Arts and Crafts during the Six Dynasties
During the period of the Six Dynasties, wars occurred frequently in the north but the south was comparatively stable. The shifting of a large number of population and technical strength to the south promoted the exploitation and development of the south. The situation of taking the north as the center of economy and handicraft production for a long time began to change and a new situation was formed for the whole nation to develop in a balanced way.
The Six Dynasties, inheriting upward from the Western Han Dynasty and the Eastern Han Dynasty and handing down to the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty, was an important transitional period in the handicraft history of China. The turbulence of the society, the sufferings brought about by the war, and he mental agony gave an opportunity to the rise and dissemination of Buddhism to publicize karma and samsara and the rulers also made use of Buddhism to consolidate their rule. As a result, Buddhism was energetically encouraged. In the north, grottoes in Dunhuang, the Datong Grottoes, and the Luoyang Grottoes are all the pioneering works left from that time. In the south, Buddhism. Many a brass or copper ware, gold vessel, silverware, carved stone, textile, embroidery and lacquer ware all contained the subject of Buddhism. Lotus and honeysuckle, the main ornament at that time, became the symbols of Buddhism. The prevalence of Buddhism also contributed to and expanded international exchanges. The visit of monks from India and craftsmen from the Western Regions introduced the Indian art compromising the Greek and Persian styles to China and impelled the handicraft culture of China to carry out a new synthesis. Therefore, the religious trend and foreign style of the industrial art are the important handicraft features of the Six Dynasties.
In the ideological sphere, metaphysics prevailed. Supported by the ideology of Lao-tzu (Le Er), Chuang-tzu (Zhuang Zhou) and the book of Changes, metaphysics paid close attention to the reality of personal existence, expounded the special relationship between man and society and between man and nature, and advocated idle talk, mysteries, tranquility and detachment from reality. The “nil” of the metaphysics happens to be coincidental to the “emptiness” of Buddhism. What was reflected in the industrial art was the ornamental subjects of uninhibitedness and noninterference, keeping aloof from worldly things. They were represented by the picture of “Seven Virtuous Persons in Bamboo Grove” joined with bricks and formed an industrial style of delicacy and prettiness as well as sparseness and spaciousness. Brick pictures were particularly used to express asges and men of virtue. Compared with the Han Dynasty, the industrial art of the Six Dynasties was richer in the delight of life and was also penetrated with the color of Buddhism such as lotus, curly grass, rocks and trees. Benefited from the improvement of technological level, the Six Dynasties often made larger-scale theme mural integrated with a number of pictures joined with bricks.
By te Six Dynasties, China had entered the porcelain age. Though primitive porcelain came into being as early as in the Shang Dynasty, it was not until the later period of the Han Dynasty that the fabrication technology became basically perfect. Not only is porcelain solid, easy to wash, heat-resisting, and acid-and alkali-resisting but also fine, smooth, warm and moist to the touch, and translucent. All this is in conformity with people’s aesthetic requirements. Since then, ceramic has become a main variety in people’s household necessities that even can not be completely replaced by the modern products made of glass, aluminum, etc.
In the respect of dyeing and weaving technology, the figured satin woven in Sichuan was the most famous during the period of Three Kingdoms and the Western Jin Dynasty and the Eastern Jin Dynasty. However, in the Southern Dynasty, the dyeing and weaving technology was also universally developedin the regious south of the Yangtze River and the output of silk weaving products was enormous in Jingzhou and Yangzhou. The venis and grain of silk weaving during the period of the Six Dynasty were no longer irregular and uneven like those made in the Han Dynasty but instead regular waves in geometric pattern were woven.
By this time, handicraftsmen had already obtained independence and freedom to a certain extent. They were allowed to be engaged freely in production and update the technology. In a certain sphere they could also carry out their own handicraft operation so as to promote the development of the varieties of handicraft articles. The invention and improvement of various kinds of implements impelled the development of social production and life. For instance, during the period of Three Kingdoms, the politician and strategist Zhuang Liang invented the wooden ox and gliding horse, a means of transport in mountainous regions and Ma Jun, a master artisan, invented a farm tool for water conservancy, i.e. the later keel-plate waterwheel, and productivity was greatly improved.