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Meaning and Explanation Author(s): Robert W. Bagley Reviewed work(s): Source: Archives of Asian Art, Vol. 46 (1993), pp. 6-26 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press for the Asia Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20111224 . Accessed: 17/08/2012 12:06 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . University of Hawai'i Press and Asia Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Archives of Asian Art. http://www.jstor.org Correction to Archives of Asian Art Vol. xlvi: On page 24, Figures 24 and 25 have been reversed so that the caption now under Fig. 24 should appear under Fig. 25, and vice versa. The Editors regret this error and the confusion arising from it in the text on pages 23-25. Fig. i. Cross-carpet page from of the British Library, London. 6 the Lindisfarne Gospels (folio 27). Ca. A.D. 698. 34 by 26 cm. By permission and Explanation Meaning Robert W. Bagley Princeton University Author'snote: ered on 25 June no. 15, Percival This is the written article 1990 at the Colloquy David Foundation version of a lecture deliv on Art in Asia and Archaeology of Chinese of Art, University for its invita David Foundation to the Percival I am grateful in the colloquy and to the Department of Art and participate for a grant toward Princeton Archaeology, University, publication costs which has made the use of color illustrations. possible London. tion to a on the in Shang of meaning" l\t colloquy "problem I find myself in an awkward position, decoration rather like that of an agnostic invited to a theological confer ence: my hosts are more than I am that the confident we are to exists. I am not be thing discussing supposed sure that Shang decoration I am had symbolic meaning. we do not have the evidence sure to needed that quite a case for any make particular symbolic interpretation. Iwould And even if the evidence were more promising issue in the of any large place begrudge symbolism bronze for the of studies, power symbolic explanatory seems to me greatly overrated; if our curiosity meanings can be satisfied by about Shang bronzes sym attaching to their decoration, bolic meanings then our interests are too narrow. But these are unpopular I know, opinions, not at and in the hope of making if them, persuasive, I should like to approach my subject in least intelligible, a roundabout way. In order to gain some on perspective a debate in which the battle lines have long been fixed to look briefly at decoration I wish and questions of context. I in In another effect will be meaning religious an extended pursuing analogy, and to avoid any possible stress at the outset that my I should misunderstanding, not meant to is about Shang prove anything analogy use as a I it bronzes. of and Rather, way identifying the in made other scholars examining assumptions by to prove things about Shang bronzes. their attempts 1 and 3 show decorated pages from two fa Figures mous Insular manuscripts of the gospels: in Figure 1 the Lindisfarne Gospels, from about a.D. 700, and in Figure of Kells, from about a century later. The 3 the Book on an island Book was made in amonastery Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland; in the British also made Isles but not the Book of Kells was its exact provenance is certain.1 In the Lindisfarne faces the beginning Book of the page the Gospel in Figure St. Matthew. shown of 1 It crosses contains a decorated decorated cross; differently of the other three gospels. face the beginnings page from the Figure 3 shows the so-called Chi-rho In principle Book of Kells. this is a page of text from the of St. Matthew, the but three letters abbreviating Gospel name of Christ have been to the and decorated enlarged the rest of the text off the page (a small point of crowding residue can be seen near the bottom right corner, the two one to words "autem" and letter] [abbreviated on the "generatio"). Following immediately genealogy in the gospel of Christ, this is a special moment story, It is a point in the text the moment of the Incarnation. to be underlined. which deserved Ihave chosen Insular manuscripts for comparison with cases in is the decoration bronzes because both Shang art this is not very InWestern from animals. In ancient China animals enjoyed a near mono but in theWest the most popular and poly of decoration, ornamental motifs have been plant-derived: long-lived concocted common. vine scrolls and palmettes and Corinthian capitals refer to the vegetable ornament is all Plant-derived kingdom. orna around us and we tend to ignore it; animal-based ment is harder to ignore. Chinese artists made spectacu lar use of it and so did Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks. Let us take a closer look at the Lindisfarne page and then ask some questions about its decoration. The ani mals visible in the detail shown in Figure 2 are interlaced birds and dogs, not easy to disentangle. Interlace designs are two-dimensional an which configurations play with can be very third dimension. They ingenious implied even when but they do not go beyond simple knotwork, when they take animals for raw material they become the viewer whose eye is caught by some part entrancing: of an animal is immediately drawn into a search for the are used On remainder. the Lindisfarne colors page to help the search, sometimes to hinder and sometimes tease. The is wonderfully interlace almost inventive, so in the the painter miraculously irregular spaces where an met cross. the challenge by oddly presented shaped For each of the four gospels he drew a different cross and out a different design. worked Now suppose we address to the Lindisfarne page the our to is that question colloquy addressing Shang bronzes. What does itmean? 7 invites controversy, if only because of The question "mean the word the vague and elastic senses in which an answer is first toward been used. The has step ing" to ourselves the by asking question just clarify perhaps sort of information it seeks. I can think of at least what two sorts corresponding to two different in of the question. terpretations is asking us to the question On one interpretation, that the all the symbols painter put into the page. identify are there other symbols? Is the The cross is a symbol; this of On constructed symbols? interpretation design asks: if there is a religious message the question encoded crosses what and decode it; please explain here, please to do with Christian and interlace have and birds dogs distinct theology. But another is possible. of the question interpretation to know what thoughts wants the the questioner Perhaps an in of Lindis mind aroused the page eighth-century we could show it to an eighth-cen farne monk. Suppose to you?" and ask him, "What does this mean tury monk The I doubt that he would dissect it like an iconographer. cross is a potent symbol in Christianity and a Lindisfarne onto the page everything could have projected monk to meant He would know that him. that Christianity to one him the had performed like this books miracles; that could hardly "mean" a host of emotions page would that he saw in itwould The meanings be put into words. in detail by the painter, not be meanings encoded they attached after the fact by the viewer; be meanings would not be fixed meanings, and they would vary they would to another. But they are meanings of from one viewer to the believer.2 transcendent importance loaded with Shang bronzes must have been similarly must have gathered associations Powerful significance. were in which about them because of the context they the that the bronzes were used. We can safely assume at awe-inspiring center of attention rituals, and every or felt about the realm of thing the Shang king thought onto them. Imight the spirits could have been projected to describe of words the choice with employed quarrel be would of this phenomenon?to symbolism speak not for amoment I would confusingly ambiguous?but I certainly do not believe that when deny its existence. the Shang king looked at a bronze he was dazzled by a pure aesthetic experience. or But to say that the bronzes had potent associations is quite different symbols powerful somehow decoration encoded that Shang saying us back to the claim The latter brings Shang religion. narrower "What does it of the question interpretation we mean?"