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Styles & Periods
Archaic Asian Art

Archaic art in Asia is remarkable for its beauty and sophisticated forms. China is the longest continually running culture in the world. The basin of the Yellow River, the Huang He, was the home of many great civilizations. The early works of art are ceramics. Yangshao pottery, dating from 5000 B.C.E., displays refined forms, and technological mastery. The Shang dynasty created remarkable ritual bronze vessels. Perhaps the best-known accomplishment of the early cultures of China is the tomb of Qin Shi Huang in Shaanxi. Discovered in 1974, the monumental tomb is filled with 6,000 life-size terracotta figures of soldiers and horses. The stunning space reveals the Qin dynasty’s refined artistry and formalized burial ritual. In Japan, early works consist of Jomon, or rope patterned, pottery. These elaborate vessels were not only constructed with remarkable technical skill, but are also graphically in sync with many contemporary designs, despite having been made more than 4,000 years ago. Beginning in the third century A.D., Japanese burial mounds were marked with haniwa figures for protection. These hollow clay figures are modeled as humans, horses and even houses, and paint a remarkable portrait of the customs and costumes of archaic Japan. Finally, the Japanese spirituality, Shinto, has inspired the marking of sacred places with shrines for two millennia. Shinto compounds range from simple to elaborate, many having been rebuilt numerous times throughout history, but all share a distinct attention to detail. Archaic East Asian art possesses a markedly different aesthetic than art from other regions, but also boasts incredible diversity.


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