Early Images of Gods, Spirits and Demons in China
31st Annual Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture
Art in ancient China shows very few images of human beings, at least until the fifth century BC. The art from Sanxingdui in Sichuan (ca 1200 BC) is an exception that can be explained as the expression of a specific culture very different from the Shang civilization (ca 16th-1050 BC). Until the fifth century B.C., animals—whether real or imaginary—were the main source of artistic expression in central China. All the artistic expressions on bronzes, lacquerware and jades were dominated by motifs of a zoomorphic nature. This lecture intends to understand how and in what social and religious conditions the Chinese artists of the Late Bronze Age gave a physical aspect to such gods as the spirits of nature, the deities associated with the months, and the demons who were believed to protect the deceased in the tombs.
Born in 1949, Alain Thote is an archaeologist and an art historian. A specialist of Bronze Age China, he taught until this year as a full professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris. He participated in archaeological excavations in France and China: he joined the Sino-French team of archaeologists in the Taklamakan desert, in Xinjiang (Western China) in 1993, 1994 and 1996, and in 2000, he started a cooperation with Wuhan University and the Archaeological Institute of Henan Province for the excavation of a Bronze Age settlement in Central China. In 1999-2000 and 2010-2011, Alain Thote was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in Beijing. He has also given courses and seminars at the Kunsthistorisches Institut of Heidelberg University (1996) and at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University (2005 and 2007). From January 2006 to December 2009 he was director of the Research Centre on Far Eastern Civilizations, Paris, and he is now the director of the French Institute for Chinese Advanced Studies at the Collège de France. In 2009, he was elected corresponding member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.
About Sammy Yukuan Lee Lecture Series
First presented in 1982 in celebration of his 80th birthday, the Sammy Yukuan Lee Lectures on Chinese Art and Archaeology honors the life and philanthropy of respected businessman, art collector, and Chinese art authority, Sammy Yukuan Lee. This series is presented annually by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies with support from the Sammy Yukuan Lee Foundation, and in partnership with the Fowler Museum at UCLA.
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Published: Saturday, November 3, 2018