?the interpretation. Suppose iconographer's the services of an expert medieval obtained iconographer encoded and told him: there is some religious meaning it for decode in the Lindisfarne us; page, please please tell that from 8 they became us what do with crosses and dogs and birds and interlace have to How might he reply? Christianity. to say about the would The iconographer have much the cross he might hesitate. cross, but after explaining us that he was unable to find anything told he Suppose in the scriptures or commentaries about interlaced birds Is it possible?is it conceivable-? that the birds and dogs. to do with Christianity? and dogs don't have anything to Shang The scholars who ascribe symbolic meaning find it inconceivable that the animals bronze decoration on the bronzes might to do with have nothing Shang I find it quite conceivable. I should like at least religion. to persuade you that it cannot be ruled out on principle. the dogs and birds in Figure 2. Ifwe wanted Consider to the animal interlace in the to give a Christian meaning we would have to deal somehow with Lindisfarne Book, the fact that the interlace comes from pagan art. Figure a pagan burial at 6 shows a famous gold buckle from A.D. seventh The interlace on Sutton Hoo, century early to a tradition of pagan Germanic the buckle belongs art; its closest relatives are in Sweden. the Lindis Though are a few buckle farne page and the Sutton Hoo only one is is of them Christian and the other decades apart, pagan.3 this knowledge, suppose we ask again what the animal interlace in Figure 2 means. The buckle an answer to the question, but it may doesn't supply seem less urgent. A moment make the question ago if I on had told you, say, that St. Jerome's commentary Matthew refers to dogs as a symbol of the Crucifixion and birds as a symbol of the Resurrection, you might Armed with that you understood birds and felt satisfied why on the cross-carpet are But now interlaced page. dogs that fails any explanation you will not be satisfied with to mention does not pagan animal interlace. Meaning alone could explain the presence of the animals; meaning not fully account for the design. can certainly tell us much So while the iconographer he has finished that is of interest about the page, when some features of the design will remain un his account I rather doubt that he can explain the dogs and explained. birds; I am sure that he cannot explain the odd shape of look at a design the choice of colors. We the cross?or like this and ask "What does itmean?" but we really want have to know much more than that. Suppose the iconogra us firmly: the dogs and birds have no symbolic tells pher to do with Christianity. meaning, they have nothing are they here? I am not to know: why I still want Then to know to know what Iwant content the page means, it does. it looks the way why And a full answer to that question will always be his will ever be enough of meanings torical. No inventory to explain the appearance of the Lindisfarne page or the an a has The bronze. of page infinitely appearance Shang Fig. 2. Detail of Fig. i, Lindisfarne Gospels cross-carpet page. By permission of the British Library, London. 9 Fig. 3. Chi-rho Dublin. College, 10 page from the Book of Kells (folio 34). 8th or 9th century A.D. 33 by 25 cm. Courtesy of Trinity nam quum pera ?i*^ . MM 3l\ hOT up*-* %:..--, ' -'- ^ . *? ,#?*X V? ? &?: .>t.?&V.^ -4; ^:^S^:-,1 ~3 M ?MW :*v,/rfl?SS?ii,i ,& ; *;' ? Y *>;??*A^ ".';*: Fig. 4. Book of Keils, detail of folio 250V.Courtesy of Trinity College, Dublin. II Fig. 5. Book of Kells, detail of folio 20iv (series of initial q's, turned 90 degrees). Courtesy of Trinity College, Dublin. are only a part ramified history behind it, and meanings ofthat history. For the page or for a Shang bronze or for answer to the only complete any other human product, is a it look it the question does the does?" way "Why we In of the of course, complete history design. practice, lack both the evidence and the energy towrite a complete history of any design. But we cannot just pin ameaning onto the to ourselves and then pretend that we design it. have explained Turn to the Book of Kells Chi-rho page (Fig. 3). To reach even the most basic understanding of the Chi-rho we must sorts must know know all of We page things. sources like Sutton that its animal interlace has Germanic Hoo geometric (Fig. 6). We must know that the whirling ornaments enfolded by the arms of the letter Chi come art of the British the Des Isles?compare a cen mirror Celtic bronze of the first borough a.D. must account We into take several tury (Fig. 7). other artistic traditions. And then we must try to dis cover how all those sources came in this together particu trace the ancestry of lar result. In other words, we must sort of thing might the Kells page in detail. What the Kells painter have seen and taken as his starting point? One obvious is the Chi-rho page made a cen possibility earlier for the Lindisfarne Book tury (Fig. 8), and with even a casual we at the Lindisfarne Chi-rho glance begin to understand the Kells page a little better: in the Lindis it is more farne version apparent that we are looking at a page of text with a fancy capital letter, and suddenly we realize that the bar in the bottom reverse-L-shaped corner a letter, it is the not the is of Kells page right remnant of a frame around the text. a page like the one The Kells painter must have known in the Lindisfarne and his ambition must have Book, been to elaborate on it and surpass it. But we may still find it hard to believe that a painter could look at the page in Figure 8 and in one leap of the imagination shown in Figure invent the page shown 3. Can we discover between these two, a starting point that something a little more would make his leap a little less prodigious, from Celtic mirror, 12 A likely candidate is the Chi-rho page comprehensible? a few decades illuminated of St. Chad, from the Gospels in Figure 9 the letter Chi is Book: after the Lindisfarne a starfish over the page. No one could ever like spreading the Kells Chi-rho have produced starting from nothing, but an artist of supreme gifts could perhaps have pro of St. Chad. duced it if he started from the Gospels 1 and 3, the Lindisfarne I look at Figures When carpet it seems to me that page, page and the Kells Chi-rho But much. don't really explain very symbolic meanings of Shang bronze about the meaning scholars who write ex seem to believe that symbolic meanings decoration before Lindisfarne With the you page plain everything. of the bronze let me quote a passage from a discussion this K. C. Allan decoration (Sarah Chang adopts by as on to the her passage Shang art).4 epigraph chapter to be the salient lists what he considers Professor Chang and then in the passage features of the bronze decoration, Iwill quote I quote he asks how they are to be explained. he whenever him exactly with one slight modification: I will Irish mentions and Zhou bronzes substitute Shang do this in all serious and Northumbrian manuscripts?I on the assump ness as away of getting some perspective tions which lie behind his questions. He writes: to account for the meaning of the should explain manuscripts some of them. In other just not a involves the issue of the animal design words, single question of Ireland and Northum did the monks but a series of questions: Why on their decorations? What did these functions bria use animal designs theory aiming Any interpretive animal design on Irish and Northumbrian and not characteristics all of the above designs serve in their ideology?Why was there such variety?Why do occur in pairs? Why do they sometimes often the figures appear man in distinc and beast such humans? do with appear Why together tive formal relationships? Let me sentence by sentence. to account for the aiming theory "Any interpretive should explain all of the of the animal designs meaning and not just some of them." There above characteristics are several points be made here but for the that might moment Imention explana only one. Professor Chang's he lists will be one in which tion of the characteristics consider this passage Fig. 7. Bronze a.d. century Museum. mirror Length from Desborough, 35 cm. Courtesy ain animal interlace was a it was long-established Fig. 6. Gold Length 13.2 buckle cm. from Courtesy A.D. 7th century Early the Trustees of the British Museum. Sutton of Hoo. time and history every play no role. He will explain to him by attaching amean feature that seems important is a patchwork of meanings. ing to it. For him a design If he were asked to explain the Lindisfarne page, either or us he would for the he would animals, give meanings leave them off his list of salient characteristics. Their as raw material for decoration would go prior history For him neither designs nor meanings unremarked. have history. The passage continues: of Ireland "Why did the monks on their decora use animal designs and Northumbria answer: not because of any meaning tions?" Iwould they attached to the animals, but because animal interlace was a certain purpose. The cross their way of accomplishing was a to the Lindis of symbol surpassing importance to convey farne painter, and he wished that importance In seventh-century the cross spectacular. Brit by making of Northamptonshire, the Trustees of ist the British a proven way of doing that: local way of making things beautiful. is: "What functions did these designs The next question serve in their ideology?" The word is almost "ideology" as vague as the word it and has troublesome "meaning," connotations (here it seems to hint that the designs were Itmight tools of some systematic world view). be clearer and less prejudicial to ask simply: "What functions did these designs serve?" And we could not answer that ques tion about the Lindisfarne interlace without asking simi as a lar questions about the page and about the book whole. How was the book used? What was its function? Like the Lindisfarne the bronze vessels served a Book, in and their decoration must have contributed function, some way to their effectiveness, but to assume that that contribution unhelpful Next falls under at best. the heading of "ideology" is there such variety?" question: "Why was we ask it of Insular designs or of Shang bronzes, Whether I do not quite see the point of this question, and Professor not return to it. does he Chang Oddly enough, while in of the other scholars have bronzes, variety speaks described Shang design asmysteriously repetitive (they x3 Fig. 8. Chi-rho page from British Library, London. H the Lindisfarne Gospels (folio 29). Ca. A.D. 698. 34 by 26 cm. By permission of the Fig. 9. Chi-rho page from the Gospels of St. Chad. Second quarter of the 8th century a.d. 30.8 by 23.5 cm. By kind permission of theDean and Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral. 15 as casters take repetitiveness proof that the bronze Both de constrained rules). by rigid iconographie me seem must to have arbitrary. Variety scriptions to do with how many bronzes were different mainly over casters how different how made many long a by of in time how for how different many places period mea to not I know but do how different many patrons, then were sure it in any absolute way, nor do I see how any measure the presence or absence of variety could establish ment of symbolic meaning.5 is: "Why do the figures often appear The next question is surely: for symmetry. Pascal in pairs?" The answer that we find bilateral symmetry suggests interesting be cause our notion of symmetry is derived from the human face; hence, he says, we demand symmetry horizontally nor in and in breadth only, not vertically depth. This is of course found not only in the kind of symmetry human face, it is common organic nature. throughout we in nature it it find because interesting Presumably repays And attention.6 occur together finally: "Why do they sometimes and beast appear in such humans? Why do man Since humans do not formal relationships?" distinctive I have been in the Lindisfarne you page appear discussing feel that at this point an already strained parallel may and Shang bronzes breaks Insular manuscripts between down. To defend the parallel by turning to other pages be possible but beside inwhich humans do appear would in fact is to notice that humans the point; what matters a in decoration. role bronze Shang negligible play are known; at most only a of Shang bronzes Thousands few dozen have human figures or faces in their decora tion; and most of those few are provincial castings from with scholars who the of interpretations iconographie attempted a few has Professor treated bronzes, provincial Chang at large items as though they were typical of the bronzes are the only ones that are even re because they simply to the sort of interpretation he wishes amenable motely on in to propose. man-animal relationships By insisting one solid piece of the is bronzes he disregarding Shang the bronze designs offer us: if Shang information which at all about Shang religion, tell us anything bronzes they was different tell us that religion in the Changjiang region from religion at Anyang.7 about the bronzes does Profes In none of his writings to the possi sor Chang consideration extended give any mean no had bronze decoration the symbolic bility that must had have the decoration that ing; he is convinced convic his which underlie Two propositions meaning. for most of the scholars tion deserve particular attention, seem to to Shang decoration attribute meaning who them self-evident. agree with him in finding be no reason is that there would The first proposition were not being an object if the decoration to decorate the Changjiang have i6 region. Like many other used to convey symbolic meaning. Why would Shang on decorated bronzes if the dec aristocrats spend money oration had no meaning? What purpose could decoration serve if not to convey meaning? Professor possibly to imagine another purpose is unable for it. No Chang one would to make invest time, energy, and money as "art for art's this he dismisses "mere decoration"; sake." Nothing but symbolic existence of decoration. meaning could explain the is that when The second point he finds self-evident decoration the decoration appears on religious utensils, must refer to the religion. Since Shang bronzes were for religious purposes, their decoration must have made content. religious I believe of Kells would that the painter of the Book not have found either of these propositions self-evident. he have been would Certainly by the expres puzzled sion "art for art's sake"; but he would have been equally saw "mere decoration"?he by the expression puzzled were mere to I about decoration. type nothing Suppose out the words "Christi autem generado": my typed ver sion would that the Book of Kells version say everything one for Kells version says that this says except thing?the occurrence for fireworks. of Christ's name is an occasion are an incom thinks that fireworks of the Book but the maker of money, prehensible were ef that worth of Kells they thought superhuman had no symbolic fort. Suggesting that Shang decoration to saying that Shang bronzes content is not equivalent Professor were art Chang waste for art's sake.8 on religi that the decoration The second assumption, ous objects must contain religious if symbols, applied to seem to mean that dogs and would Insular manuscripts are Christian Or birds and Celtic whirligigs symbols. an from utensils than rather consider religious example books: as a loose Christian parallel to Shang ritual vessels we might take a group of late medieval objects from the ear a church of Swedish treasury (Fig. 10). Imentioned decoration has commonly been lier that in the West the object at the rather than animal-based; plant-based far right in Figure 10 supplies an instance. It is a reliquary a bone from the forearm of St. Bridget, and containing sorts of leaves, including on it are vines with various in For com the lowest register a vine with half-palmettes. I illustrate in Figure 11 a bronze image from the parison same vine with on which the altar of a Buddhist temple half-palmettes decorates the mandorla behind the head of aBuddhist deity. is an imaginary very long plant whose palmette can be traced back to the Greek vase of Figure 12 history that. The half-pal and indeed a thousand years beyond 11 is Buddhist while the one in mette scroll in Figure were 10 is Christian, lifted out of but if they Figure one a hard time deciding which context we would have The belongs to which religion. It is regularly said that Shang io. Part of the silver treasure from Museum of National Cathedral. Link?ping Fig. at right are Swedish, two reliquaries The Stockholm. 15th century. After Kienoder historia (Uppsala, 1984), p. 131. Antiquities, ur ?ldre svensk 12. Athenian vase Ca. (red-figure Fig. kalpis). cm. The Arthur M. Harvard Sackler Museum, Museums. Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins 500 b.c. Height Art University (accession 38 no. 1972.40). Fig. 11. Detail of bronze triad, H?ry?ji, Nara. A.D. 623. After A Pictorial Encyclopedia of theOriental Arts, Japan, Volume 1 (New York, 1969), gravure plate 57. 17 for use in religious ceremonies bronzes were made and that their decoration therefore must have a religious con as is put forward tent, must refer to the religion. This were not it it is but If self-evident. self-evident, though to to refers this decoration needs Shang Shang religion, it cannot simply be assumed. The re be demonstrated, 10was made of silver and gold to show liquary in Figure on it for the and it has decoration that itwas important, was to declare that the ob same reason. What mattered was no ordinary bone; gold and palmette ject it contained to say that. Compare standard ways the scrolls were a with less Kells Chi-rho page (Fig. 3) slightly spectacular initial from the Book of Kells (Fig. 4). The initial in for itwas the occasion Figure less important. I said at the beginning of this paper that my reason for was Insular that they have in manuscripts discussing a decorative common bronzes with vocabulary Shang is animal-based, and this was indeed one of my which reasons for choosing for them. But I had another motive 4 is less spectacular because of and the Book you the Lindisfarne showing Gospels I hoped that, like me, you would find them irresis Kells. to be persuaded that their beauty could not tible enough as an accidental have come into being merely byproduct was to these essential of some other concern. Beauty won assent of the the beauty holy objects: miraculous to everything stood for, and itwas emotions the books supplied by decoration. can thus have a function far more Decoration impor tant than the conveyance but un of symbolic meaning, it difficult the taste of our own time has made fortunately Since the Middle for us to take this function seriously. esteem? low into has fallen decoration very Ages in our day to an all-time low. At the turn of the perhaps century the architect Adolf Loos declared (Ihope with is crime," and though tongue in cheek) that "ornament in their choice charitable have been more other writers is at best superflu of words, that decoration the suspicion to wonder ous has led many it exists at observers why we must the past, however, all. If we are to understand an effort to escape from the values of Adolf Loos make and his spiritual heirs in the International style. At one our failure to under point in her book Dr. Allan deplores we have failed because stand Shang bronzes; perhaps less to us than it did to Shang kings. decoration matters that decoration We should at least consider the possibility was valued by the owners of Shang bronzes not because it said about their religion but because of what of what is the visible sign it said about their bronzes. Decoration and the visible sign that the that an object is important, is of the possessor object important.9 ani the bronze vessels were decorated with Perhaps cross was mals for the same reason that the Lindisfarne decorated with animals; perhaps religious content or sig itself but only in the nificance lay not in the decoration 18 cross or the vessel to which itwas applied (after all itwas were the vessel tied to specific presumably shapes that ritual functions).10 Generation after generation, scholars have racked their brains over one or two cryptic occur rences of the word taotie in Eastern Zhou texts, hoping to find in a few obscure phrases the key to the symbolism texts are fairly clear about the of the bronzes. But Zhou of the bronzes. The texts tell us that amar symbolism was a to certain entitled number of ding and gui quis was a a to duke entitled different and so vessels, number, the texts don't tell us is that amarquis used this on; what a duke used that kind. Eastern Zhou kind of decoration, bronzes were symbols but there is little reason to believe that their symbolism resided in their decoration. Perhaps the same is true of Shang. The ceremonial presentation an art of lavish of sacrifices may simply have required and awesome display.11 as This conclusion strikes many observers disappoint conviction The that ingly pedestrian. persists mysteries are locked within on the bronzes. David the decoration relates amuch-quoted story about a colleague Keightley who told him, "If you don't understand the taotie, you cannot understand the Shang."12 What is precisely Professor troubling Keightley's colleague? Perhaps he taotie was in "The only means obviously important and if you don't know why, then your religion, " is incomplete. If so, then he is of Shang I have with the kind of symbolic meaning a But perhaps he is expressing been discussing. larger For some writers the word dissatisfaction. "meaning" and vaguer embraces broader than any I phenomena for them the bronze decoration must have yet discussed; its way into the that works carry some sort of content or not. In other it whether the designer plans designs or the or the the Shang world words, Shang mentality in itself expresses automatically Shang Shang Zeitgeist is somehow distilled the essence of Shang decoration; into the bronzes. invokes a rationale of this Sarah Allan kind in support of her reading of the bronze decoration. are the material artifacts She writes: "Archaeological of that thought manifestations [i.e. Shang religious or 'mythic' "In she And primitive explains: thought]."13 as I art, ritual, divi societies, prefer to call them, myth, are all manifestations of nation, sacrifice, and cosmology an integral belief from the system, generated directly Shang knowledge concerned from the rather than secondarily structure, religious is written records."14 In other words, religious thinking art is epipheno art is generated from and it, primary menal. an almost mystical to positing this is equivalent as uninformative of culture, something unity Hegelian to Insular manu as it is difficult to disprove. Transferred would be saying, "If Professor story Keightley's scripts and these don't understand birds, you cannot you dogs i and 3: the asser the Irish." Look at Figures understand But tion that art is