Why Gold in China? - The Significance of Materials in Artistic-Cultural Studies Faculty of Arts
Speaker: Prof. Jenny SF So (Department of Fine Arts)
Date: 13 December 2013 (Fri)
Time: 4:00pm
Venue: Activities Room, 2/F, Art Museum East Wing, Institute of Chinese Studies, CUHK
Language: English
Abstract: Since ca. 5000 BCE, Chinese have produced objects using a variety of materials. Some were more highly regarded than others and occupied special status within the society that made and used them. These materials were all drawn from nature. The earliest was earthenware—made from soft and malleable earth mixed with water, then shaped by hand or with a potters’ wheel. The material was plentiful and readily available. The second is an exact opposite of the first. It is a hard rock most of us know as jade, a rock that is harder than steel (6 to 6.5 on Moh's scale; diamond is 10), and unlike earth, was not always easily available. By ca. 1500 BCE, the metal bronze (an alloy of copper, tin, and lead) emerged as a material of choice for the political and social elite, and bronze objects were synonymous with power, authority and prestige. It was under these circumstances that gold appeared on China’s horizon, brought to its remote frontiers by pastoral tribes from the western edge of the Eurasian continent. Using the exhibition “Radiant Legacy: Ancient Chinese Gold from the Mengdiexuan Collection” on view in the Art Museum as entrée, the speaker planned to compare the role of these three materials in early Chinese society, and explore the significance of materials in the formation of an artistic-cultural identity over time.


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