Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Museum to Showcase Jin War Chariots

With all of the spectacular archaeological finds made in China since the 1980s it is difficult to choose the most important - and the finds just keep multiplying each year. I have been fortunate to have seen a traveling exhibit of the terracotta warriors and hope to see them in situ one day. Now it looks like I need to plan to include this new museum showcasing the fabulous Jin war chariots of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1120-781 BC), like the one shown here, in my itinerary!

[Image - life-size model of a Zhou Dynasty "4 Horses 3 men" War Chariot in the China's People's Revolutionary Military Musuem in Beijing]

In the remote village of Yangshe on the banks of the Yellow River, Chinese archaeologists are little by little bringing an ancient culture back to life after nearly 3,000 years. The vast cemetery they are excavating belonged to the rulers of the Jin state, which is finally emerging in all its remarkable diversity in what is now northern China's Shanxi Province. It is a discovery that in most countries would excite the entire scholarly community, but in China it is just one in a string of startling finds.

At the Yangshe dig, the outstanding feature is a large pit containing 48 chariots and 105 horses that were buried with a Jin ruler particularly noted for his military campaigns during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1120-781 BC).

The find is the largest horse and chariot pit dating from the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC) so far found in China and predates the terracotta warrior tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang, by more than 600 years, Ji said.
Among the finds are ceremonial carriages exquisitely painted with red lacquer and which include finely crafted doors with bronze hinges. Armoured war carriages protected by bronze plates are also among the finds.
"We believe the chariots and horses were the actual cavalry used in the military campaigns of the Jin leader," Ji said. "So far we have counted at least 105 horses, which we believe were drugged and buried alive as some of their heads were erect and others had their legs bound," he added.
The state of Jin existed as part of the Zhou Dynasty, which was divided into western and eastern periods.
The Jin cemetery was first discovered in 1992, but funding for major excavations only began in 1996.
Since then all 19 tombs have been excavated with the dig of the largest horse and chariot pit alone taking four years, Ji said.
Coinciding with the discoveries, archaeologists in China are seeing funding on a scale they could only have dreamt of a few years ago. "The Museum of the State of Jin, which begins construction in March, will sit on top of the horse and chariot pit and is expected to be opened by 2010," he said.
The 100-million-yuan (13-million-dollar) museum will house a treasure trove of bronze and jade artifacts from all 19 tombs of the early Jin rulers and their wives.
 You can learn more about he Qing (Jin) dynasty in this YouTube video:

 China: A History  China: Its History and Culture (4th Edition)   Ancient China Simplified

Laurence Hutton's "Undying Faces" mesmerizing

I want to thank Laurence Hutton for commenting on my post about the recreation of Abraham Lincoln in the upcoming program "Stealing Lincoln's Body". He pointed me to his blog highlighting famous life and death masks, entitled "Undying Faces". I was mesmerized as I looked at faces of people I had read about but only seen in painted portraits, as they lived, for the most part, before the age of photography.

[Image left - Vice-admiral Horatio Nelson life mask, 1800, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London]

I was particularly interested in the life mask of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, commander in Britain's most famous naval victory at Trafalgar. I have always found Lord Nelson to be a very handsome man. I certainly understand why Emma Hamilton found him so attractive and have even collected historical figures of him (my favorite is a portrait doll by English artist Ann Parker. I was gratified to see that he was as handsome in reality as he has been portrayed in art.

[Image right - Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott]

It is not surprising that Lord Nelson had a life mask made of himself. He was, apparently, quite vain, according to an assessment of his personality in Wikipedia:

Nelson was regarded as a highly effective leader, and someone who was able to sympathise with the needs of his men. He based his command on love rather than authority, inspiring both his superiors and his subordinates with his considerable courage, commitment and charisma, dubbed 'the Nelson touch'.[206][207] Nelson combined this talent with an adept grasp of strategy and politics, making him a highly successful naval commander. However, Nelson's personality was complex, often characterised by a desire to be noticed, both by his superiors, and the general public. He was easily flattered by praise, and dismayed when he felt he was not given sufficient credit for his actions.[208] This led him to take risks, and to enthusiastically publicise his resultant successes.[209] Nelson was also highly confident in his abilities, determined and able to make important decisions.[210] His active career meant that he was considerably experienced in combat, and was a shrewd judge of his opponents, able to identify and exploit his enemies' weaknesses.[206] He was often prone to insecurities however, as well as violent mood swings,[211] and was extremely vain: he loved to receive decorations, tributes and praise.[212] Despite his personality, he remained a highly professional leader and was driven all his life by a strong sense of duty. - Wikipedia
Of the Civil War-era death masks in Mr. Hutton's collection, I found the cast of Ulysses S. Grant to look the closest to his portraits in paintings and on our currency. Of course, in his case we have a photograph to compare with it.

[Image left - death mask of President Ulysses S. Grant]

I thought the death mask of Robert E. Lee reflected a sad end to a once great warrior.

His face seemed more elongated and emaciated than portraits I have seen of him.

[Image right - Death mask of Confederate General Robert E. Lee]

Of course, that is the problem when looking at a death mask. It is created at the end of life after, in many cases, wasting illnesses. In Lee's case:

"On September 28, 1870, Lee suffered a stroke that left him without the ability to speak. Lee died from the effects of pneumonia, a little after 9 a.m., October 12, 1870, two weeks after the stroke, in Lexington, Virginia. He was buried underneath Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University, where his body remains today. According to J. William Jones' Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee, his last words, on the day of his death, were "Tell Hill he must come up. Strike the tent," but this is debatable because of conflicting accounts. Since Lee's stroke resulted in aphasia, last words may have been impossible. Lee was treated homeopathically for this illness.[42]" - Wikipedia
It's as if you can see the profound sadness on his face, even in death, for the effects of his surrender at Appamatox and the brutal "reconstruction" that followed.

"Lee attended a meeting of ex-Confederates in 1870, during which he expressed regrets about his surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, given the effects of Republican Reconstruction policy on the South. Speaking to former Confederate Governor of Texas Fletcher Stockdale, he said:

Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people [Yankees] designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.[39]- Wikipedia