The Space Between – Placing ‘Culture’ in Artistic Exchange

Title:
The Space Between – Placing ‘Culture’ in Artistic Exchange
Authors:
Cheng, Bonnie
Abstract:
Several late sixth-century stone items of tomb furniture unearthed over the past decade in north China have reconfirmed the role of the Silk Road in facilitating exchange between China and regions to its west. Scholars have identified motifs in the decoration of these tomb elements and linked them to Chinese or Zoroastrian traditions, searched for discernible narratives, or investigated the deceased's ties to Central Asia and service as leaders of their communities. While the individuals buried in these tombs or their ancestors likely hailed from Sogdiana, other features of the objects defy clear interpretation according to artistic paradigms in either north China or Central Asia. The tombs also demonstrate a range of affinities with the traditions of both regions and challenge our assumptions about culture and the coherency of traditions in the context of exchange. This essay takes a broad view of these stone objects and examines the occupants, tomb contexts, and the diverse representation on the tomb furniture as a collective group. Drawing together biographic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence, together with relevant iconography from examples in museum collections, I reconsider the methods by which these pieces have been examined and demonstrate the varied relationships their occupants had to Central Asia and the local communities they inhabited. I reorient the focus away from distinct markers of one culture or another toward the larger picture that characterizes the complex identities of individuals in late sixth-century north China. I posit a thematic rationale for iconographic choices that transcend affiliation with one region or another and argue that while specific elements may demonstrate affinities with extant traditions, taken as a whole the general diversity of artistic elements and burial practices suggests that these individuals occupied a space between paradigmatic "cultures."
Citation:
Cheng, Bonnie. 2010. "The Space Between: Locating ‘Culture’ in Artistic Exchange." Ars Orientalis 38: 81-120.
Publisher:
Freer Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Institution; University of Michigan, Department of the History of Art
DATE ISSUED:
2010
Department:
Art History; East Asian Studies
Type:
article
Notes:
Issue: Theorizing Cross-Cultural Interaction Among the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean, Near East and Asia
PERMANENT LINK:
http://hdl.handle.net/11282/309385

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorCheng, Bonnieen_US
dc.date.accessioned2013-12-23T16:08:32Zen
dc.date.available2013-12-23T16:08:32Zen
dc.date.issued2010en
dc.identifier.citationCheng, Bonnie. 2010. "The Space Between: Locating ‘Culture’ in Artistic Exchange." Ars Orientalis 38: 81-120.en_US
dc.identifier.issn0571-1371en_US
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11282/309385en
dc.description.abstractSeveral late sixth-century stone items of tomb furniture unearthed over the past decade in north China have reconfirmed the role of the Silk Road in facilitating exchange between China and regions to its west. Scholars have identified motifs in the decoration of these tomb elements and linked them to Chinese or Zoroastrian traditions, searched for discernible narratives, or investigated the deceased's ties to Central Asia and service as leaders of their communities. While the individuals buried in these tombs or their ancestors likely hailed from Sogdiana, other features of the objects defy clear interpretation according to artistic paradigms in either north China or Central Asia. The tombs also demonstrate a range of affinities with the traditions of both regions and challenge our assumptions about culture and the coherency of traditions in the context of exchange. This essay takes a broad view of these stone objects and examines the occupants, tomb contexts, and the diverse representation on the tomb furniture as a collective group. Drawing together biographic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence, together with relevant iconography from examples in museum collections, I reconsider the methods by which these pieces have been examined and demonstrate the varied relationships their occupants had to Central Asia and the local communities they inhabited. I reorient the focus away from distinct markers of one culture or another toward the larger picture that characterizes the complex identities of individuals in late sixth-century north China. I posit a thematic rationale for iconographic choices that transcend affiliation with one region or another and argue that while specific elements may demonstrate affinities with extant traditions, taken as a whole the general diversity of artistic elements and burial practices suggests that these individuals occupied a space between paradigmatic "cultures."en_US
dc.publisherFreer Gallery of Art, The Smithsonian Institutionen_US
dc.publisherUniversity of Michigan, Department of the History of Arten_US
dc.subject.departmentArt Historyen_US
dc.subject.departmentEast Asian Studiesen_US
dc.titleThe Space Between – Placing ‘Culture’ in Artistic Exchangeen_US
dc.typearticleen_US
dc.description.notesIssue: Theorizing Cross-Cultural Interaction Among the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean, Near East and Asiaen_US
dc.identifier.journalArs Orientalisen_US
dc.identifier.volume38en_US
dc.identifier.startpage81en_US
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