Defining Chu: Image and Reality in Ancient China by John S. Major, Constance A. Cook

By John S. Major, Constance A. Cook

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Html[28/07/2010 18:40:27] next page > page_33 < previous page page_33 next page > Page 33 3 Chu Art: Link between the Old and New Jenny F. So Like their peers in the states of the North China Plain, Chu aristocrats surrounded themselves with articles befitting their power and rank. The best of these were often buried with them in death. Spectacular discoveries through controlled excavations of some of these Chu tombs in the last ten to twenty years have begun to paint a fascinating picture of Chu art and culture during the three or four centuries when the state was at the height of its power.

The best of these were often buried with them in death. Spectacular discoveries through controlled excavations of some of these Chu tombs in the last ten to twenty years have begun to paint a fascinating picture of Chu art and culture during the three or four centuries when the state was at the height of its power. Beginning with monumental bronzes (fig. 1), followed by colorful painted lacquers (pls. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and delicately embroidered silks (fig. 2), these artifacts present a picture of a sophisticated society in the south rivaling the grandest principalities in the north.

In contrast to Chu tombs of the preceding century, bronze ritual vessels again dominated the inventory of this third-century royal burial. Like the vessels from Xiasi and Suixian, the Shouxian bronzes are also monumental in scale, but unlike their earlier counterparts, they are all crudely cast, thin, and light. They seemed to strive only for the appearance of status, but nothing of its substance. Just like the kings who commissioned and owned them, the Shouxian bronzes are mere shadows of their former magnificence, and they remain poor cousins of the richly decorated lacquers and silks that came to replace them.

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