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Art and Material Culture of the Tang Period, 618–907

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The Tang period coincided with the apogee of medieval culture in China. Over the past millennium, this era has conjured up images of martial grandeur, vast territorial expansion, and multicultural tolerance; of China’s richest flowering of Buddhism, but also of its severest suppression; of thriving intellectualism that gave rise to China’s most celebrated poets; and of an aristocratic material culture dominated by metropolitan fashion and international trade. This course ventures to give a picture of the period’s aesthetics and design based on its surviving relics. Most important among these relics are secular and religious utensils made of gold, silver, and bronze that set stylistic trends for centuries; high-fired ceramic vessels for the privileged; painted wares for export; and pottery figurines made for tombs. Issues of international style and trade; dating, connoisseurship, and the contemporary art market; Buddhist and Taoist iconography; and funerary ritual are examined. Field trips to museums, auction houses, and art dealers are included. 3 credits.