The Artistic Landscape of East Asia: Technology
Lecture #2, January 14, 2013.
Slide #1 – Title
Slide #2 – Stuff
Jennifer Purtle Page 1 2/7/2014 Slide #3 -- East Asia
L: Map of East Asia
R: Maps of Networks that integrated East Asia in premodern times.
For those new to the course, revisiting the idea of East Asia; Asia itself a term that
perhaps has Semitic roots in the term “Asu,” meaning light, place where the sun rises;
“East Asia” in modern times informed by turn of the twentieth-century Japanese imperial
I would like to define East Asia as the entity that emerged over thousands of years of
trade, tribute, communication, overland and by sea, in the area we now call East Asia, all
of which made some use of literary Chinese as a language of shared communication. This
is very much like Latin in the European world; China served as a clearinghouse for the
transmission and formation of cultures in East Asia much as Rome did in Europe. Lingua
franca, lingua Sinica.
Not to say that Chinese culture is the dominant or superior culture; instead it is the
medium –and not always a transparent one -- through which East Asia is constructed.
Teaching this course as a China specialist – my own awareness of how far I can go in
Asia using Chinese, both as modern traveler, and as historical researcher reading literary
Chinese. Acceptance, rejection, different patterns of diffusion – fluid, labile area of East
Slide #4 --Artistic Landscape
L: Tomb of Khai Din, Hue, Vietnam, 1925
R: Cotemporary, traditional style Vietnamese lacquer
What is an artistic landscape? Can anyone summarize for those new to the class.
Slide #5 --Artifact
C: Cai Guoqiang (b. 1959), Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10: Project to
Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 meters, 1993. Pyrotechnic.
For those new to the class, beginning to build a sense of East Asia, and of Artistic
Landscape. I posited in the last lecture that artifact is what differentiates man from
other animals; artifact is thus one – if not THE – material basis of our humanity. It is
from these threshold level products of man’s distinctiveness, probed and investigated
through the methods of art history and visual culture, that we will study the people
and cultures of East Asia.
As the Oxford English Dictionary succinctly, if not tautologically explains: “Artefact:
n. Anything made by human art and workmanship; an artificial product. In Archæol.
applied to the rude products of aboriginal workmanship as distinguished from natural
Jennifer Purtle Page 2 2/7/2014 In the last class, I joked about how artifact is so tightly bound to the idea of human
cultural production, that the OED definition suggests that extraterrestrials could not
make them. So one wonders if, extraterrestrials are out there – they are the audience
to which the contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang addresses his work (at least
tongue in cheek!) – if they will recognize us as human through our artifacts.
Slide #6 -- Artifact
L: Haniwa, Kofun period (300-710 CE).
R: Yanagi Yukinori, Hinomaru Illumination, 1991.
The humanity of artifact speaks to the present in extraordinary ways, from the earliest
historical moments of artifactual production, long before the advent of the written word.
For this reason, pre-historic artifacts must be handled with great care: they can be
interpreted to mean many things.
In his installation Hinomaru Illumination, Yanagi Yukinori plays with artifact –namely
the form of the haniwa, a prehistoric Japanese tomb figurine, the uses and meanings of
which are not perfectly clear to modern scholars—by using them as a basic building
block of his installation. By installing a series of clay figurines modeled on ancient
haniwa figures facing the flag of the rising sun, being framed in the warm light of the
Japanese national image, generated by a video projector.
In setting up the theme of today’s lecture, namely technology, and its role in the
manufacture of artifact, Yanagi’s work might be interpreted to speak to one fundamental
aspect of our recovery of the artifactual past the history of which is largely lost to words,
to historical writing as we are accustomed to know it for later periods: this early history –
as written in the twentieth century -- was largely informed by national interests, national
narratives. Indeed, one might see these moments as the projection of technological
competition into a deep and not fully recoverable past, to augment or offset technological
competition, or ideas of technological superiority of a culture and its attendant nation
state in the present.
Bob Thorp notes this problem in your textbook, on page 53. Thorp writes, “a different
picture of prehistory in North China and neighboring regions could be reassembled from
present archaeological data, perhaps one emphasizing linkages to the north, to the
Japanese islands, or to Central or Western Asia. [Here, Southeast Asia should also be
While I do not intend to remake the entire field of East Asian pre- and early history here
today, I hope that by together looking at, and thinking about artifacts and the technologies
used to produce them within the framework of “East Asia,” we might begin to understand
these artifacts as the people who made them did – in the context of smaller polities linked
by political, commercial, and technological exchanges.
Also, following Clifford Geertz’s idea of “art as a cultural system,” for the Neolithic and
Bronze Age, we might use artifact/art to speculate, hypothesize, and historically imagine
Jennifer Purtle Page 3 2/7/2014 the cultural systems that produced the artifacts at hand.
Slide #7 -- East Asia in the Ice Age
C: Map of East Asia in the Ice Age, ca. 40,000-20,000 BCE.
To begin, even the landmass of East Asia was not always as we know it now. In a
moment of geological time, the contours of East Asia have changed significantly, now
separating what were once more intimately connected bodies of land during the Ice Age,
ca. 40,000-20,000 BCE.
This map makes evident how much simpler it was for man to migrate overland, how
much shorter the maritime distances were between landmasses. When the world was
much younger, in geological terms and in human terms – long before more became a
sophisticated artifact maker – populations began to distribute themselves across East
Asia. Some anthropologists propose that this connection might account for some residual
similarities of what are now disparate East Asian cultures.
Slide #8 -- East Asia in the Neolithic period
C: Map of East Asia in the Neolithic period
What is the Neolithic? What does the term mean? Why is it used? What does it represent?
Neo == “new”, + Lithic = “stone” > “new stone age”
[< NEO- + -LITHIC. Cf. French néolithique (1866 as adjective, 1902 as noun).]
Neolithic characteristics: Of, relating to, or designating the later part of the Stone Age,
following the Mesolithic period, traditionally characterized by the use of ground or
polished stone implements and weapons, and later by the development of an agricultural
rather than a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The starting date of the Neolithic varies in
different parts of the world. Some archaeologists have used the first appearance of pottery
as a criterion for dating its beginning.
>Pottery age: although Neolithic often defined in the European cases by the development
of agriculture, in East Asia, it is the development of pottery that marks the Neolithic
Old stone age = Paleolithic.
Paleolithic characteristics: Of, relating to, or designating the earliest of the three major
divisions of the Stone Age (followed successively by the Mesolithic and Neolithic), when
primitive stone implements were used, and now regarded as lasting at least 2.5 million
years and ending at about the same time as the Pleistocene (c8000 B.C.).
Many histories of Asian Art posit the idea that “civilization” began in Asia in the Indus
Valley of India, and in the Yellow River area of China. The map on screen, although it
Jennifer Purtle Page 4 2/7/2014 emphasizes the most famous cultures of East Asia, begins to that “civilization” emerged
at multiple sites throughout East Asia, distributed in ways very different from modern
patterns of demography and habitation.
Slide #9 – Technology-Architecture-Dwelling
L: Banpo, Xi’an, Shanxi, 5mBCE
R: Rendering of wattle and daub houses at Banpo
What artifacts must man possess; what things does man make that animals do not; what needs
does man have?
[Food, clothing, shelter; tools.]
Animals make shelter – how are human dwellings different? Diversity of materials;
geometry of plan…
Pens for animals within village;
Agriculture: millet; also Chinese cabbage, 白白, Pigs and dogs. Nuts, berries. Hunting deer;
Burial: burying children in urns; burying adults in cemeteries. How does this work?
Kilns, on margins of the village.
What is technology? How does technology relate to those basic needs?
OED on technology: [ad. Gr. systematic treatment (of grammar, etc.), f. art, craft: see
-LOGY. So F. technologie (1812 in Hatz.-Darm.).]
1. a. A discourse or treatise on an art or arts; the scientific study of the practical
or industrial arts.
1615 BUCK Third Univ. Eng. xlviii, An apt close of this general Technologie.
b. transf. Practical arts collectively.
Jennifer Purtle Page 5 2/7/2014 Slide #10– Artifact: Dwelling
L: Foundations of a semi-subterranean, circular house, showing post-holes;
at Amsa-dong Neolithic village, on Han River outside Seoul.
R: Reconstruction of early Jømon pit house, ca. 5000-2500 BCE
How does man learn to make artifacts? Develop technology?
Diffusion? Co-independent origination? Is there an “East Asian” primitive dwelling type?
Pottery type? How would you know? Find out? [very different from India, Mohenjo-daro]
In many places, Neolithic is defined by agriculture; Korea, early Neolithic period still
hunting, fishing, gathering. Korea does develop pottery.
Excavations of the 1980s and 1990s showed that early Neolithic period in Korea had
close and extensive links with what is now China, especially with eastern Liaoning
province, and the Liaodong peninsula. Similarities of pottery to that found in China, also
Japan; dwelling types from Korea, Japan, China, and Vietnam all show marked
similarities; the images here indicate the similarities of Korean and Japanese dwellings in
the Neolithic period. Korean, Japanese, and Western scholars all acknowledge that
southern and eastern Korea and Japan likely had maritime contact during the Neolithic
The origins of the Jømon people – name literally means “rope pattern,” because their
pottery had such markings-- that is Neolithic people in Japan, are unknown; it is not clear
whether they are the descendants of Ice Age populations, or immigrants from the East
Asian continent. The Jømon began and remained a hunter-gatherer society, although they
may have practiced some form of agriculture. Well-developed fishing culture; eating of
roots such as yam, taro and lily roots. They also established trade among their
communities – to trade products produced in different areas.
L: Houses on pilotis in the Valley of Mai Chau, Hoa Binh province, ca. 2000
R: Reconstruction of a house in Sannai-maruyama ruin, Aomori prefecture,
Diversity of building types: the reconstructed Japanese house from the middle Jømon
Period also built on pilotis. Similarity of building types suggests possible diffusion of
building ideals and adaptability. Do disparate cultures imagine exactly the same solutions
to problems of humidity, flood; same solutions to different problems – flood/snow?
Jennifer Purtle Page 6 2/7/2014 Slide #12 – Dwelling
L: Jømon pot in hearth, ca. 5000-2500 BCE.
R: Stone circle in Towadamachi, Kazuno City, Akita prefecture. Late Jømon,
ca. 1500-1000 BCE.
What are basic necessities? What is superfluous?
Stone circles separate from, but close to villages. Ritual. Communal ceremonies. Also
burials near by, but not directly underneath.
Shift from land base to fish as staple of diet during Jømon – get more on this from
Relation of technology and adaptability.
Slide #13 – Technology-Ceramics-Vessel
L: Bowl with painted decoration, Banpo, Yangshao Culture, Banpo phase,
C: Detail of above
R: Neolithic Pot, Yangshao Culture, Miaodigou phase 4m BCE
Why does man need vessels? What is the easiest way to produce them? What is the most efficient
way to produce them? Do vessels require decoration, ornament? Why decorate. Ornament?
Coil and beater. Smoothing. Perhaps a proto-wheel, like a lazy Susan.
Painted vs. incised decoration.
Slide #14 – Artifact: Vessel
C: Bottle with painted decoration, Yangshao culture, Majiayao phase,
4mBCE, from Minhe, Qinghai.
How does one produce this vessel? Is it an artifact? Art? What values does it embody? Of what
technologies is it a product?
Jennifer Purtle Page 7 2/7/2014 Slide #15: Artifact – Vessel
L: Beaker, Longshan culture, 3m BCE, 10.5 inches tall
C: Stem Cup, Longshan culture, 3m BCE, 10.5 inches tall
R: Liangzhu Culture, hardstone cong, 2500 BCE
How does one produce this vessel? Is it an artifact? Art? What values does it embody? Do
vessels require decoration, ornament? Why decorate. Ornament?
Eggshell black wares: each component appears to have been thrown on a fast wheel.
Longshan cemetery at Chengzi, pieces found in only 6% of graves, namely those with the
most sophisticated infrastructure and richest goods; found near head or hand. Perhaps
made for special persons of highest social rank and/or economic means.
Development of hard-stone carving industry. Perhaps used (burned) in funeral rites;
maybe represented square earth (bi disk) represented round heaven?
Slide #16: Artifact – Vessel
L: Comb-patterned pot with pointed base, from Amsa-dong, near Seoul
(same site as house, shown earlier), 4mBCE
R: Conical, round-bottomed vessel, from a site in Hokkaido, Initial Jømon
phase, ca. 5000 BCE.
How does one produce this vessel? Is it an artifact? Art? What values does it embody? Do
vessels require decoration, ornament? Why decorate. Ornament? Differences from continental
How is the process of manufacture different? How does it serve a different utility? How is the
process of using 3-dimensional decoration technologically different from using 2-dimensional,
Slide #17: Artifact – Vessel
L: “Flame ware” (kaen doki) vessel, Niigata prefecture, ca. 2500-1500 BCE.
R: Vessel with snake-form handle, from Togarisihii, Nagano prefecture, ca.
What does this vessel do? How does it function? Is it entirely utilitarian? Artifact? Art?
Part of formal expansion in middle Jømon: practical, pots for cooking, storing, lamps, goblets,
bowls. Cord markings of earlier period are being replaced by application of cordons of clay to
surface to make three-dimensional designs. What they mean remains elusive.
Jennifer Purtle Page 8 2/7/2014 Slide #18: Technology-Stone Working– Ornament
L: Group of Neolithic bracelets, necklace, ornaments, mask, female figure,
R: Earrings from Kuwano, Fukui prefecture, ca. 6500-5000 BCE, Steatite
How does one work stone? How does one develop these technologies?
Is bodily ornament, adornment artifact? Art? Necessary to survival? Superfluous? Can such
things be found in nature, or are they necessarily manmade?
Craft production culture, ritual culture, adornment culture. Significant departure from Paleolithic
practices. Possibly markers of social status.
Slide #19: Artifact – Representation
L: Vessel with modeled ithyphallic design, Yangshao culture, Machang
phase, 3m BCE, Liuwan, Ledu, Qinghai.
R: Female figurine, from Gunma prefecture, ca. 1000-400 BCE, Jømon.
Do these artifacts represent anything?
Liuwan cemetery – collected, not excavated. Modeling onto the surface of a vessel in ways
complemented by painted decoration.
“Ithyphallic” image: presents the male generative organ. Perhaps shamanistic image of power?
Androgynous? Does this indicate the emergence of male power, patrilineal society in late
Neolithic in China?
Female image: complete and freestanding; unusual in this way; tiny handle at the back of the
head. Part of larger corpus: when Japan will record its early myths, women figure strongly as
creators – Izanami (female), the partner of Izanagi (male), who gave birth to Japan; sun goddess
Amaterasu. Is there an early societal precondition towards divine female in Japan?
Differentiation of possible broader cultural forms in late Neolithic period.
Gendering of power???
Jennifer Purtle Page 9 2/7/2014 Slide #20 Artifact – Representation
L: Head, Niuheliang site, Lingyuan, Liaoning, Hongshan culture, 4m BCE
R: Emblem incised on vessel, Dawenkou culture, 4m BCE, Lingyanghe
What is being represented? Can the status of representation change, and have thing still be an
artifact? Is this a shift to art? Communication?
Representing an anthropomorphic form? Was does it mean to image a human??? Or image a
shaman, deity in the likeness of man? Impossible to know.
Representation and writing… Are these the first attempts at writing??? Comes close to ancient
Slide #21 – Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
L: Neolithic Pot, Yangshao Culture, Miaodigou phase 4m BCE
R: Early Shang Bronze, jue ritual vessel, Excav. Yanshi xian, Henan
How does technology change the stakes of making artifacts?
What different technologies are responsible for the making of these objects?
Shift, for example, from ceramic to bronze; technological interrelation of these objects.
Is this bronze made in a way that evokes ceramic technology or metalworking
In the nationalist stakes of archaeology and the study of prehistory, debates have long
raged about which parts of the world invented bronze technology, and which parts did not
possess this capacity for great invention, and thus received the technology ready-made.
Vietnamese archaeologists have questioned the primacy of “China” in the development
of bronze, citing the problem that early Chinese bronzes do not appear to evolve from
early Chinese ceramic forms, as the examples above seem to indicate. While the early
Shang bronze does exhibit some characteristics of pottery – namely the smooth, rounded
surfaces of the vessel, early Shang bronzes suggest a formal revolution –that is, a
revolution of shapes of objects-- as well as a technological one. (Possible explanations)
Slide #22– Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
L: Neolithic pot, Vietnam.
R: Situla, Dongson culture, Vietnam, 2nd cent. BCE or earlier.
