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Arts of China: Tomb of Liu Sheng and Dou Wan Jade Suits Analytical Essay


There is no use denying the fact that art could be taken as an integral part of human society. The thing is that it has always been moving along with humanity, helping it to express various feelings and emotions and making people more inspired and happy at the same time. Traditionally, art has also been taken as the thing that reflected the dominant moods and beliefs peculiar to the society at a certain period of time.

Being inspired by any idea or feeling, artist always wants to embody it and, that is why, art could be also taken as the remedy which serves to show all emotions of one generation to another.

With this in mind, it is possible to say that looking at a certain masterpiece, the idea about the epoch when it was created comes in mind. Besides, resting on these facts, it is possible to assume that the analysis of artworks created in China can help to obtain the vision of the main tendencies of its society, concepts of beauty and tools used in a certain period of time.

Nevertheless, it is possible to say that Chinese culture can be taken as the unique phenomenon that has no similarities with some other cultures. The thing is, that due to some peculiarities of the development of its state, China did not have contacts with European cultures. It was a kind of closed country with its beliefs and peculiarities of social structure.

Additionally, the absence of cultural interchange with the countries that had some other culture led to the appearance and development of Chinese unique lifestyle. That is why, it is quite obvious that this very culture had a great impact on the development of unique style in art that helped to express peculiarities of ancient Chinese feelings and beliefs. Moreover, due to this fact masterpieces of ancient China are of a great importance for the worlds culture as their analysis helps to add some information to the image of China.

Analyzing the art and culture of ancient China, it is possible to say that there were several factors that had a great impact on the development of these phenomena. First of all, it should be said that the period that is associated with the blistering development of arts in China is connected with the rule of Qin and Han dynasties. The Chinese state of that period of time had a ruler with the unlimited power, who tried to unite the state and protect it from some outer threats.

It is obvious that existence of one ruler meant that China was the totalitarian state with a class divided society in which noble people played the important role while the rest of population served them. These peculiarities were embodied in the ancient art of China. Very often, only some noble people were depicted (William 3). However, one should not also forget such aspect of culture as religion and the impact it had on the development of Chinese art (Sullivan 23).

The thing is that according to the ancient Chinese beliefs the soul of a person was immortal and it had to be protected in order to continue its existence. Moreover, in accordance with this very belief, every human being had two souls. These souls were flesh-soul and breath-soul (Priestley 2). When a person died, breath soul escaped the body of a person and went away while the flesh soul remained in it.

Thus, flesh soul was taken as very evil and dangerous, that was why some container to protect people and breath soul from the danger was needed.

Taking into account the role which the ruler of a state played in China and the ideology that was cultivated among population of a state, it is possible to say that creation of these containers for rulers became a certain kind of art that had been developing along with Chinese society and resulted in the creation of unique kinds of containers for body and soul of ancient rulers known as jade burial suits.

Being the reflection of unique ancient art, these suits should obviously be analyzed as this analysis could help to understand peculiarities of ancient China better.

However, before the analysis some attention should be given to the material which was chosen to make these suits. It is obvious that jade is not the best material that could be used for the creation of a suit that should be made in the shape of a person. However, the investigation of the role of jade in the culture of China could help to understand this choice better. The thing is that since the first steps made by Chinese civilization, jade had been taken as a very precious and important mineral (Hung 45).

According to its mythology, it was associated with some inner energy and purity at the same time. Moreover, this very stone was given some other qualities that made it an integral part of various religious rituals. With this in mind, the choice of material used for burial jade becomes clear. Being very important for people of ancient China, burial rituals presupposed creation of precious burial suit for their ruler and under existing conditions jade was the best choice.

Besides, it should be said that burial suits were found in various places in China which could be taken as a good evidence of the wide spread of beliefs connected with the soul of a person and its further existence. Additionally, suits, that were found at various periods of time, belong to different dates.

This fact also shows that creation of burial suits could be taken as the part of Chinese culture. It should be said that existence of jade suits had not been proven for a long period of time. However, it was documented in literature around AD 320 (Priestley 1). Thus, discovery of the tomb of prince Liu Sheng and Princess Don Wan of the Han dynasty helped to prove this hypothesis.

