Chinese Stone Sculptural Arts
Stone Sculptures - Evidence of High Status of Ancient Nobility
The Chinese sculptural art traces its roots to antiquity. One of the traditional forms of Chinese sculptural art is stone carving, performed mostly by hand. Sometimes, carving of a particular figure of a hero from Chinese myths and legends took the masters several years. And thanks to their efforts there appeared magnificent stone sculptures of people, animals, birds and flowers.
Stone carving can often be met on large gate velaria and stone arches of famous buildings. In addition, the carved stone sculptures are ubiquitous in caves, cave complexes and religious buildings, as well as in the graves of outstanding Chinese people.
The main purpose of the stone sculptures was a demonstration of strength and power of the Chinese ruler and his court. Normally, the stone monuments were installed near the imperial tombs. This type of stone sculpture originated in the period of the “Warring States”.
Thus, the great development of stone carving gained momentum under the two Chinese Tang and Song dynasties. It was particular this time when a special stone carving technique, based on a particular rank of the deceased, was formed.
For example, stone sculptures found in the tomb of General Ho Tsyubin are one of the sculptural masterpieces of Chinese art of the early period. The general tomb was designed in such a way that it looked like Mount Tsilyanshan, the nine stone sculptures, carved out of solid rock and established there, were to show the great military victories and the merits of the famous general. The composition centerpiece is a warhorse, with a Chinese warrior lying under its hoofs.
Sacred lions standing near the Emperor Xiaojing’s grave are an example of stone sculptures of the Southern Dynasties. By the menacing look, the both lions of almost three meters height represent the power and authority of the buried Chinese ruler.
Under the Han dynasty, the interior walls and the facade of the tombs and temples were decorated with relief patterns applied to the plates. These plates were usually carved with the portraits of the emperors themselves, their faithful dignitaries, beloved sons, invincible warriors and noble women. For example, one of the plates features a portrait of Confucius and his numerous disciples. Such plates, for instance, depict whole legends of the ancient rulers Yao and Shun, chaste wives who were faithful to their deceased husbands.
In addition, the plates depicted hunting scenes, imperial feasts, as well as various circus performances. Such arty-crafty stone plates are a bright example of the heyday of Chinese stone sculpture.
Since the plates were made in different places, so they differed much in their artistic style. The Shandong Province plates were simple in design and robust, while the plates from Henan Province were notable for their masculine art images and laconic lines. In Sichuan, the plates were characterized by elegance and diminutiveness and the Shanxi Province ones were simpler in pattern.
One of the brightest and most original stone carving types also includes stone caves, which were cut in the country’s mountainous areas; such caves are about one hundred and twenty. The most famous among them are the Yungang caves in Shaanxi province, Lungmeng caves in Henan province and the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. They are called - three treasures of stone sculptural arts in China.