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Double Feature Lecture: Prof. Feng Shi and Prof. Miao Zhe

Natural Color and Philosophical Color: A Study on the Origin of the Theory of the Relation between Colors and Directions in China by Feng Shi (Institute of Archaeology, CASS) From the Lingguang Palace to the Wu Liang Shrine Some Traces of the Imperial Art from the Late Western Han and Early Eastern Han Periods by Miao Zhe (Zhejiang University)

 

Natural Color and Philosophical Color:
A Study on the Origin of the Theory of the Relation between Colors and Directions in China

Feng  Shi (Institute of Archaeology, CASS)


Within the context of traditional Chinese culture, color is not only a natural phenomenon that may be exploited by artists, but also the touchstone for a unique theory that related the colors to the five directions, and further coordinating them with space, time, the constellations, the Five Elements (wuxing), yin&yang, etc.  In a spatial frame of reference, the Five Colors--green, red, white, black, and yellow--could represent the Five Directions--east, south, west, north, and center; in a temporal frame of reference, they symbolized the Four Seasons--spring, summer, autumn, and winter; in an astrological frame of reference, they could describe the directional symbols--the dragon, bird, tiger and the xuanwu (a turtle with a snake slung around it); in an alchemical frame of reference, they were equivalent to the Five Elements--wood, fire, metal, water, and earth; and in a philosophical frame of reference, they could stand for the opposing forces of yin and yang.  By setting up the internal relationships with the system of time and space through color, the theory of relations between directions and colors involved all factors of traditional Chinese culture.  It acquired great importance from its concern with the establishment of traditional institutions of politics and sacrifice. The earliest record of the theory in historical documents is found in the Zhou Li (no earlier than about the 5th century BC), whereas archaeological materials provide far more ancient clues.  For instance, during the period of the Hongshan Culture, some 5500 years ago, the theory of relations between directions and colors can be shown to have already existed in a rather mature form. This research focuses on exploring the origin of the traditional theory of relations between directions and colors in China based on the integration of archaeological and historical materials.
 

 

From the Lingguang Palace to the Wu Liang Shrine
Some Traces of the Imperial Art from the Late Western Han and Early Eastern Han Periods

Miao Zhe (Zhejiang University)


Every empire has its imperial art. The Han dynasty is no exception.  Han dynasty imperial art consisted mainly of decorations of palaces and mausoleums built of clay and wood. With their destruction in the third century AD, this imperial art was lost forever.

This lecture attempts to recover some traces of the imperial art of the period spanning the late Western Han and early Eastern Han (approximately from the first century BC to the first century AD) from both contemporary texts and archaeological materials. Pieced together, these traces present a picture of a type of art that was completely new to Chinese art history: an art that may be characterized as pictorial in form and Confucian in subject matter.

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