amanifestation of an integral belief system of does not take us very far toward an understanding as amanifestation of these pages. If art is to be explained a belief system, why do we see animal interlace on pagan do we find palmette and Christian artifacts? Why scrolls on Buddhist and Christian and classical Greek objects? can indeed be connected with Decoration religion, but to postulate at the outset of the form of the connection our studies is to the case and limit the scope of prejudge our contexts In well such as documented inquiries. art we would medieval Christian be hard put to demon strate an inflexible one-way causal relationship between art. The forms of and the thought religious religious statement that objects are material manifestations of be lief systems implausibly makes visual forms wholly de on beliefs without mechanism any suggesting pendent for translating beliefs into visual form. serves Dr. In practice this rather abstract formulation Allan simply as a restatement of K. C. Chang's assump on religious utensils must have tion that the decoration an it provides content; religious encouraging point of a content for of study of the mythological departure in advance that such Shang decoration by guaranteeing content is present. Like other interpreters, Dr. Allan finds content mainly in Anyang bronzes, where mythological it not so much she is able to decipher because Shang a key to it as because it is conveyed documents provide such by what Dr. Allan calls "natural symbols"?motifs as snakes, cicadas, owls, and are These motifs dragons. to have meanings arise from which natural presumed and obvious associations with the actual animals and are therefore universal. which For example: "Snakes are a universal motif art. They may live inwater in primitive or burrow beneath the ground, and slough hibernate, their skins in the spring; thus, they are a natural symbol or rebirth."15 of transformation In other words, Dr. Allan assumes to us that Shang decoration is intelligible because it speaks through a vocabulary of universal sym bols. Ifind this assumption for at least three unpersuasive reasons. that an interpretation First, suppose along these lines were correct: it could not be very informative. If the are of is the the bronzes universal, language designs why are else in unique? Shang bronzes quite unlike anything the world, but Dr. Allan talks about them only in terms of "natural symbols" and "the principles of mythological art everywhere." is a generic This of interpretation art. to art. It is blind the of distinctiveness generic Shang the bronze motifs could be natural symbols Second, were to creatures only if it possible identify them with that exist in nature. Dr. Allan is concerned with the are a not of snakes because snakes meaning particularly common in Shang art but because motif interpreting as natural symbols them as dragons requires classifying as at snakes least But what is snake-like (or reptiles). we have the creature in Figure 22? For convenience a we should not to call that motif but dragon, to it is enough that the name we have given suppose we it a member of the class Reptilia. Whatever make in nature choose to call it, it does not resemble anything can no more be a natural than the and hence symbol taotie. Itmight be argued that a few taotie can be associated animals on the strength of horns bor with recognizable rowed from a ram or a buffalo, but it seems more impor tant to observe of taotie conspicu that the vast majority a real animal: ously lack any such reference to particular that we recog taotie are so unspecific the horns of most nize them as horns only because of their location on top of the head (the horns in Figure 21 would be taken for ears if they were moved to the side of the head).16 Any on linking the bronze dec interpretation which depends oration with animals is irrelevant to an orna real-world of whose animals are imaginary.17 mental system most am I of the idea of natural whole Finally, skeptical we can term The "natural symbols. symbol" implies that on certain motifs to have fixed, self-evi confidently rely dent meanings, but if we test this notion against works our con is well documented of art whose symbolism that birds are a fidence will collapse. We might propose of heaven and that dogs are a natural natural symbol symbol of the earth and that the interlace of birds and on the Lindisfarne carpet page therefore signifies dogs communication heaven and earth, but no between a medievalist would be impressed; knows medievalist all sorts of things (a fish can signify that birds can mean a human soul, it can even signify Christ). Iconographers art have a wealth of written evi who study Christian at their and dence written evidence makes disposal, for it reveals all too clearly very difficult, iconography and shifting meanings of symbols. But the complex written evidence also makes To iconography possible. or do iconography (which by ethnographic analogy comes to the same the existence of thing) by postulating about decided to indulge in free associa is merely "natural symbols" never produce tion. Ethnographic will analogy anything reason that the but universal for the symbols, simple it can only tell us to analogy presupposes universality: assume that a given motif a certain has always meaning, no matter where we encounter it.18And no art historian too well will assume that, because he knows that mean come and go. All Christian as non out art started ings art. Christian century Shang bronzes have been a ink blot onto which scholars have their intellectual The bronzes projected preoccupations. are ideal for the purpose because we have so little hard information about them. We know far more about we do about than but confi Christianity Shang religion, dent interpreters will tell us much more about Shang venture to say than would medievalist any iconography In the twentieth sort of Rorschach 19 13. Detail Fig. Panlongcheng. of Ca. the decoration 15th century on b.c. a ding from Hubei of vessel Height Huangpi 54 cm. After Ch?ka Jimmin Ky?wakoku kodai seid?ki ten (Tokyo, 1976), no. 4. about Insular interlace. In the 1940s scholars already be a universal lieved that the bronzes lan spoke symbolic in sex but the the bronzes about and 1940s guage, spoke Freud and Frazer. Today fertility, they speak about shamanism I cannot guess what and mythology. they will say to the next generation, but I am sure that what to change as as their they say will continue long interpret ers are to an art in what historian would engage willing call iconography texts. without Yet we do not have quite the same excuse for interpre tive license that scholars a generation ago enjoyed. Ar has not merely it has chaeology given us more bronzes, us and bronzes bronzes, given pre-Anyang pre-Anyang for iconographers. To speak of pose special problems and case of the birds natural and in the tigers symbols 20 seems of bronze to difficult Anyang Figure enough; so discover natural symbols con in a design tenuously nected with nature as the pre-Anyang taotie of Figure 13 is surely impossible. On the subject of pre-Anyang de Dr. Allan's is somewhat When signs position equivocal. she addresses them specifically she seems to suggest that than impress the viewer with a sense of they do no more But when she speaks of Shang bronzes in gen mystery. to the early bronzes the same mean eral, she attributes all the meanings bronzes: ings she has found in Anyang are somehow in Anyang visible bronzes latent in the earlier ones. This is methodologically very risky. Let me propose a that barbarian invasions thought experiment. Suppose or disease had the civilization epidemic brought Shang to an it off the face of the earth?a decade end?wiped before the Anyang was no that there period. Suppose the bronze shown in Figure 20 Anyang period. Then would We still would have thousands of Shang go away. 20 Fig. b.c. 14. Jue Courtesy from Hubei of Higuchi Huangpi Panlongcheng. Ca. 15th century Takayasu. to study, but they would bronzes all be Erligang-phase bronzes. and Panlongcheng would be the Zhengzhou and our problem type sites of the Shang civilization, would be to understand the decoration of bronzes like those shown in Figures 13-19. How would we react to those bronzes?typical bronzes?if Erligang-phase they were the only Chinese bronzes we had ever seen? Dr. Allan writes: "The themes are those of death and transformation and the world of the beyond: the taotie which is made up of animals and humans used in sac a passage its open mouth, to the other world, rifice, or we If knew eating killing."19 only pre-Anyang bronzes such as the jue of Figure carries one 14, which of the simplest versions we of the taotie, what would make of such a statement? to Is it possible that imagine some caster or patron devised that design it because seemed to him a natural way of giving visual expression to ideas of death and sacrifice? of the 15 shows one of the simplest versions Figure a no interpreter would that be likely to dragon, design a swarm 16 shows describe as a natural symbol. Figure are of things which might be dragons but which perhaps more In Figures 17, 18, and 19 the likely to be squiggles. ismore elaborate, but it is no more obviously decoration or shamanistic in content. If Professor mythological to how bronzes he would had these Chang only study, as I know As far talk about man-beast relationships? a human bronze with there is no Erligang-phase image on it. in mind consider And with Erligang-phase examples the following characterization the bronzes: of general on "Not only are the motifs Shang bronzes continually are to allusions their however, transformed, primary of and the under sacrifice, watery state?eating changes of the dead, the dragon which is also a bird, the world from the earth, snakes cicada which emerges winged which which their deer shed their antlers, skins, slough on real animals, its emphasis etc." With and activity, seem me a not to continual this does transformation, very Fig. b.c. ten Fig. 16. Pan rubbing from Zhengzhou, of decoration. Ca. b.c. Diameter century Kanan-sh? Hakubutsukan pi. 54; Shang (Beijing, Zhou 1984), 15. Jia Height (Tokyo, apt description from Hubei of Anyang bronzes; Ca. Huangpi Panlongcheng. cm. After ChilkaJimmin Ky?wakoku 1976), no. 2. 30.1 how is it to 14th century kodai seid?ki with 14th 30 cm. After 1983), (Tokyo, wenshi qingtongqi no. 707. 21 17. Zun. Ca. Fig. the Royal Ontario b.c. Height 34.9 cm. Courtesy 14th century no. 954.136.2). Toronto Museum, (accession of 18. Jue. Ca. Fig. Asian Collection, B60B723). Courtesy b.c. 18 Height of San Francisco 14th century Art Museum of the Asian Art Museum cm. Avery Brundage no. (accession of San Francisco. Fig. 19. Gui from Hubei Huangpi Panlong of decoration. rubbing cheng, with b.c. Ca. 17.4 14th century Height cm. After R. W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in theArthurM. SacklerCollections (Cambridge, Mass., 22 1987), fig. 214. Fig. Fig. 20. Fang yi. Ca. cm. The Arthur M. 12th century Sackler University Art Museums. Winthrop (accession no. b.c. Museum, Bequest Height Harvard 29.8 of Grenville L. 1943.52.109). Photograph by Michael Nedzweski. the animals itmen bronzes, where apply to pre-Anyang tions do not appear?20 we knew If we had never seen an Anyang bronze?if we the of the centuries bronzes ?would only preceding ever have arrived at such a I I doubt and it, description? believe that this is a serious criticism. No in symbolic of the bronzes has yet come to terms with terpretation their instead been have history. Symbolic meanings read into bronzes and then routinely Anyang extrapo lated back to pre-Anyang bronzes. The procedure is a the result is misfit the between questionable, glaring and the objects. Erligang-phase bronzes interpretation are not a were marginal phenomenon; they produced over a vast area for several centuries. An interpretation of Shang bronzes which must strain to accommodate to be right. them is unlikely Let me conclude by returning for amoment to animal I have used the decoration interlace. of Insular manu to possibilities that I believe we scripts to draw attention as we try to understand should consider Shang decora are not inter tion. But the animals on Shang bronzes an laced. Interlace in China is Eastern Zhou phenome between China and medieval non, and my comparisons 2i. Detail Fig. of taotie on 22. Detail the fang of dragon yi of Figure on the fang 20. Photograph yi of Figure by Michael Nedzwcski. 20. Photo graph by Michael Nedzweski. Britain would have been much closer if I had used East ern Zhou rather than Shang objects. Regular interlace from the Book of Kells has counterparts in fifth-century China (Figs. 5, 25), and in the same period we could also find a few examples of irregular interlace (Fig. 26) to the Kells initial of Figure 4. The parallels compare with are in some ways so close that Insular analogies with seem more a on to relevant manuscripts might colloquy the meaning of Eastern Zhou decoration than to the be objected that Eastern Zhou present one. And itmight are too different from designs Shang designs for the same to be applicable to both? considerations about meaning to use Eastern though scholars have been quite willing texts to prove things about the Zhou of Shang meaning designs. But ifwe feel that the problem of meaning in Eastern Zhou decoration is not the same as the problem of mean then we should explore that ing in Shang decoration, feeling, because it is an important fact of artistic psychol to the we are it is a part of our reaction ogy: designs are interlaced less in confronting. 25) Why dragons (Fig. need of interpretation than uninterlaced dragons (Fig. us in some cases but not in is it that prompts 22)? What 23 Fig. b.c. Fig. 23. Hu. Ca. 480 Height Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian D.c. no. 57.22). (accession 44.8 cm. Courtesy Institution, of 24. Detail of taotie on the hu of Figure 23. Author's photograph. the Washington, Fig. B.c. 26. Silvered Length bronze 34 cm. After and sheath. 5th century dagger The Frederick M. Mayer Collection ofChinese Art (London, Christie Manson & Woods Ltd., sale of 24-25 June 1974), P- 343 Cot 2I1) Fig. 25. Detail 24 of dragons on the hu of Figure 23. Author's photograph. itmean?" Yet since we all feel the effect regardless of our views about the presence or absence of symbolic mean the design ing, the effect must not depend on meaning: to suppose is visually compelling. Is it so unreasonable that the visual power we feel is precisely what the bronze to demand an explanation in terms of symbolic 21 and 24 are the same, in The motifs Figures meaning? it is only the taotie in Figure 21 which but somehow cries one out to be interpreted. Certainly is design compelling in away that the other is not, and our twentieth-century to that effect is to ask "What does response compelling others caster and his patron Notes never taotie carry felt and valued To designs. a make and sought? i. Good are with references excellent color illustrations general The Lindisfarne Phaidon, Janet Backhouse, (Oxford, 1981) Gospels and Fran?oise The Book of Kells Thames and Hud Henry, (London, son, 1974). 