They were found accidentally by soldiers however, the importance of this discovery proved by the fact that very often it is taken as one of the greatest findings of the XXth century. The thing is that the tomb was undisturbed and due to this fact scientists were able to obtain the idea of ancient rituals connected with death and peculiarities of art.

Nevertheless, Prince Liu Sheng and Princess Don Wan were found in jade burial suits which were almost untouched and saved its original image. A great number of various investigations connected with these suits helped to outline several important peculiarities. The quality of work and the attention given to the tiniest details of these suits allow to treat them as the unique masterpieces of Chinese culture.

Both these suits are made of a great number of tiny pieces of jade. Liu Shengs one consists of 2498 pieces that are connected with the help of golden wire (Priestley 3). Don Wans suit is smaller, however, its quality is also great. Both these suits consist of twelve sections which are face, head, front, and back parts of tunic, arms, gloves, leggings, and feet (“Jade Objects” para. 2). The following pattern of segmentation was chosen as it helped to make the suit more elaborate.

Thus, scientist assume that resting on the quality of the work and its complicated character, about ten years were needed to create it (“Jade Objects” para. 4). The thing is that these pieces of jade are not only connected with each other, however, they are decorated with precious metals and carving. That is why, scrupulous and careful work of about one hundred craftsmen were needed in order to accomplish this task (Priestley 5).

Nevertheless, discovery of these suits helped to obtain some credible information about the culture and art of ancient China. It is obvious, that the above mentioned jade burial suit should be taken as the unique phenomenon of art because of several reasons. First of all, one should keep in mind that Liu Sheng belonged to the Han dynasty and was a very important person for the society of the country.

His death and rituals connected with it were outstanding events for all people and only the most skilled and talented artists and craftsmen were asked to create all needed equipment. That is why, these suits could be taken as the manifestation of the main peculiarities of beliefs and ideas of the epoch in which they were created. The thing is that the work connected with the creation of the given burial suits demands a great level of skills in various spheres.

Artists should be able to work with jade in order to create pieces of the needed shape and size. Moreover, there is some ornament on some of them which could also be taken as the evidence of a great talent of ancient artists. Additionally, the golden wire, used to fasten these pieces, also provides a great number of various facts.

First of all, it proves the idea of social segregation which existed in China. Gold was used for rulers of the land, while burial suits of noble people were created with the help of silver of red silk wires (Powers 124). Finally, the quality of the metalworking also shows the great level of skills of ancient Chinese masters.

With this in mind, resting on these facts, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. Going along with society, art can be taken as the phenomenon that helps people to embody their thoughts, feelings and emotions and convey them to next generations. Moreover, due to this peculiarity of art, any artwork could help to obtain the clear vision of the epoch in which it was created.

Thus, Liu Sheng and Don Wans burial jade suits, found in Liu Shengs Tomb, present people a great number of peculiarities of Chinese art and culture of the Han dynasty. The quality of work, choice of materials and the purpose of these suits help people to understand beliefs and ideas of people who lived in China at that period of time. That is why, these burial suits could be called the embodiment of ancient Chinese culture.

Works Cited

Hung, Wu. Monumentality in Early Chinese Art and Architecture. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press. 1995. Print.

. n.d. Web.

Powers, Martin. “Social Values and Aesthetic Choices in Han Dynasty Sichuan.” Stories from China’s Past: Han Dynasty Pictorial Tomb Reliefs and Archaeological Objects from Sichuan Province, P.R.C. Ed. Lucy Lin. San Francisco, CA: Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco.123-145 1987.

Priestley, Michael. Jade Burial Suits. 2013. Web.

Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. 2009. Print.

William, Watson. Art of Dynastic China. New York: Abrams, 1979.Print.

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IvyPanda. "Arts of China: Tomb of Liu Sheng and Dou Wan Jade Suits." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/arts-of-china-tomb-of-liu-sheng-and-dou-wan-jade-suits/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Arts of China: Tomb of Liu Sheng and Dou Wan Jade Suits." July 10, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/arts-of-china-tomb-of-liu-sheng-and-dou-wan-jade-suits/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Arts of China: Tomb of Liu Sheng and Dou Wan Jade Suits'. 10 July.

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