Archaic to Present Ritual Bronze Forms
In China, rituals were an important aspect of formal and informal life. Many of the most striking examples of the importance of ritual in Chinese art are found in objects. Such as jade forms included as part of a burial ceremony during the Shang and earlier periods and ancient bronze cooking and wine vessels.
Many of these designs were used in later periods in China to create works of art that hinted at their ancient, ritual origins but were most often decorative and devoid of any ritual significance. One of these Chinese ritual wine vessels was the gu, a trumpet-shaped form that incorporated stylized animals and bands of angular decorative elements.
Later versions of the gu, such as this 18th century cloisonne example were made for someone who understood the ancient bronze source, but appreciated the complexity and beauty of the brightly colored interpretation in cloisonne.
Modern interpretations, such as this silver example, hint at the earlier importance of ritual in the use of a precious metal. Celebrating an archaic Chinese ritual form in a luxurious way.
This Chinese Buddhist “water and land deliverance” ritual painting shows the cycle of redemption and rebirth of death and reincarnation. In this example, a female deity with attendants stands among pastel clouds in an etherial heavenly landscape. The viewer is taken from the temporal to the eternal, and in contemplation would be transported beyond the many challenges of daily life in a reflection upon eternity. With a miniature mountain representing the earth below.
Ancestral portraiture is an important part of Chinese funerary traditions. Individuals commissioned their ancestors portraits, worshipped and cared for these objects for both self serving, and pious purposes. The belief is that one’s ancestors still influence your life. Though no longer living, their worship will bring longevity, financial success, and other benefits. Below is one such ancestral painting. These objects have both cultural and historic importance. Through them we see what silks, rugs, furniture, and jewelry were considered important.
Ritual is important to all cultures, but particularly so to China. Ritual objects and paintings enabled the participant to more fully comprehend the significance of the ideas being communicated, in the past and in the present. And they give us a window into an ancient world with different ideals, and a unique culture.
For more information on Ancestral Portraits:
For more information on Bronze Censers and Mythical Animals: