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

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 seeks to give a picture of the period’s aesthetics, crafts industries, and luxury consumption. At the center of our investigations are artifacts excavated in 1987 from the pagoda of the Famen Temple. This preeminent archaeological find preserves hundreds of imperial donations accompanying four Buddha relics, including gold and silver, porcelains, Middle Eastern glass, and silk textiles. It sheds light on issues of international style and trade, Buddhist ritual and beliefs, as well as imperial workshops and patronage. A field trip to a museum and an auction house are included. 3 credits. Satisfies non-Western or pre-1800 requirement.