Archives for posts with tag: tang dynasty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAW40xL80xH110mm, China

This lion riding figue is Wei Chi Gong, a general of the Tang dynasty.  Stories of his loyalty and bravery made it to the hearts of the people that he became a protector for the home, prints and figurines were made of him and his partner Qin Qiong.

Legends has it that in the Tang dynasty, the Dragon King had a bet with a fortune teller, this act violated the rules of the heaven and Jade Emperor ordered for the dragon’s execution.  The Dragon King pledged with the Tang Emperor and the Emperor agreed to summon the executioner back to court so the dragon could be spare.  Unfortunately, the Emperor doses off and missed the hour, the dragon was cut in half and died.  The dragon was extremely upset that the promise was broken and its ghost haunted the imperial palace day and night.  Wei Chi Gong and Qin Qiong, the two brave generals offered to stand guard at the door of the palace, the dragon ghost was kept at bay.  The emperor felt guilty that the pair has to be on guard days and nights because of his own negligence and ordered prints and figurines to be made of the two so to spare them from their task.  The fame of the two generals is so powerful that their imagery would be enough to scare away the haunted dragon, since then they were used to guard doors, gateways, bed in the household.

golden wood carving

W150xD40xH180mm, China

The two character on this wood block carving is Fan Li Hua and Xue Ding Shan.  The story of the two are in opera, movies and on telly with Fan Li Hua being the famous female warrior of the Tang dynasty.  Fan was the daughter of the general of the country name Onog, both beautiful and with superb martial skills.   General Xue was in charged of expanding on the western territories; Fan was assigned to aid his father at the battle by  her mother who also told her that she was destined to marry Xue.  Without effort Fan defeated her enemy and requested for a battle with General Xue and quickly defeated Xue as well.  Her terms for ending the war was for him to marry her, three times she captured him and released him and .  General Xue was moved and the two was married, Fan then pretended to loss the battle and was captured by Xue.  Fan then help Xue to conquer the western frontier.

Here is another carving of Fan Li Hau.

figurineL160xD100xH120mm, China

This figurine is by the famous pottery area Shi Wan; their figurines are typical to have a glazeless delicate facial and hand depiction while contrasting with an expressive and bold glazing on the clothing.

The drunken poet, Li Bai, is a popular subject for figurine, paintings, etc., apart from his literary stature, his love for drinking also give a character for the artisan to express.

月下獨酌

花間一壺酒
獨酌無相親
舉杯邀明月
對影成三人
月既不解飲
影徒隨我身
暫伴月將影
行樂須及春
我歌月徘徊
我舞影零亂
醒時同交歡
醉後各分散
永結無情游
相期邈雲漢

The poem “Drinking Alone under the Moon” by Li Bai, translation by W. Bynner

From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me—
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends.

To cheer me through the end of spring . . .
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
. . . Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.

W130xH170mm, China

 This is a new year print of  Zhong Kui, the saint who can defeat all ghosts and evils, keeping the household safe.  Zhong Kui has a fierceful  stern face covered with a thick beard, despite having such a strange appearance he was a bold character who is a well learnt scholar.  Legend has it that in Tang dynasty 730AD, the emperor was gravely ill, one night he dreamt that a ghost came to steal his jade pipe and his favorite concubine’s fragrance sachet.  The emperor was upset and was about to send in his warriors to chase off the ghost and saw a larger ghost appear.  The larger ghost has messy hair, horns on his head and worn a green robe, he reached out and caught the thief, dug out his eyes and swallowed them.  The emperor was horrified by the act and asked who he was, the larger ghost paid his respect and said he is Zhong Kui and that he tried hard in the scholar exam but failed.  Ashamed for his failure, he met his death by the steps after reading the results at the courts, feeling sorry for him the earlier Tang emperor award him a green robe for his funeral.  Moved by the emperor he oath to remove all the ghost and evils for the Tang dynasty.  When the emperor woke up from his dream, his sickness was gone, he ordered the making of Zhong Kui’s print to spread the news.  Later on it became a new year tradition for the Tang emperor to award his officials prints of Zhong Kui.

In certain part of China, Zhong Kui is worshiped at every occasion from Chinese new year to opening of  a temple to a shop, the start of a work for the year to the start of construction, relocation to birthday and weddings.  The ceremony will include the offering to the print of Zhong Kui and for a grander gesture the performance of masked dance or a puppet show of the Zhong Kui theme.

Here is a masked dance performance for a temple ceremony in Taiwan.