The Archer Yi?: Iconography of Han Dynasty Art Research Paper by joepastafari

The Archer Yi?: Iconography of Han Dynasty Art
A discussion of the homage scenes that are found in the three Wu Family Shrines in Jiaxiang, Shandong, China.
# 111491 | 1,635 words | 8 sources | MLA | 2008 | US
Published on Jan 23, 2009 in Art (History) , Asian Studies (East Asian Cultures) , Art (General) , Asian Studies (General)

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This paper discusses the iconography of the images depicted on the three Wu Family Shrines in Jiaxiang that date from the Han Dynasty. The author explains that the most important function of these images is to portray how an offering ceremony should be carried out in accordance with Confucian ethics, and discusses their symbolic meanings. The author considers the reasons for believing that the archer figure represents the mythological archer Yi, and explains that the myth of Yi is out of context with the other symbols, which all have something to with maintaining proper Confucian relationships or how to act in an virtuous manner. An alternative explanation within the context of the offering shrine is the ritual of the palace overseer discharging arrows at birds of ill omen. If the archers in the Wu Family Shrines are doing this, then they are portraying people acting in a virtuous manner by fulfilling their duties, which is much more in tune with the filial sons displaying reverence for their father and the officials paying respect to their fallen colleague, as well as the fenghuang representing good government. This paper contains figures.

Purpose of Shrine
The Central Homage Scene
Procession of Chariots
The Unused Chariot
The Tree
The Archer Yi Explanation

From the Paper:

"Two Fenghuang, or phoenixes, appear on the roofs of each of the homage scenes, and can be identified by their extravagant tales. The symbolism of the fenghuang is remarked on in the Bo Hu Tong, a prominent text from the Han era, which states "The feng huang is the chief among the birds. When above there is an enlightened King, and general peach, then it appears." From this, it would appear that these birds symbolize the existence of good government and peace. If one remembers to bring Confucian ethics into consideration, then this symbol can just as easily be applied to a household as it can be applied to China as a whole. This would entirely appropriate for a tomb or shrine which wishes to portray the virtuosity of the deceased."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Barbieri, Anthony. "Wu Family Shrines." Princeton Art Museum,
  • Fairbank, Wilma. "The Offering Shrines Of " Wu Liang Tz'u "." 1-36: Harvard-Yenching Institute, 1941.
  • James, Jean M. Fei I or Ming Ching : A Study of the Banner Painting from Han Tomb 1 at Ma Wang Tui, Ch'angsha, 1978.
  • ------. A Guide to the Tomb and Shrine Art of the Han Dynasty 206 B.C.-A.D. 220, Chinese Studies ;; V. 2;. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1996.
  • ------. "Review of the Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art. By Hung, Wu." The Journal of Asian Studies 49, no. 4 (1990): 923-24.

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