Chinese sculpture

Reports of the splendor of Asian art were brought to Europe by Marco Polo. By the 18th century Europeans not only possessed original ceramics, enamels, and furniture from the East but were adapting Asian designs and skills in their own products. Chinese Chippendale furniture and chinaware are examples. The art of Japan was brought into prominence in the mid-19th century in Paris by the Goncourt brothers, and it was Auguste Rodin who first gave public recognition to the sculpture of India. In the latter part of the 19th century, when artists were seeking inspiration for a newer, fresher art, these sources, together with those of Africa and Muslim countries, provided them with rich material.

The Chinese were master craftsmen and produced fine sculpture, especially in bronze. Although bronze casting existed a thousand years earlier, it was in the Chou period (1122-221 BC) that China developed the art to its peak.

This is evident in the great ceremonial vessels used by the nobility for ancestor worship. From tombs of the Han Empire (202 BC-AD 220) have come a rich variety of clay figures of people, animals, and household utensils designed to make life comfortable in the next world. Other objects are wrought in bronze, inlaid with silver and gold, and elaborately ornamented with abstract and fanciful designs. Carvings in jade and bas-reliefs on tomb walls also reached a high degree of excellence.

One of the most magnificent archaeological finds of the century was the tomb of Shi Huangdi at Xi'an, China. In March 1974 an underground chamber was found containing an army of more than 6,000 life-size terra-cotta soldiers of the late 3rd century BC. Other nearby chambers contained more than 1,400 ceramic figures of cavalrymen and chariots, all arranged in battle formation.

The prosperous T'ang Dynasty (618-907) developed Buddhist art to its highest level. Stone was a favorite medium for religious sculpture, and iron replaced bronze in the casting of figures. The glazed terra-cotta figures of this period are especially fine.

With the decline of Buddhism in the Sung period (960-1279), Chinese sculpture lost its vigor. Nevertheless, interesting works continued to be produced, such as the Bodhisattvas. In Japan Buddhism and its art followed the Chinese pattern