In contrast, in Vietnam, Neolithic pottery and early bronze wares exhibit a fluid
development, as the Neolithic Vietnamese pot at left, and the much later situla, at right,
suggest. Indeed, the Vietnamese examples a fluid transposition of ceramic forms into
Jennifer Purtle Page 10 2/7/2014 Slide #23– Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
C: Situla, Dongson culture, Vietnam, 100 BCE -100 CE.
Fine example of the extraordinary craftsmanship – fine raised linear decoration from
carving molds; by later times used lost wax process of casting, where a wax model is
made, packed with clay, and then hot bronze melts the wax that burns off and/or exists
the mold through small openings. Possible that earlier pieces were made with ceramic
Slide #24– Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
L: Workers at Thanh Den site, Vinh Phuoc, Vietnam.
C: Remains of a clay and brick pillar from a bronze foundry, ca. 1500 BCE,
Thanh Den site, Vinh Phuoc, Vietnam.
R: Round piece of baked clay, 30 cm in diameter, with pieces of bronze.
Thanh Den site, Vinh Phuoc, Vietnam.
While the Vietnamese had not previously found evidence of an early bronze foundry in
Vietnam, in August of 2005 – last summer – at Thanh Den in the northern part of
Vietnam, archaeologists excavated a bronze foundry purportedly dating to 1500 BCE.
This archaeological evidence may provide the basis for a rethinking of the invention,
diffusion of bronze making within East Asia.
Round piece of baked clay – a pottery mold?
Slide #25– Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
L: Map of possible Dong Son diffusion of bronze casting.
C: Vietnamese Bronze Drum, 5c BCE, Dong Son civilization
R: Chinese Bronze Drum, Yue type, from the Han Dynasty, 2c BCE – 2cCE
Both specialists and amateurs have long posited the diffusion of bronze technology
outward from Vietnam. Previously, the strongest substantiation of this diffusion came in
the form of Vietnamese drums, which were found throughout Thailand Indonesia,
Cambodia, Laos, and which were also traded into the southwest parts of what is now
China’s Yunnan province, as well as traded up into southern China and the east coast of
Transfer of secondary technology: musical sound and perhaps sensibility, although we
know nothing of what that was at the time of the drum’s manufacture. Perhaps used in
ritual at point of origin; perhaps such foreign rituals adapted or influenced those of the
localities to which such drums were relocated.
Jennifer Purtle Page 11 2/7/2014 Slide #26– Technological Revolution: The Bronze Age
Far L: Container vessel, lei, Lower Xiajiadian Culture, ca. 1500 BCE, Inner
L: White ceramic vessel from Anyang, late Shang dynasty, ca. 1300-1120
Near R: Fragments of pottery molds for casting bronze vessels, late Shang
R: Bronze tripod, ding 鼎, from Zhengzhou, late Shang dynasty, ca. 1300 BCE,
There is a way of seeing, in material from China, a sustained evolution of decoration,
form and technology from ceramic to bronze. This shift is schematically represented in
the images on screen, which to my eye begin to make sense of this complicated
The image at far left is a vessel from the Lower Xiajiadian culture, which flourished in
the area now known as Inner Mongolia, which had contact with the Shang state, but
which produced artifacts that indicate that Xiajiadian selectively adopted some traits of
Shang culture but not others.
If you follow the textbook – Thorp and Vinograd—Thorp writes, on page 84, “Upon
close inspection, the motifs include clear quotations from the mask motif and profile
creatures known on late Shang bronzes. (Italics are my own) … Here Shang motifs are
radically reworked, abstracted into conventional forms such as C-shaped hooks. To
anyone familiar with Shang motifs the allusions are perceptible, but the vocabulary has
The problem here is chronology and anachronism, that is a problem of chronology: the
Lower Xiajiadian pottery vessel is contemporary with –or perhaps even predates -- early
Shang bronzes, such as the one at far right. Absent written records that describe the
process by which ceramic may or may not have influenced the production of bronze in
China, one might wonder if decorative trends from outside the Shang state, such as those
at Xiajiadian, may have influenced those within the Shang state, who reworked and
adapted them to their emergent bronze culture. One might thus problematize the relation
of Lower Xiajiadian pottery and its decoration to Shang production of white ware
ceramics, as in the image second from left; the relation of Shang white ware ceramics to
incidentally white pot