Celadon zun (a kind of wine vessel) in lotus shape from the Northern Dynasty with gorgeous pattern and well-rounded shape, a representative work of northern celadon
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.
Terracotta warriors of Qin Dynasty, unearthed from the tomb of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty in Lintong, Shaanxi
The period of the Qing Dynasty and the Han Dynasty was a period to establish and consolidated a centralized feudal monarch with multi nationalities united in China. The political system of centralization of the state power required the technologic production under a single command and a grand scale. A segment of a whole can be seen from the world-famous architectures and statues of the Qing Dynasty such as the Great Wall, the tomb of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and his terracotta warriors and horses.
There were two kinds of operation for the arts and crafts in the period of the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty: run by the government and by self-employed artisans. The former was mainly to meet the demands of imperial household and the nobility, the yamen (government office in feudal China) at all levels and the army. So the scale was grand, the trades were numerous, the division of labor was elaborate, the management was perfect, and the funds were abundant. As for the latter, the natural economy of the self-supporting and self-sufficient agricultural society was its important content, i.e. men tilling the farm and women weaving.
The government-run handicrafts of the Qin Dynasty included mining, smelting and casting, arms and weapons, carriages and chariots, tools and implements, lacquer ware and earthenware. The government, from the central to the local, set up large-scale handicraft administrations. During the Qin and Han period, iron-smelting industry had a great development. With the emergence of the technology of well-tempered steel forged for several times, the quality of ironware like weapons and farm tools was improved and social production promoted. In the early stage of the Qin Dynasty, ministerial government was honest and upright, the people were simple and honest, and arts and crafts laid stress on practical use with simple and unadorned shapes. As the rule of the Qin Dynasty lasted for only fifteen years, not too many handicraft articles have been handed down and what was left is mainly bronze ware, lacquer work and earthenware.
Musicians on camelback, Tang0dynasty Tri-color figurines
The period of the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty was a stage of great prosperity in the ancient society of China. As the reunified multi-national country was further developed and consolidated, the social economy and culture became unprecedentedly prosperous.
During the period of the Sui Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty, the government still controlled the main handicraft departments and the administrative setups were more perfect. Te government-run handicraft played a leading role in the respects of scale, organization, division of labor and technology. Many products were sold abroad through tributes, grants and trading and they were also sold at home through the form of monopolized sale. The division of labor was even more elaborate. Artisans of different profession had to receive technical training and study from nine months to four years, for instance, metalsmith for four years; artisan to make musical instrument and chariot, three years; and bamboo artisan, carpenter and lacquerer, one year.
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.
White pottery- dou (hollow container) from the Shang Dynasty, a treasure with exquisite patterns of thunder clouds, elegant in style and dignified in shape
Starting from the Xia, the Shang and the West Zhou, China began the replacement of dynasties one after another. Both the Xia and the Shang had official post specially set up to manage handicrafts under the direct control of royal families and nobles. The sacrificial vessels, sacrificial utensils, weapons and valuable articles for daily use needed by the rulers were all fabricated by the handicrafts under the control of officials. Most of the craftsman in the Shang Dynasty belonged to the respective clan engaged in a special kind of handicraft from generation to generation but a small part of them were slaves transformed from prisoners of war.
Bronze ware was an important handicraft variety in the Shang Dynasty. The brone ware of the Shang Dynasty had almost all categories with various shapes. For decorative designs, they were of central symmetry of single line patterns, mysterious and solemn. Due to the tendency of drinking prevailing among the ruling class of the Shang Dynasty, the making of drinking vessels was highly developed. As the cost was very high, the bronze ware could only be used by rulers. For the broad masses of slaves, earthenware was still taken as principal articles for their daily necessities. As a result, the pottery-making technique of the Shang Dynasty was also universally developed. There were three kinds of technique to make pottery: wheel, mold and their combination. There was also an internal division of labor for the pottery-making technique and different kilns fired different potteries. China is the first nation in the world to breed silkworms, weave silk fabrics and use lacquer. In the Shang Dynasty, wild silkworms had already been domesticated. The coating of lacquer can prevent wooden articles from rotting and be used for decoration as well. So far as decoration was concerned, the handicraft in the Shang Dynasty was full of strong religious color and its religious significance was more important than aesthetic consciousness.