art History"
The traditional way to deal with artifacts in both the Chinese and Western traditions is to take them out of archeological context and to group them by type and style. Such groupings are used as indicators of chronological sequences, of changes in taste among the elites, and so forth. Today issues of technology, use and patronage are of interest, but these questions are also rarely framed in the context of archaeological theory and modeling. This paper starts with another premise--that the ritual objects of early China can only be understood as a result of reasoning about context.
Liu, Chao-hui Jenny (SOAS): The Correlation Between Mural Figures and Niche Figurines in Tang Tombs.
In the study of art, clay figurines and murals, though from the same tombs, are studied as separate fields. In the past, this has been the case because there had been no detailed in situ maps of where these pieces had come from, and therefore, we cannot study their significance to the tomb as a whole. Recent archaeological discoveries have uncovered well preserved tomb murals in at least twenty-four tombs in the Shaanxi region. Seven of these, the Princes Zhanghuai and Yide, Princesses Yungtai and Changle, Li Shou, Ashi Nazhong and Zheng Rentai tombs contain murals of horse riders, standard bearers, carriages and attendants. Groups of figurines in the same tombs bear an uncanny resemblance to the murals' vehicles and personnel. For the first time, we can begin to piece together the relationship between these heretofore separate mediums. Some of this evidence, which forms the basis of this paper would suggest that they have some joint function in the overall symbolic program There are some points that have to be explained: horses with riders, vehicles and attendants are not restricted to the corridors and niches of the tomb. They also appear in burial chambers. Other types of figurines, chickens, pigs, and other domestic animals appear alongside camel trainers in some niches. It may be possible that they belong to different spheres within the tombs.

RODE, Penny (Univ. of Pittsburgh), "Textiles and Group Identity in Late Bronze Age Yunnan"
For decades, Chinese archaeologists have recovered Metal Age remain from numerous sites around Lake Dian in central Yunnan Province. Among the most remarkable of these are the bronze vessels filled with cowry shells, some in the shape of kettle drums found elsewhere in Southeast Asia, and others in a tall, narrow profile unique to this region. On the lids of these containers, ancient craftworkers created minutely detailed scenes of people, animals, and buildings, all no more than a few inches tall. These figures engage in animated activities, interacting among themselves, with such realism that they are considered visual records of activities important to their society. The subject matter for these scenes include battles between mounted warriors and infantry, ritual sacrifice, feasting, and groups of women weaving Repeatedly in these bronze spectacles, Dian women are depicted as the elite of society: only women are shown being carried in palanquins, shaded by parasols, or depicted larger than the other figures. Often they are gilt bronze. Careful examination of burial contexts in elite graves of the early Metal Age has further demonstrated that women occupied the uppermost levels society. These circumstances do not persist over a long time span. After domination of the region by dynastic Chinese forces in the last century BC, women no longer were buried with the markers of high rank; nor were they depicted in art as the elite of society. The reasons for these changes partly lies in the changing role of locally produced cloth, which the evidence, both artistic and archaeological, suggests was controlled by certain aristocratic women of the Dian The Dian was a highly stratified society in which elaborate display served inter-elite competition. All the types of metal prestige goods indicative of high rank functioned in conspicuous display. It is likely that the cloth whose construction is illustrated in several lid scenes served a similar function. Although no Dian textile survives, we have enough evidence to demonstrate that certain types of cloth were highly valued, imbued wit significant economic and/or ritual importance. The raw material for this prestige textile was probably cotton. As central Chinese influence increased, evidenced by the establishment of the Yizhou commandery at Kunming in 109 BC, bronze objects of traditional local manufacture were replaced with exotic Chinese imports as elite prestige goods. Eventually, by the Eastern Han period, the furnishing of aristocratic Yunnan graves imitated typical Han inventories, either with Chinese objects, or locally made imitations. The metal objects which had conveyed status in the Dian, such as koushi, drums, head rests, etc., had virtually disappeared. In the same manner, imported Chinese silks no doubt replaced locally created cloth in elite display. Dian cotton cloth no longer was the expensive, desirable commodity valued by the Dian nobility, and the control of its construction did not convey the economic and social benefits it had in earlier times. As a result, Yunnan noblewomen lost the economic basis for the power, wealth and social position which the lid images recorded.

YAN Ge (Univ. of Pittsburgh), "The Pattern of Interaction: Sanxingdui During the Second Millennium BC"
The discoveries at Sanxingdui unexpectedly revealed an urban center in the Chengdu Basin, Sichuan. Equally unexpected, indigenous and Shang style artifacts coexisted at the site, with the Shang works presumably serving local purposes. From the perspective of interaction, this paper is an attempt to understand how and why this society was able to maintain its artistic identity while engaging in interaction with the more complex and powerful Shang The Chengdu Basin, known for its self-sufficient environment, was in a landlocked setting. During the third millennium BC, if not earlier, communities there became stratified and developed distinctive symbol systems. It was not until the next millennium that Sanxingdui connected with the middle-Yangzi region. Later the Sanxingdui complex gained regional dominance and was in extensive interaction within the basin and beyond. The mid-Yangzi areas, where communities grew rapidly after stimulation by the Shang, may have served as providers of Shang casting technology and artifact types to the Chengdu Basin area. Nevertheless, Sanxingdui was neither a Shang colony nor its direct exchange partner. Inter-regional contact served as a resource that strengthened Sanxingdui's position in a competitive regional network, which may have supplied subsistence goods and other materials. Studies of the Pacific Northwest, Burma and Mesoamerica, where elite arts in the less complex groups were assimilated by more complex partners, suggest that the changes of those elite arts are a parameter of interaction. Variables significant to the changes are: (i) base and level of social development of participating communities, or base of interaction; (ii) demand generated by the development, or motivation of interaction; (iii) resources available, or materials in exchange; and (iv) form of interaction, such as migration, warfare or trade. By comparison, Sanxingdui was among highly stratified local communities with an entrenched symbolism; was located in a self-sufficient environment; was in indirect contact with Shang; and was, therefore, allowed to develop continuously the indigenous identity while making use of "outside" art for its own sake. Methodologically, this study is characterized by its interpretation of interaction in a regional context, and by its modeling of archeological questions about ancient art.

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