Do you know that Oriental figurines are not a new invention at all? Yes, you probably do if you have ever considered the subject. However, most people are not familiar with the fact that the ancient works of the past have laid a firm foundation for the Asian art we enjoy today. So classical art remains a part of our lives right now, even if we do not always recognize it. Our eyes are frequently captured by the incredible finds which have been dug up at Lintong near Xi'an, the capital city of modern day Shaanxi province in China. It is common knowledge that there is a grand mausoleum with its thousands of guardian terracotta warriors and horses. These very unique figures stand forever as a testimony to the fascinating legacy of the first emperor, Qin Shihuang. These findings have remarkably reshaped our understanding of the origins of the pre-imperial state of Qin. They have also helped us comprehend the rise of Qing culture as well as the political / military reforms which signify Qin history. Its position of prominence during the first millennium BCE served as a foundation for a mighty empire. For this reason, its art has also had a profound and long lasting effect upon much of East Asia … and even beyond!
To study the past is to better understand ourselves and human nature itself. Our connection with the people who lived in the past is actually more intimate than we might wish to believe. After all, humans have always had the same concerns in one form or another. To know the gold and jade figurines of the Qin dynasty is a rewarding tour of delight for this same reason. The first gold figures of the Qin known to the modern collector are a number of thin gold sheets in stylized animal and other numerous geometric shapes. It is thought they are from the ancient tombs of the Dukes of Qin at a cemetery in Mount Dabuzi, Li county, Gansu province. These gold leafs were used to embellish coffins of the dead. Their superior sophistication strongly suggests that the Qin's love of gold probably began at an early date, perhaps much earlier than previously thought. The overwhelming quantity and quality of gold objects is a powerful testimonial to the high standard of technical skill achieved during the Qin era.
Of course, gold was not just used for human ornaments. It was also used for luxury items like reins for horses, chariot decorations, and even belt buckles. One find included a belt buckle in the shape of seven coiled serpents. Another style of buckle was formed like a stylized mandarin duck with its head facing back with the long break serving as the belt hook. The selection of the mandarin duck as a motif could have arisen from the traditional idea that it is a bird of great wonder and beauty. Later the duck even became a symbol of conjugal fidelity in China. A different (and sometimes somewhat funny) representation discovered is that of a tiger. The tiger is animated by its startled look, glaring eyes, prominent teeth, and big ears. The symbol of the tiger is certainly not a new one, as this piece of evidence establishes. In Asia the tiger is considered to be a very alluring, though dangerous, creature.
The Qin dynasty also inherited a rich legacy of jade carvings. These came from the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties. Qin jade itself demonstrates a uniqueness which is quite distinct. These are in the form of art pieces which come in the shapes of rectangular plaques and circular pendants. The use of gold and silver as well as jade for luxuries became more common with time. New ideas and technologies for fashioning them gradually emerged too. However, early developments and innovations were critical foundations for the pregnancy which occurred during Qin Shihuang's era. All of this is reflected in the discoveries from the excavated tomb complex previously mentioned.
It is the thesis of this writer that the contemporary figurines and art work of Asia all owe a debt to the art of the past. The classic has never been eradicated by the modern when it comes to art. Nearly all Asian regions have been deeply affected at some time or another by the culture which belongs to China. This is why the study of China's art gives any serious Asian collector an indisputable grasp on the market for Oriental collectibles, art, and decor. To know the meaning and relevance of any Asian decor strategy, it is almost impossible to fail to understand something about the history and culture of the Middle Kingdom. The classic is still an intimate part of the contemporary!