deceased relative, either immediate or distant, from whom a family or larger group traces its origins. In many cultures ancestors provide an important link to the spirit world and a source of continuity.
major religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a sixth-century-B.C. prince who became known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. In its philosophical teachings, Buddhism seeks the liberation of the individual from the suffering inherent in life, a goal known as enlightenment or nirvana. As Buddhism spread from India to South and Southeast Asia and finally to China, many diverse forms of the religion developed. In China, Chan Buddhism developed in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. This type of Buddhism combined the doctrines of Indian Buddhism with native Chinese ideas. Chan Buddhism stresses the importance of the enlightenment experience and the uselessness of rituals while encouraging intellectual analysis of the doctrine.
a type of ceramic ware named after one of the centers of ceramic production in northern China. Cizhou wares are distinguished by a creamy white slip topped with a clear glaze. Cizhou wares vary in style and decorative technique.
inscriptions that follow the painting in a handscroll
a philosophical practice based on the teachings of Confucius (c. 550–478 B.C.), a Chinese scholar and teacher. Confucianism offered a model of government that emphasized a ruler's moral qualities, such as the correct and harmonious fulfillment of his family obligations.
attainment of perfect understanding and integration with the universe and release from the earthly cycle of suffering, as believed in Buddhism; the spiritual goal of Buddhism; literally “to become extinguished”
to bake in a kiln
a glassy coating on the surface of a ceramic object. Glazes seal the clay, making it impervious to water and add decorative color or texture.
Han dynasty (n)
c. 206 B.C.–A.D. 220. A period of great cultural and territorial expansion that brought China into contact with other cultures, including those of Southeast Asia and Korea. During this time, Confucianism began to flourish and Buddhism was brought to China by merchants along the Silk Road. During the Han dynasty, the civil service was developed, the first history of China was written, and the first Chinese dictionary was compiled.
a painting or piece of calligraphy made in the form of a horizontal scroll specifically intended for occasional, intimate viewing. Handscrolls are viewed just as Chinese is read: a section at a time, from right to left. Handscrolls vary considerably in length; although some are quite short, others may extend to over 70 feet in length.
a collective term applied to either of the two minerals jadeite or nephrite; a highly valued, ornamental stone for carvings and jewelry. In ancient China, the term for jade usually denoted nephrite only. Jades were highly valued by the early Chinese and thought to possess life-preserving properties.
Jin dynasty (n)
c. 12th century, 1115–1234
An oven designed to produce enough heat for the baking, or firing, of clay
In Chinese, shanshui (pronounced: shahn-shway); literally, “mountains,” shan, and “water,” shui. In early China, mountains and water (streams, rivers, mist, clouds, etc.), came to represent the essence of nature. Mountains were the active and upward energy, and water was the yielding and downward energy. By the 10th century, landscape became the most important theme for traditional Chinese painters and remains so to this day.
Majiayao culture (n)
Name given to a group of Neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River region. The culture existed from approximately 3100 to 2700 B.C. The earliest discoveries of copper and bronze objects in China were found in this region.
the study of metals and their atomic properties; the study of procedures used in extracting metals from their ores, purifying and alloying metals, and creating useful objects from metals
one of numerous symbolic hand gestures that indicate concepts, such as reassurance or meditation, in Hinduism and Buddhism
Neolithic period (n)
c. 10,000–1700 B.C.; literally, “New Stone” Age; the latest period of the Stone Age. During the Neolithic period, people began to settle in villages and make more sophisticated stone tools and weapons.
one of the kinds of stone known as jade. Early Chinese jades are all of nephrite. Nephrite is known for its creamy, warm color as opposed to the brighter crystalline green character of jadeite.
piece-mold casting (n)
a technique in which molten metal, usually bronze, is poured into a mold consisting of several sections to create a cast. After the cast has hardened, the pieces of the mold are disassembled, leaving the completed object.
a high-fired, hard, translucent, white ceramic ware that is often glazed. Porcelain makes a bright ringing tone when struck. Chinese porcelains are generally made of porcelain stone (a volcanic rock consisting principally of quartz) and kaolin (a white clay) fired to about 1,300º C or higher. Chinese porcelains were so prized for their delicacy and beauty they were known as “white gold.”
Qing dynasty (n)
c. 1644–1911. The period during which the Manchus, foreigners from central Asia, took advantage of Ming imperial weakness and successfully occupied China. During this period, China became the most heavily populated country in the world.
an image or likeness of something; in art, recognizable objects, figures, or elements in nature are depicted, as distinguished from abstraction
Silk Road/Silk Roads (n)
the long and arduous routes by which traders, missionaries, and others traveled between China and the ancient Middle East, so named because silk traveled to the Mediterranean along these routes. The Silk Road stretched across northwest China into central Asia and then southward to what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and finally westward toward the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Tang dynasty (n)
c. 618–906. At its height, Tang dynasty China was the largest and most powerful empire in the world. Its power and influence was felt throughout Asia and even the Middle East. The blend of new and foreign ideas contributed to a rich mixture of tradition and cultures.
a philosophical system and an organized religion based on the Tao, or “Way.” Religious Taoism developed between the 2nd and 5th century A.D. and built on earlier philosophical foundations. Religious Taoism incorporated new ritual practices and religious institutions into the earlier, philosophical Taosim. See Taoism and the Arts of China.
Three Dynasties (n)
succession of dominant states as China transitioned from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age, including the Xia dynasty (2100–1700 B.C.), the Shang dynasty (1700–1050 B.C.), and the Zhou dynasty (1050–256 B.C.)
a literary and philosophical movement asserting the existence of an ideal spiritual reality that transcends logic and is knowable through intuition. The Transcendental movement flourished in New England from around 1836 to 1860 with writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
prominent bump on the top of Buddha’s head, which refers to his wisdom and openness as an enlightened being.
Western Han dynasty (n)
c. 206 B.C.–A.D. 9. See Han dynasty.
Western Jin dynasty (n)
Yellow River (n)
second longest river in China located in northern China
Yuan dynasty (n)
c. 1260–1368. A period of foreign occupation by the nomadic tribes of Mongolia. Faced with discrimination by foreign rulers, educated Chinese recalled their past and turned their energies to art and culture.
Zhou dynasty (n)
c. 1050–256 B.C. The longest dynasty in Chinese history and the great age of early Chinese philosophy. The Zhou kings established a principle of governance called the Mandate of Heaven, meaning that power was bestowed by heaven and governance was determined by moral quality.
organization of the calendar into 12-year cycles, each represented by an animal associated with specific personality traits. The animals include: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, cock, dog, and pig. People born in the zodiac year of a specific animal are said to possess that animal’s traits.