Song Design and Material Culture, 960–1279

The Song dynasty unified the Chinese heartlands in the tenth century, but had to contend with powerful neighboring empires to the north and west, the Liao, Jin, and Xixia. Throughout much of its reign, it was able to co-exist with these neighboring states and, indeed, prosper economically and culturally. Major advances in technology, an unprecedented expansion of commerce, and an influential educated gentry helped bring about a blossoming of several crafts. Although best known as the golden age of ceramics, the period also witnessed lasting developments in metalworking, textile manufacture, lacquer- and woodworking. Issues that will concern us throughout the class are links between design and commercial concerns of artisans and ceramic kilns; the formation and impact of antiquarian study and collecting and the subsequent revival of archaic design; Confucian scholarship on ritual design; the impact of Song international trade, notably with Liao and Jin, but also with maritime destinations such as Japan and Southeast Asia. We will look both at archaeological discoveries and at objects in New York museums and auction houses. 3 credits. Satisfies either the non-Western or pre-1800 requirement.