Posts Tagged 'ethnology'

Object: Jade Carving

willshannah_124974_9597796_28275482_1964890397172609_176426160_oAccession Number: E/1995/18/041

Object: Jade Carving: This object is made up of a water buffalo, two female figures, a bird, and a ‘mysterious’ figure

Location: China

Date: Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 C.E.)

Materials: Jade (nephrite)

Keywords: China, Jade, Ming Dynasty, water buffalo, symbolism

It is important to know what exactly is being talked about in order for the whole symbolism of the piece which is so important to be understood. With that being the case, the two female figures are stood at the front of the piece, the one on the left as you look at the piece front on, seemingly more elderly than the other. Behind them, on a podium, stands the water buffalo. On this creature’s back is the bird, seemingly holding a branch of some sort. Covering the bird almost entirely from the front, but above the more elderly woman, is what has been dubbed the ‘mysterious’ figure for reasons that will be discussed later. This piece is carved from jade, giving it a primarily pink color, though there is brown in the stone on the bottom of the podium, and green on the bird’s head and the front of the ‘mystery’ figure. This use of jade also gives it a very smooth feel. All of this can be seen in Fig. 1.

For the discussion of this piece, it is also imperative to have some background knowledge on the culture and time it is coming from. It is known that this piece came from the Ming Dynasty (1) which ran from 1368-1644 C.E. this being the time between the Yuan and Qing Dynasties. While both of these have important connotations politically for China, the Yuan is better known for its founding by Genghis Khan and his regime. It is after the Qing Dynasty that the current politics of China were founded, putting the Ming Dynasty right at the end of dynastic rule in China. Culturally, this piece is also significant for what the figures symbolize for the Chinese people, as will be discussed in depth in the rest of this post.

When discussing the symbolism of this piece it is simpler and easier to break down into three sections; the buffalo figure, the bird figure, and the jade material. These then are used in combination in this piece to create a whole new meaning and give more insight into what this particular piece may have meant for the Chinese people and also what we can learn about them from it.

Beginning with the buffalo figure, this piece has layers of meaning. The first layer comes from early Chinese history, just like every other civilization, China was founded on agriculture. In agriculture, water buffalo were very important for the Chinese people as they were used for plowing the fields. The second layer comes later in history, c.11th-12th century C.E. At this time the buffalo/ox figures had a kind of revival due to the publication of a series of songs, Ten Oxherding Songs, that talked about the path to enlightenment. This path is by finding, sighting, and herding an ox/buffalo (2).

willshannah_124974_9597797_elderly women

The next figure to examine is that of the bird. There are multiple variations of what exactly a bird means but they are all centered around the idea of death and the soul. They were considered to be the guide into the afterlife for a person’s soul for many years in China (3). This may also give an explanation for the ‘mystery’ figure; it may be that this non-descript figure is meant to be a soul that is being guided by the bird behind it, the seeming face on this figure also gives credence to this idea.

Finally, the material used must be considered. Jade, or nephrite specifically, was commonly seen in China as a precious stone, with connotations to heaven (4). It has also always been a very hard stone to work with and shape due to its structure (5). These combined have meant that jade has formed connotations with rich elites as they were the only ones with the means to buy anything so costly. We also know that jade has always had ceremonial connotations (6), specifically with funerals, from early dynasty tombs holding simple jade discs, to later tombs holding intricately carved pieces similar to one in this project.

When all these elements are combined a whole new meaning to the piece as a whole is presented. What becomes clear is that this piece is a rare and precious ceremonial piece, likely from an elite’s tomb, possibly with the goal of showing how the deceased wishes to go to heaven, showing they are worthy of such a thing through their enlightenment and respect for their origins.

Another possible conclusion of fusing these sub-categories is mentioned in the donor file document, “this carving represents the source of life” (1). This is also a suitable conclusion to draw when taking the symbolism into account; the buffalo means the source of agriculture and therefore life, the bird guides the spirits into the people, and the ‘mystery’ figure is still representative of the souls being guided. In fact, this conclusion may even account for the two female figures in the foreground of the carving (as seen in Fig. 2), although I have not mentioned previously them due to lack of information, one could make the argument for them possibly being mother figures and nurturing the animals and/or souls, or possibly having some other similar kind of role.

For more information on the value of jade throughout history, as well as more modern uses for jade please watch the following short video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBY6JfuUM0

((Shannah Will))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Bibliographic references:

  1. Matzene-Wentz donor file. Sam Noble Museum.
  2. Pik, Chan Lai. 2011. “Jade spiders and praying mantises of the Western Zhou Dynasty: Reconstructing an ancient cultural mindset.” Ars Orientalis 41: 165-185.
  3. Leidy, Denise P., Sui, Wai-fang Anita, and Watt, James C.Y. 1997. “Chinese decorative arts.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum.
  4. de Groot, J.J.M. 1897. The religious system of China: its ancient forms, evolution, history and present aspect, manners, customs, and social institutions. Leiden: Brill.
  5. Meeks, Nigel D., Michaelson, Carole, Middleton, Andrew P., and Sax, Margaret. 2004. “The identification of carving techniques on Chinese jade.” Journal of archaeological science 31 (10): 1413-1428.
  6. Boy with water buffalo statue, accession no. 02.18.438. The Metropolitan Museum.

 

Object: Feather Bonnet

Accession Number: E/1944/1/047

Object: Feather Bonnet

Culture: Cherokee (Yuchi?)

Location: North America – Southwest

Date of Origin: Unknown

Materials: Turkey Feathers, Leather Straps, Colored Yarn, Blue Wool, White String, Red Feathers, Cloth Cap

Keywords: Bravery, Feathers, War, Ceremony, Plains

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The material object for this blog post is a feather bonnet that was made by a member of the Cherokee or possibly Yuchi tribe. The feathers on the bonnet are in bad condition, some torn or falling apart. There is blue wool that wraps around each end of the feather and they are fastened to the cap with leather straps. The feathers are held upright with a white string running around the middle of the feathers. There are two red feathers flanking the sides of the bonnet, and on the front there is a multi-colored pattern in yarn, possibly to mimic bead work.

The entry in the Ethnology database says that the object is either Cherokee or Yuchi in origin, but in this blog post I focused mainly on the Cherokee culture. For the Cherokee people, it was important to use every part of the animal that they killed and incorporated parts of the animal into everything they used.[i] With turkey feathers, the Cherokees mainly used them for feather wands and in capes, but during the reservation period and the Cherokees adopting the Plains style headdress, they could easily have added feather bonnets to their list of uses for turkey feathers.

With a plains style feather bonnet, or war bonnet, the main purpose of them was for war. In order for a warrior to receive one, he had to have demonstrated his bravery in battle. In a process known as counting coup, a warrior collected a golden eagle feather that symbolized a specific deed of bravery. Once enough coup was collected, a warrior could make himself a bonnet. In some tribes, all the warriors would get together to help make the bonnet, and with every feather that was wrapped and attached to the bonnet, the warrior would relate the heroic deed of how he received the feather and pass on his story to the rest of the tribe.[ii]

War bonnets were not restricted to the battlefield. By them wearing a war bonnet during dancing, they were honoring the warriors of the tribe. This custom is still true today, especially during Armed Forces Day or Veterans Day.

The feathers also held special meaning themselves. The most prestigious feathers for bonnets were Golden Eagle feathers.[iii] With each feather signifying a specific act of bravery, a warrior would wear them proudly for the whole tribe to see. Today they would be equivalent to medals awarded by the armed forces. The feathers and other parts of the animal that adorned the bonnet was also thought to pass on the animal’s powers to the wearer. For instance, the feathers on the bonnet were thought to protect the wearer from being hit by bullets.[iv]

Feather bonnets held many functions. They are a badge of honor, showing the bravery of the warrior on the battlefield. They are a ceremonial peace used to honor warriors during dances and celebrations. And they are also a story telling device. The materials used in creating these objects mean something very personal and important to the person making it. These bonnets pass on the story and the culture of the tribe associated with them and remind us that there is meaning behind the beauty of feather bonnets.

washambrian_112566_9634254_war bonnet 3

((Brian Washam))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

[i] Perdue, Theda. 2005. The Cherokees, Indians of North America. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers.

 

[ii] Hardin, Barry. 2013. The Plains Warbonnet, Its Story and Construction. Pottsboro, TX: Crazy Crow Trading Post.

 

[iii] Klapstova, Rajchard, and Jan Prochazka. 2015. “Species Determination of the Feathers on Native American Warbonnnets and other objects from the Collections of the National Museum- Naprstek Museum.” Annals of the Naprstek Museum 36/2: 67-80.

 

[iv] Klapstova, Rajchard, and Jan Prochazka. 2015. “Species Determination of the Feathers on Native American Warbonnnets and other objects from the Collections of the National Museum- Naprstek Museum.” Annals of the Naprstek Museum 36/2: 67-80.

 

Object: Cradleboard

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646183_Appendix picture 3 Object: Cradleboard Null

Accession Number: E/1952/4/069

Object: An elaborately beaded Kiowa cradleboard.

Location: USA, North American Plains

Date: Unknown; ca. late 19th century, early 20th century.

Materials: Pine Wood, Leather, Beads, Cloth, Paint, Thread, Brass Tacks

Keywords: North American Tribes/Cultures’ Category; Beadwork; Material

Blog post

 

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646181_Appendix picture 1            This cradleboard is 112 centimeters long, 34.5 centimeters wide and 23 centimeters deep. It is made with a frame of two, pointed, pine wood boards attached to one smaller board around 1/3 of the way down the two larger boards (appendix picture 1). The boards are attached to each other with a thick leather thong. Attached with the same thongs is a “canvas sack with rawhide sheet inserted at the head end to form a hood” [1] (appendix picture 2). Attached to the canvas is soft skin that is elaborately decorated and fully covered with white, dark and light blue, pink, red, yellow and green, beads (appendix picture 3 and 4). The only part not decorated with beads is the bottom of the canvas sack where the leather has been dyed ochre and cut to a fringe (appendix picture 5). The inside of the bag has been lined with dotted, red, printed fabric (appendix picture 2). Above the hood there is a leather slab decorated with blue, yellow, red and white beads. “The tips of the slats have crosses made of brass tacks” [1] (appendix picture 6).

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646186_Appendix picture 6            The Kiowa tribe originates from Western Montana, as a nomadic tribe they migrated southwest towards the Rocky Mountains in the late 17th and early 18th century. They later traveled further south towards the southwestern plains in the 19th century. The plains provided to be great hunting ground for buffalo and with large feral horse herds, which encouraged Kiowa development towards an equestrian, bison hunting culture. In 1865 the Little Arkansas Treaty forced the Kiowa and Comanche, a tribe whom they had formed an alliance with after a troubled history, off their homeland in Kansas and New Mexico. Two years later, in 1867, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed which established a 2.8-million-acre reservation for the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes in southwestern Oklahoma [2].

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646185_Appendix picture 5The Kiowa cradleboard stems from a longstanding tradition and need of Kiowa women having to keep their hands free to execute everyday tasks, such as preparing hide for clothing and household articles, whilst still having their children near to take care of them [3]. Not only did cradleboards offer women an opportunity to move more freely about, it also served a purpose to both protect and socialize the tribe’s children. The Kiowa cradleboard is strongly constructed, having the top and bottom of the cradle enforced with rawhide, to better keep the shape of the cradle and to provide protection if a cradle was to strike the ground [3]. The reason for the cradleboard being carried on a woman’s back, with the child’s face facing away from the mother, yet at eyelevel, was so the child could get used to being at the same level as the older members of the tribe. This was not only done so the child could physically be closer to the older members of the tribe but also, so it could gain a sense of community and belonging [4].

A child’s importance was not only shown through the level at which it was carried but also through the very elaborate beadwork and decoration of the cradleboard. Looking at the beadwork at the cradleboard researched it is very clear that countless hours would have been spent on making the elaborate patterns and the white background. Not only would the beadwork have taken a long time, but the materials would have to have been traded, with European tradesmen as well as non-local tribes [5]. This would make the cradleboard a time consuming and expensive investment for a family to make.

A cradleboard such as this one displays a great deal of mixture between tradition and innovation. Materials both locally sourced and traded in showcase an assimilation and appreciation of newer materials and how they were adapted to fit the needs of the tribe. The patterns found on the board are part of a longstanding tradition of patterns going down in families, with each beadmaker adding her own personal touch to it. Not only are the patterns traditional but also the color and the division of the patterned plains of the cradleboard.

Research of this cradleboard and comparisons of it to other cradleboards and the traditions around them showcase a deep respect and appreciation for children within the tribe. The importance of the children being socialized within the tribe from a young age and the time and commitment spent to build them a cradle serve as proof for this. The cradleboard also showcases a need to display talented bead workers work among the tribe’s other members and other tribes, as well as a sense of pride in a family tradition of keeping the patterns recognizable from generation to generation [2]. As seen through the Kiowa’s traditional artifacts it is also clear that they were not a people afraid of stagnation, they gladly took up new materials and incorporated them within their traditions, as is seen with how trade impacted the decoration of cradleboard, with more colors becoming available for beads and new fabric options.

 

Recommended readings and videos for more information:

An Evening with Vanessa Jennings: Kiowa Cradleboards, Culture, and Tradition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk9A-uQh4EY  (discussion with contemporary Kiowa cradleboard makers at Brown University)

Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles by Barbara Hail (book)

Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers by M. J. Schneider (scholarly article)

 

((Anna Sverrisdottir))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Sources:

[1] Greene, C. (1952). Item Card. Museum of the University of Oklahoma.

[2] Kratch, B. R. (2009). Kiowa (tribe). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from The Encycopedia of Oklahoma Histroy and Culture: http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=KI017

[3] Schneider, M. J. (1983). Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers. Plains Anthropologist, 305-314.

[4] Hail, B. A. (2000). Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles. Bristol, Rhode Island: Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

[5] Alden, J. (1999). Contemporary American Indian Beadwork: The Exquisite Art. Millwood, NY: Dolph Publishing Inc.

 

 

 

Object: Beaded Moccasins

Beaded Moccasins, 1 pair

E/1958/25/010

Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Department

Probably 20th Century

Smoked Hide, Beads, string

Cheyenne

sheehybrandon_82632_9643829_moccasin 1 - 1

While searching through the Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Database, a beautiful pair of moccasins caught my attention. The moccasins come from the Northern Cheyenne tribe. The Northern and Southern Cheyenne tribes began as one Cheyenne tribe. The Cheyenne occupied the woodland prairie of the Mississippi Valley until the 1680’s when the Sioux forced the Cheyenne to move because of trading with the French. The Cheyenne tribe moved west and continued to trade and were able to obtain horses. After receiving horsed the Cheyenne became a nomadic tribe and didn’t stabilize a position until the 1820’s in the Black Hills. From there, the tribe began to split as a result of part of the tribe staying in the Black Hills and the other began to move in a southwest direction. The tribes permanently separated into the Northern and Southern Cheyenne in the Treaty of 1851, which stopped Indian-Indian and Indian-White conflict from United States settlers[1]. After the split, the Northern Cheyenne grew close to the Sioux, and the tribes became allies to fight in the Battle of Little Big Horn[2].

The moccasins are made from smoked hide and are completely beaded with blue, green, red, yellow, and black beads. The beads were sewn on in the lane stitch style which is commonly used by both the Cheyenne and Sioux tribes[3]. This type of stitch consists of lanes of 7 to 11 beads that are all sewn at once. Although the lane stitch is used all over the moccasins, it is most easily seen on the top of them.

One thing that is prevalent in both the moccasins and the Northern Cheyenne tribe is the strong Sioux influence. As mentioned earlier the Northern Cheyenne and the Sioux fought together in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Due to this we know that there is a strong relationship between the two tribes. This relationship is shown in the moccasins through the style of beading, and the color of beading.

sheehybrandon_82632_9643830_moccasin 2 - 1

When beading the Sioux tend to use white or light blue as a background color with red, navy blue, green, and yellow as design colors, while the Cheyenne mainly use white as background color with blue, green, pink, and yellow as design colors[4]. As you can see from the moccasins, the colors used come from both the Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne styles. The lane stitch is also used by both tribes, which once again shows the relationship between the tribes.

In conclusion, the Northern Cheyenne moccasins are different from other moccasins because of the relationship that they portray. Through the colors of beading and the style of beading it is clear that these moccasins have Sioux influence.

 

((Brandon Sheehy))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

1996

Cheyenne. Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Macmillan Reference USA

 

Ojibwa

2014

The Cheyenne Migrations. Native American Netroots. http://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/1737, accessed February 26, 2018

Dean, David

2002

Beading in the Native American tradition. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press

Reddick, Rex

2011

Typical Tribal Bead Colors. Whispering Wind 40(2): 8–11. https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/docview/886433052?accountid=12964, accessed February 19, 2018

 

Object: Wooden Mask

E_2014_3_12.jpg

Accession Number: E/2014/3/012

Object: Wooden Mask created in the 1970’s donated to the Sam Noble Museum in 2014.

