Song/Chinese Jade and Liao/Qidan Amber: A Case of Cultural-Artistic Exchange
Jenny F. So (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
At the international conference on Tang to Qing jades held on the 50th anniversary of the Shanghai Museum in 2001, I discussed the use of amber in Liao (or Qidan) culture and concluded that amber, and artifacts carved in amber, epitomized the Qidan artistic and cultural character (see Shanghai 2002 publication below). In February 2007, I attempted to identify and understand the artistic and cultural characteristics of jades from the Northern Song period (contemporary with Liao) in a paper presented at the international conference “Founding Paradigms: Art and Culture of the Northern Sung Period”.
In the paper I propose for this conference, I intend to look at both jade and amber from the 10th through early 12th centuries, i.e. the period contemporaneous with Qidan-Liao and Northern Song dynasties in north China from a comparative perspective, to explore issues of cultural and artistic exchange between these two political-cultural entities. Lothar Ledderose has looked at this issue from the perspective of court-sponsored projects to carve Buddhist scriptures during the Liao and Song periods. I choose to work with secular and culturally specific materials such as jade (for China) and amber (for Qidan) to highlight interaction and exchange between cultures. Just as gold in ancient China was a foreign material to China’s bronze, so jade might be seen as a foreign material to the Qidan’s amber during the Liao/Song periods. I shall use one of the most important, dated, archaeological Liao/Qidan finds – the joint burial in Inner Mongolia of the Qidan Princess Chen and her consort (buried in 1018) – in which both jade and amber have been recovered in large quantities, as the primary focus of my study. Other material from relevant archaeological and museum collections will also be included as appropriate. The goal is to uncover the complex forces at work (religious, cultural, artistic etc.) behind the production of these luxury goods and understand their meaning in the lives of both Chinese and Qidan owners.