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Arts and Crafts during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period

Light yellow thin silk quilt with line embroidery of phoenixes and dragons in pairs from the Warring States Period (partial)

Light yellow thin silk quilt with line embroidery of phoenixes and dragons in pairs from the Warring States Period (partial)

During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, with the integration of the slave system and the gradual establishment and development of the feudal system, handicraftsmen got rid of the slavery of the slavery of the slave system, their enthusiasm for production obtained greater development. At this period many handicraft articles with exquisite workmanship, beautiful shape and unique creativeness appeared in the field of arts and crafts, such as metallurgy, ceramics, dyeing and weaving and lacquer ware.

During the Warring States Period, iron-smelting industry came into being on the basis of copper metallurgy and China took the lead in the world to enter upon the Iron Age in an all-around way. There were a great many pottery-making workshops run by the government or by self-employed artisans, all giving first place to gray pottery. Due to the prevalence of elaborate funeral, painted pottery was rapidly developed. As lacquer ware was anticorrosive, moisture-proof, light in weight and good-looking in appearance, its technology also began to develop. The lacquer ware produced in the Kingdom of Chu was the most developed. Due to the development of iron smelting, the improvement of pottery-making and the appearance of lacquer ware, bronze ware stepped into a later stage and was gradually replaced by lacquer ware. The dying and weaving technology and production were widely distributed and the most developed areas were in Qi (the present northern Shangdong) and Lu (the present southern Shangdong). Knee-deep clothes and hufu(short clothes worn by non-Han nationalities living in the north and west in ancient times) were not mutually exclusive. Knee-deep clothing was a kind of garment with the lower part and the lower hem was edged but not slit in the sides. It was the main fashion of that time, continuing up to the Han Dynasty. The hufu was originally worn by the nomadic people on the grasslands in the north, having the characteristics of jacket, trousers and boots. Later it was introduced into the Central Plains, improving combat effectiveness and bringing about convenience to life.

With the development of social production, a situation of contention of a hundred schools of thought also

Kao Gong Ji (The Records of Examination of Craftsmen)

Kao Gong Ji (The Records of Examination of Craftsmen)

emerged in the academic field during the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States Period. Trends of social thought, art and culture were unprecedented prosperous. Various schools of thoughts, such as Confucianist, Taoist, Mohist and Legalish, had deep impact on the development of arts and crafts of that time and the later ages as well. For instance, the Confucian School laid emphasis on the unity of content and form; the Taoist School advocated the ethical thought “Great art conceals itselft” (that is, a capable man pretends to be stupid in order to avoid jealousy); the Mohist School laid stress on the ideals of “economization” and “Content first, form second;” and the Legalists were against forms but for functions. The hundred schools of thought and their exponents all regarded the handicraft technology as an advanced productivity. They often tool skills as examples to expound their respective thought, to make use of objects for giving explicit instructions and to reason things out with implements. It is indeed something rare and deserving praise for the Kao Gong Ji, the earliest monograph on handicrafts at that time, to sum up the scientific experiences of various kinds of workmanship and put forward the simple and straightforward handicraft viewpoint. Under the influence of contention of a hundred schools of thought, the workmanship of the arts and crafts during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period formed the characteristics of clever ideas, new looks and vivacious styles.

Goujian's Bronze sword from the late Spring and Autumn Period, still very sharp today, a masterpiece of the Wu and Yue states

Goujian’s Bronze sword from the late Spring and Autumn Period, still very sharp today, a masterpiece of the Wu and Yue states

At the time, the handicraft industry run by dukes and princes or by self-employed artisans could be found in many states. The independent production and development of the various states formed their regional and diversified workmanship. Various states had their respective regional famous products, such as the lacquer ware and leather-making of the Chu State, the swords of the Wu and Yue States, the bows and cross bows of the Han States, the iron-smelting of the Zhao States, the bamboo ware and woodenware of Ba and Shu States, the pottery-making of the Qi States and the jewelry in the southern coastal area. The shape of utensils made in the Chu States was tall and straight and the subject for decoration was of romantic style, full of fantasy; the articles made in the Qin States were of realistic style, simple and unsophisticated; the Zhao States was known for its simplicity and vigorousness; the Zheng State, for its exquisiteness and ingeniousness; the Yan States, for its primitiveness and simplicity; and the Han States, for its refinement and elegance. The handicraft articles made in various states all reflected the strong flavor of their respective style.

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