Nine elders of Huichang



Sharon Matute October 24, 1999

Art 100 – 007 Professor Sax



Art can be used to study the progression of a civilization through time. Art is usually used to express one’s beliefs religiously, politically, and sometimes as a source of communication, which is accomplished through imagery. Symbols in works of art can be related to nature and myths.1 From the beginning of Chinese history, art and philosophy worked hand-in-hand with the creation of a work of art. Chinese art was used as evidence of a person’s behavior and attitude towards nature and other beings (e.g. the nicer the painting the better the person.)2
During the seventh and eighth centuries Chinese art was at its peak. China at this time was under the jurisdiction of the T’ang Dynasty. Because of the beautiful work being manufactured China became a multinational society. Paintings and sculptures were not the only works that China would receive admiration for. Their music and literature (poems which sometimes explained works of art) were also at their richest points,3
T’ang art has incomparable vigor, realism, dignity… There is an optimism, an energy, a frank acceptance of tangible reality which gives the same character to all T’ang art, whether it be the most splendid fresco
from the hand of a master or the humblest tomb figurine made by the village potter. (Sullivan 160)
When a piece of artistic work was considered good all that really mattered was the amount of effort that went into the piece and not the derivation of the person’s economic class. Scarce materials were used very often in the creation of Chinese artifacts.

One of the mot famous and revered stones used was Jade, which was very hard and indestructible. Jade cannot be found in China; it was traded with Burma, which is located on the outer edge of China, so it is amazing to know how much work was done with it in the 600 and 700 era. Jade was usually used in burials in the sealing of the orifices of the body. This mineral was also recognized for having a beautiful reverberating tone. Jade was carved by pulverizing it with the assistance of an abrasive powder, a skill that was modified from the Shang craftsmen from their Neolithic craftsmen.4 The fine work on the Emerald was done through the use of a wire saw for fine details. Then it is smoothed with a polishing wheel.5

In the process of working with Jade the artisan would have to form a respect induced relationship between self and the material. When the artist first receives the material he would not begin to carve because the contour, proportions, and decoration of the piece would depend on religious ceremony. Craftsmen would sometimes study a piece of Jade for many years before deciding what to do with it.

Jade comes in an array colors ranging from yellow to brown and from light green to bright green, black and dark purple and those of the highest value were white. Each color of Jade had a specific classification such as ink black, snow, kingfisher green, sea green, grass green, vermilion red and mutton-fat. Green stones in Chinese culture are deemed for having healing powers. That was my main reason for having such an interest in relics made from green minerals.6

The piece I chose to study is called the Nine Elders of the Huichang, Mountain Scene of the celebrated gathering in 845 C.E. The Jade used is green nephrite from Hotan. This piece sits in the Peking Palace Museum. It stands 4 ft. high, 3 ft. wide and weighs 1,830 pounds. This piece was completed in 1786 with the addition of a

poem engraved on the back of the figurine by the Qianlong emperor. The frontal view illustrates a scene of the first and second elders playing chess in the gazebo and the third elder observing. Below that a small servant boy is boiling water for tea. The fourth and fifth elders are conversing and strolling over the bridge, followed by another boy servant. The remaining four elders can be seen on the reverse side of the effigy. The sixth elder has his hand on a boy’s head and they are both absorbing the beauty of nature. The seventh senior is walking with the assistance of