Author: Joyce Kwong

Exploring the Mandala

When exploring Esoteric Buddhist art, one of the distinctive types we come across is the mandala.  A mandala is essentially a microcosm of the Buddhist universe represented visually. It can take forms in mediums such as thangka paintings or the sand mandala, with the emphasis in the meditative process of ritually creating and disassembling. This diagram which is highly symmetrical and radially oriented starts from a principal deity in the center encircled by eight deities, four in the cardinal directions and four in the corners, with the layout similar to the form of an asterisk.  This central core is...

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Creativity at Jingdezhen at a Time of Change

Jingdezhen – The Porcelain Capital In the dynastic past, the highest quality of Jingdezhen porcelain productions was dictated by the taste of the imperial family.  However, at the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) and Republic period (1912–1949), such boundaries began to break down.  Given the internal strife and political struggles with the Western World in the 19th century, China commissions began to decrease and in order to survive artisans needed to appeal to greater audiences.  Target groups began to broaden and now included officials, scholars, and the upper mercantile class. It was during this turbulent time of change that...

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Chinese Longevity Locks & Other Children’s Accessories

Chinese Longevity Locks 长命锁 In a world where life was fragile and people felt at the mercy of nature and disease, many traditions involving amulets and charms were established to bring a sense of hope and control.  The earliest “good luck” charms were fashioned after coins bearing auspicious symbols such as the sun & moon, swords, turtles, and snakes and date as far back as the Han Dynasty (221-206 BC).  It was later, during the periods of the Six Dynasties (220-586 AD) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD) that charms for “longevity” became more common. Coin-shaped amulets continue to be popular...

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Taotie Inspiration from Chinese Ritual Bronzes

Inspirations from Chinese Ritual Bronzes: Taotie The magnificence of the bronzes of Shang and Zhou periods (1600-1046 BCE and 1046-256 BCE) have not only captured Chinese audiences for centuries, but the Western world as well, and especially now through recent archaeological excavations.  In ancient times, bronzes were crucial in ritual ceremonies, and the ability to control the challenging aspects of their production solidified the status of the ruler, who had the power and resources to create such technologically advanced products for that time period.  Many of these archaic bronzes were buried in royal tombs, however over time, examples floated...

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Auspiciousness in Chinese Art

Chinese art is deeply embedded with auspicious motifs believed to bring good fortune.  If ‘seeing is believing’, the Chinese took such positive energy and expressed it in visual form from folk to fine art. Such auspiciousness was not only self consumed, but when shared as gifts, the receiver is accepting the giver’s well wishes. Due to the large amount of homonyms in the Chinese language, many rebuses are based on the play of words transformed visually. Besides pun, inherent and natural qualities of certain items are also weighted in this tradition of symbolism. The lexicon of this matter is...

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