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HOME : Chinese Art : Song Dynasty : Relief Panel Depicting an Attendant
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Relief Panel Depicting an Attendant - H.658
Origin: China
Circa: 960 AD to 1279 AD
Dimensions: 16.25" (41.3cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Sung (Song) Dynasty partially reunified China after a period of chaotic turmoil following the fall of the T’ang. Historically, the Sung are noted for their revival of the ancient Confucian beliefs, ushering a period known as Neo-Confusianism that would dominate Chinese (and later on Japanese) thought for the next several centuries. Although best known for their philosophical contributions, this relief panel attests to the rich artistic tradition that flourished under the enlightened rulers of the Sung Dynasty. Discovered buried inside a tomb, this gorgeous figurative panel, sculpted in high relief, depicts a beautiful female attendant patiently awaiting the command of her master. Her hair is elegantly modeled and she features a sweetly smiling visage that reveals the influence of T’ang statuary on the art of the Sung Dynasty. She presents us with a tray of round bun-like treats that were meant for consumption in the afterlife. Thus this attendant would have continued to serve her master even after his earthly demise. That tradition of elaborate burial tombs containing treasures from life and sculpted replica of courtly entourages dates back to the earliest dynasties of China. By the time of the Han (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), this practice had become entrenched in Chinese culture. These elaborate burials reflect the ancient philosophical and religious beliefs that the afterlife was an extension of our earthly existence. While this panel might have been interred more as a traditional custom than as an otherworldly servant, such work reveals the tremendous artistic heritage of China. This work is created out of an age-old tradition assuring that the deceased was welcomed into the next world and well provided for. With gorgeous surroundings such as this panel, what more could one ask for to be ushered into the afterlife? - (H.658)


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