Animals depicted in jade of the 13th to 14th centuries in China

Yang, Nini Lixin (2000) Animals depicted in jade of the 13th to 14th centuries in China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate, with regard to the relationship between man and nature, how and why animals were depicted in jade carving, compared to other arts during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) in China. In this way the thesis seeks to make a direct contribution to an understanding of the significance of animals in various aspects of art and life throughout the Yuan Dynasty. The former idea, that the Mongols, as nomads and forest hunters, their illiterate status and barbaric customs effectively discouraged their interest and ability in scholarly and artistic matters, used to be widely accepted. There are much more negative comments and "matter-of-fact" historical records of the Mongol rulers in China to demonstrate how true they were that the Mongols were nothing but a group of fearsome and vicious barbarians. In recent years, although this prejudice has been partially reassessed, there are still significant gaps to fulfil, to look into and to comprehend about art in the Yuan period. It is clear, however, that several aspects of the Mongols' tastes and concepts of art differed from those of the people they invaded, conquered and ruled. Art of human being has long been existed ever since the man appeared on this planet, no matter how primitive. Their sense of art and work of art were, however, born together with the nation themselves the very first moment, even without any understanding and appreciation of the rest of the world. The first and foremost aim of the present thesis is to demonstrate the interested scholar of Yuan jade (and indeed Yuan art in general) with a preliminary manual, which assembles, as comprehensively as possible, all relevant information available on early Yuan jade developed during the 13th to 14th centuries. These will reveal how and why Mongols used their most treasured material - jade - to depict the favourite subjects in their style of life - namely animals. Secondly, the thesis will also present a series of potential clues, not only to the specific understanding of Yuan jade animals, but also of Yuan art and culture as a whole. Finally, the analysis will indicate how the Yuan style was influenced by the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and how it in turn subsequently had an influence on Ming aesthetics (1368-1644). The number of jade animals known of the Yuan Dynasty remains very small, largely due to many surviving jade objects and heirlooms are difficult to be properly dated because of lack of evidence and definite provenance. Furthermore, the Yuan Dynasty was extremely short in duration (98 years), and it was ruled by people of steppes coming fi om far away in the North to China, which has always been largely segregated from mainstream of full historical studies in China, let alone much cultural appreciation by the Chinese. The framework and conceptual tools in this thesis for the analysis of the animals in three-dimentional forms of art derive from many historians, artists, scholars and zoologists. Studies of history of art based on artefacts are a scientific research. It is different from traditional art appreciation and religious art fetishism. Its aim is to try to understand insights of arts by using comparative sciences. It needs a wide range of knowledge to understand every possible aspect of culture and arts during the Yuan Dynasty, then it goes finally to the artefacts themselves.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Nicholas Pearce
Keywords: Art history
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-72904
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72904

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