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Slade Lectures in Fine Art: Bridging Eurasia: the Steppe, the Silk Road and the Sea

Professor Jessica Rawson
When Jan 21, 2014
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Mill Lane Lecture Room 3
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The lectures will consider the ways in which China’s art and culture were transformed through contact across the steppe and along the Silk Road. Interaction with the border peoples was inevitable and created huge political and military upheavals. Warfare, trade and religious proselytization changed China, bringing with them metallurgy, the chariot, sculpture and stone. But the ancient Chinese adopted these outside contributions in new ways. They made magnificent bronze vessels for offerings to their ancestors, but few fine bronze weapons; they worked on a huge scale in creating chariots as ritual gifts from the king. And the same massive scale was employed for the production of the Terracotta Warriors. Full-sized sculpture in stone and bronze only took off with the introduction of Buddhism across Central Asia from the fourth century AD. And the success of Buddhism was dependent on the foreign rulers of north China. Indeed, even with the reunification of China under the Tang in the seventh century, the imperial house maintained close relations with their neighbours, the Turkish peoples of the steppe, and created a hybrid culture drawn from native Chinese and foreign traditions. As the northern peoples became all the more powerful and overwhelmed China in later centuries, Chinese’s inventions travelled west, above all guns and gunpowder, porcelain and paper, expanding Warfare, Beauty and Belief in Central and Western Asia and in Europe.