2. The American a clearer of the illustration flag might provide to draw between I am attempting distinction encoded meanings and attached meanings "symbolic present The stars on by Act a new after the fact (some authors and meaning" I use paper and "significance," the word "meaning" states: represent and it influences the flag of Congress, state enters the two as distinguish in the remainder of the sense in the former this is an encoded meaning, of the flag only). fixed the appearance (when to the flag is redesigned incorporate to remind another viewers informed star). The flag serves not only of encoded but also as a focus for any viewer's however, meanings, or sentiments to about the United States?ardent patriotism hostility as the case may American be. These sentiments attached imperialism are the meanings in the mind of the average uppermost probably but they are in no way in the design embedded of the flag; viewer, attach they would what makes into the function 3. The reminder for to chose Congress words, woven the union designate the flag its design Congress adoption that motifs instance even to whatever the equally well design as the of the States. In other United flag themselves a powerful the meanings it. has assigned but is not symbol onto projected any meaning it because of of pagan motifs and meanings if we could art is an by Christian important are not linked. Thus indissolubly on establish that the face-like motifs we would of the Shang not taotie motif, Liangzhu jades are ancestors to conclude be entitled that Liangzhu and Shang had religion religion ideas or beliefs in common; if animal in seventh-century interlace can Britain in completely different appear few miles and decades apart, we certainly across the much tinuity of religious meaning that religious cannot greater bronzes. contexts assume only any con a time and distance volume like the Liangzhu two faces, includes (which ences are so essential that remotely motif one in its most human and one elaborate incarnation the differ animal); is hardly the two the Liangzhu hand, an between equation on the other In its sketchiest versions, possible. motif does indeed resemble the earliest versions of at this extreme of than a pair of eyes, on centered paired the taotie; but since to much more amounts neither motif simplicity the resemblance could well be fortuitous?designs invented eyes are a commonplace, independently in many in the parts of the world (see Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Harvard Press, 1987, p. 49, University n. 47). It be added that while seems to have the Liangzhu motif might a with the cong shape (Liangzhu cong never occur special connection without it), cong are rare among Shang jades, and Shang examples would the that did not arise by of resemblance much less points identifying Li (or it would cited by Dr. require much than exists at present evidence of a Liangzhu stronger archaeological to contribution To decide then whether the motifs culture). Shang meant the same thing would of a kind we are call for evidence unlikely ever to have. than equivocal require those and Ritual 4. K. C. Chang, Art, Myth, Press, (Harvard University 61. Professor ideas about the meaning of Shang Chang's are in this book and in his article "The presented 'Meaning' of Shang Bronze Art" 1990, pp. 8-17). The pass (Asian Art, Spring as the to 6 of Sarah Allan's The age I quote appears epigraph chapter 1983), p. decoration Shape of the Turtle:Myth, Art and Cosmos in Shang Dynasty China (Albany, SUNY Press, 1991). Although in the present paper I refer explicitly only to the views of Professor Chang are very widely comments are meant to examine Iwish assumptions will be understood that my to all of Shang decoration. symbolic interpretations are made in the course of a wide-ranging points of and Dr. held, to the Allan, and I hope it apply generally Some of the same of discussion the taotie by Ladislav Kesner 51, 1991, pp. (Artibus Asiae Dr. Kesner's to collect my on 29-53); paper has helped me thoughts to him for these issues, me and I am grateful to read it in allowing on drafts of my For comments I should manuscript. paper helpful also like to express my toWilliam Brendan Boltz, gratitude Cassidy, meaning Avi Alain Landau, Thote. the Lothar Ledderose, Jessica Rawson, Elizabeth Sears, and 5. The to prove many schemes Liangzhu jades from (In the present Shang David Li Xueqin [i.e. the Percival Colloquy proceedings] was writes: "When the taotie motif in the Shang from pre inherited a case of not historic it was an artistic times, simply continuing but one of inheriting beliefs and myths." But how does he tradition, know of meaning, it is far this?) Moreover, leaving aside the question from certain that the motifs taotie looks per se are related. No Shang separate chance case convincing similarities between Liangzhu and Shang motifs William unity which in the bronze takes regularities decoration argument are at work that iconographie common is prescriptions for instance, took his classification guises. Bernhard Karlgren, to reflect Watson of design in of a lost iconographie and system, that "the extraordinary generally speculates evolution" in the bronzes must logic of stylistic the dictates more and reflect ritual requirements (The Art of Dynastic China, New York, sort of art or artifact could not by this argu to carry symbolic of design and meaning? "Unity are no more evolution" in Shang logic extraordinary bronzes than in Detroit it follow does that the design automobiles; a of Detroit is governed automobiles code? by symbolic 6. Professor connects bilateral in Shang decora Chang symmetry tion with his theory of "dualistic a in phenomena" Shang society, on of A and B styles in Shang theory modeled Karlgren's theory decoration and Ritual, and "Some Dualistic (see Art, Myth, pp. 76-8, " in Shang Phenomena Studies, November Society, fournal of Asian dualistic include among other 1964, pp. 45-61). Chang's phenomena 1981, ment p. 43). But be proved of stylistic things Karlgren's and New Schools what styles and Dong of divination Zuobin's ritual. alternation I am inclined between to doubt Old the existence of all the supposed dualisms. man-beast 7. Professor Chang emphasizes he believes that the bronze decoration because relationships a is shamanistic in content: are the shaman's is a shaman, animals This figure helpers. in rests on dubi and Ritual, 4 of Art, Myth, theory, presented chapter ous and tendentious of late Zhou ethnographic analogies readings texts. A broader and Han statement of the theory, according to which human 25 shamanism america is a palaeolithic in a "Maya-China inheritance continuum," to in the epilogue the fourth edition of Chang's book The Archaeology ofAncient China Press, (Yale University 8. In a recent essay were "art for art's the bronzes that the view Chang rejects explicitly Ancient Chinese sake" (inW. T. Chase, Sacral Vessel, New 1991, p. 17). York, no one has ever held: no one would the Precious Casting is surely a view which that the bronzes propose Art: Bronze But 1986). Professor this seriously or for disinterested designed that visual follow, however, of the bronzes. and users not have been may were consciously certainly effects were aesthetic for museums made objects contemplation. oration its use which for rationale 10. This should of dec the function describes 1979), which in chapter (but which I find less persuasive). be amplified. perhaps Phaidon, (Oxford, terms in similar 10 adds Shape of the Turtle, of identification that combines a the Percival David connect p. 163. the taotie motif concrete with with an oracle the element yang "sheep" pair of eyes with on this on the to since it depends objection ground, taotie carry sheep's small number of bronzes whose comparatively in the present In support Tao of Ding's horns. Wang suggestion, bone graph is vulnerable [i.e. cites a vessel proceedings] as as I far the only is, know, taotie has horns those of a resembling Colloquy which with connection any essential sheep, to be unnecessary; taotie with the attributes of ought to be the rule, not the exception. sheep ought are not fact that the taotie and dragon 17. The straightforward is sometimes of real animals acknowledged by describing depictions citing pursued. I cannot which Zhengzhou Baijiazhuang bronze whose Erligang-phase if the taotie had real animal. Yet to the makers unimportant as elsewhere, In Shang China aesthetic as an end in themselves, but they pursued 9. On this point I am indebted to Ernst Gombrich's The Sense of Order The Shan's from were effects objects. 