The 2013-2014 Slade Lectures will be given in the Lent Term by Professor Jessica Rawson, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology in the Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology Art and Culture at the University of Oxford. She was Warden of Merton College, Oxford University 1994-2010. She currently holds a five year (2011-2016) Leverhulme Trust grant on China and Inner Asia, 1000-200 BC: Interactions that Changed China. Before moving to Oxford, Professor Rawson worked in the British Museum. At the Museum, she became Deputy Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities in 1976 and Keeper of the Department in 1987. In the following years, Professor Rawson was responsible for the renovation of the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of Oriental Antiquities, opened by the Queen, November 1992. During her time at the British Museum, Professor Rawson organised a numerous exhibitions, among them exhibitions from China.
After moving to Oxford in 1994, Professor Rawson organised further exhibitions in London at the British Museum and the Royal Academy: Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing and Mysteries of Ancient China; China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795; Treasures of Ancient Chinese, Bronze and Jades from Shanghai. She also made major contributions to exhibitions of the Qin dynasty Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum, 2006-2007 and at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities at Stockholm, 2010. In addition to catalogues of these exhibitions, her books include studies of Chinese bronzes and jades- Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (1990), Chinese Jade, from the Neolithic to the Qing (1995), and discussions of Chinese ornament and design, Chinese Ornament, the Lotus and the Dragon (1984).
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.