15. Allan, 16. Ding volume not It does of a formulation test the validity and Meso China uniting is found examples them as composites, but this description is justified neither by their a Freudian I am analogy decora the bronze The is a If a taotie with buffalo horns by their origin. a buffalo is the animal that has been combined with nor appearance what point the cross, the bronze vessel with equates the cross; in each case, I suggest, that decorates the interlace or cross) to underline was to the the decoration (vessel object applied to contribute not Alterna additional its significance, significance. we as several the taotie readers have equate might suggested, tively, be a prime the taotie would the cross; on that analogy with religious to embellish decoration of the bronze the remainder serving symbol, composite, term "animal toWestern to is appropriate it? The produce composite" motifs like sphinxes, and griffins: combi these are unreal chimaeras, nations of perfectly real animals, made The by piecemeal assembly. came into animals of bronze decoration Shang being principal same way the Lindisfarne embellishes interlace that animal I find this latter analogy (it draws unconvincing Although which the taotie and the rest of the decoration between distinction rather though analogy, of its meaning), motif and Dr. Allan relies heavily (and presumably on such arguments "As K. has C. 154: observed, p. Chang (compare as a occurs in many of pass cultures the open animal mouth symbol pursuing tion with it in the a cross. seems to justify), it is not of actual bronzes in the appearance as I two to merits of the the Instead, argue my analogies. purpose a in the I have chosen stated at the outset, analogy chiefly particular nothing hope of making more carried intelligible the suggestion that the bronzes for reasons decoration unconnected with programs. I do not see symbolic is correct but of analogy I cannot that my choice prove to be incorrect. it can be shown evidence that on present 11. 0? course de of the bronzes this or any other interpretation were on context in which the bronzes the about assumptions pends were for whom de in other words about the audience used, they as assertions we of of the bronze vessels If instance think for signed. to ask toward whom the assertion it is important the king's power, we read that the designs were meant to terrify the directed; when we must common the common ask whether into submission, people as ever saw them. And when we think of the bronzes religious people was art we of applying the word the danger our of understanding everyday Shang comes and such as Christianity from missionary religions to all strata of society, and their doctrines which address should "religion" the word Buddhism, we cannot in mind bear always to ancestral cults: the bronze that the cult which take it for granted employed vessels had similar artistic needs. We know very little about were inwhich used, but they certainly were Shang bronzes statements obelisks in that Egyptian the way Press, 128. p. 1978), The Shape The Shape 14. Allan, use Claude L?vi-Strauss's 13. Allan, See in myths'"). generated structure ing art forms 20 also which directly " Whether mythology. not ing, it is process (see Bagley, imaginative Shang sections 1.4-1.6). at note 15 invokes ethnographic quoted in of the universality of the support distantly, But what age to the other world"). to determine cross-cultural analogy justification the symbolic can there be for using of motifs? meanings or "so- called tribal societies the iconographer's purposes primi are a more tive peoples the world" (p. 126) appealing throughout source of analogies for Bronze than, say, Old Kingdom Age China turn to cultures whose is perhaps that once we the reason Egypt, If for we of natural the notion know about, something actually one would absurd. No becomes propose seriously patently symbols as snakes mean art must in the same in Shang that snakes thing no one would art (not to mention Christian art). And Egyptian art sort of carefree to interpret attempt ethnography by the Egyptian of Shang art (for an extreme of interpreters that has been the mainstay see recent of the 'T'ao-t'ieh, "The Meaning Jordan Paper's example to avoid It is difficult 1978, pp. 18-41). August History of Religions, symbolism the suspicion are bolism that ethnographically-based one more manifestation simply theories of of universal the sym condescending ethnocentrism described by Sally Price in Primitive Art in Western Places Civilized 19. Allan, 20. Allan, Dr. mation" of Chicago Press, 1989). of the Turtle, p. 170. transfor The Shape of the Turtle, p. 131. By "continual seems to mean in design that the taotie varies from Allan (University The Shape sense is in this peculiar "transformation" same line of reason to the motifs; property Shang by special hardly we else in art) scrolls that vine could argue (or almost anything ing to of state. allude changes of Chinese Art The Percival David Foundation Editorialnote: one to the next, bronze but a 12. David Keightley, religious and pyramids were. California Turtle, the setting not public and temples an different entirely through Ritual Bronzes, introduction, on snakes 18. The passage clear from from (University of Sources of Shang History p. 137, quoted in Allan, The of Shape the 12. of the Turtle, p. "To continues: the 14 Turtle, p. (the passage of 'think in such societies, people expression, sense derives from the same p. 130: "Their generates mythology, that structure rather but than the Shang people thought casters would to me how bronze religious structures, and the art forms are from the derived or inwrit inmyths about go generat I do not know how the published article was written: has Bronzes on Art and Archaeology in Asia no. 15), Rod erickWhitfield editor, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Copies can be obtained from the Publications Officer, School of Oriental London to (Colloquies for which Professor volume Bagley's colloquy in Early Chinese Ritual The Problem of Meaning and African wcih oxg, Studies, Thornhaugh United Kingdom. Street, Russell Square,

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Running head: ART HISTORY; ARTICLE SUMMARY

Art history; article summary
Author
Institution

1

ART HISTORY; ARTICLE SUMMARY

2

Art is something that is created with a broad imagination and skill, which is beautiful and
expresses important ideas and feelings. It may be in form of paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Symbolism is the use of words or an object to represent a different meaning.
The Shang era is also known as the bronze age of China, as bronze was mostly used to
make weapons, part of chariots and ritual vessels. This brings me to the Shang decoration, and
whether there was any symbolic meaning attached to the Shang bronze. To have a better
understanding of this analogy, let’s briefly look at decorations and question of meaning in other
religious context. I will take into consideration two famous insular manuscripts of the gospel, the
Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells. . I will use the chosen insular manuscripts to compare
with Shang bronzes, because in both cases the decoration is derived from the animals
In the Lindisfarne book, there contains a decorated cross. Differently decorated crosses
face the beginnings of each book of the gospel. On one of the decorations, the animals visible are
interlaced birds and dogs. Interlace designs are two dimensional configurations with an implied
third dimension, and are not easy to disentangle .For each of the four Gospels, there are different
crosses ,worked out in different designs. So, is there any meaning ...

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