Location: The continent of Africa in the country of Liberia from the tribe of Dan (Gio).

Date: 1970’s (Exact date unknown)

Materials: Wood, Camel Teeth, Clay

Mask, Africa, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Dan

 

Description of the Mask

This mask, which was donated to the museum in 2014 by the McGee foundation, comes from the country of Liberia from the Dan tribe. This mask is about 19 inches tall and 7 inches wide. A long forehead, prominent lips, and scarification all stand out to make this mask unique. Materials used to make this mask include wood, camel teeth, as well as clay for detailed decorations. Most ‘Bimbo’ masks were made out of metal and had some from livestock hair which makes this specific mask unique. This mask was made in the 1970’s with the exact date unknown. This mask was used in many traditional ceremonies by the people of Dan.

Who were the Dan?

This mask was created and used by the Dan tribe of Liberia. The people of Dan migrated to present day Liberia from Northern Africa in the 1800’s. The people of Dan are known for their warlike society. Power is very important to the people of Dan (4).  Most of the people belonging to this tribe were farmers. Hunters and owners of guns were usually seen as the most powerful to these people. Materials acquired to survive were mostly obtained through trade. Family is an important aspect of their culture as well as art. Dan people used art to express themselves (1).  Masks like these were very popular to uniquely identify a person behind it based on things such as economic class.

More, More, and More!

Like stated earlier, the people of Dan had a strong cultural emphasis on power. Their political system functioned similarly to that of a caste system. Families in the tribes were separated into quarters based on economic status in the tribe. Settlers and traders were the main two classes of the Dan people in the 1970’s. Hunters who owned guns were seen as very powerful in the society. Beneath chiefs and people in political power within the tribe, hunters were seen as necessary providers (4).  Food and other materials needed to survive could not be obtained without the confidence, courage, and strength of a hunter. Although people still feel that the country of Liberia’s political system as a whole is corrupt, many progress has been made in an effort to bring this social system to modern times.

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An example of a contemporary Gle Mask. Photo courtesy of Andrew Scott, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.

During the 1970’s in Liberia, art was a big part of the culture in Africa. Art was used as a form of self-expression during war times in Liberia (1).  These Dan masks were made and worn only by males. Although it seems as though this would not be a complicated task, many steps were needed in order to even begin the carving process of the mask. Cleansing of the carver/performer and a journey into the woods to find a perfect piece of wood were some of the necessary steps needed to begin the ceremonial process. Once the ceremony that the mask is needed for is completed, it will no longer be used again. The mask that the man makes is seen as a sacred piece of art and is kept in his family from generation to generation (3).

Not only is this mask is well known for aesthetic reasons, but the Dan people had a strong religious connection to this mask. Although the people of this tribe did believe in a supreme god (their religious affiliation can be most closely associated to the Islamic or Christian religion), they did not think that human beings could reach them on their own. They put on ceremonies to awaken the ‘Du’ which they used to communicate with their god (3).  The mask was the center of these ceremonies accompanied by elaborate clothing items and headpieces (1). A lot of time, detail, and effort was put into creating this mask. Little things that were observed about this object such as holes in the sides so that it could be secured to a performers face confirms the authenticity of this mask (2).

((Kelly Jones))- Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

 

 

References

 

  • Duerden, Dennis

2000

The “Discovery” of the African Mask. Research in African Literatures 31(4): 29–47. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3821076

 

  • Leach, Melissa

2000

New shapes to shift: war, parks and the hunting person in modern West Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6(4): 577–595. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2661031, accessed February 20, 2018

  • Maxwell, David

2012

What Makes A Christian? Perspectives From Studies Of Pneumatic Christianity. Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute 82(03): 479–491

  • Putnam, Aric

2006

Modern Slaves: The Liberian Labor Crisis and the Politics of Race and Class. Rhetoric and Public Affairs 9: 235–256. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41940051, accessed February 20, 2018

 

Object: Bronze Incense Burner

Accession: E/1955/18/139

Name: Bronze Incense Burner

Location: Asia: Dynastic China

Date: Dynastic China

Materials: Bronze

Key Terms: Incense, Burner, Bronze, Dynastic China

This bronze incense burner from the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History is a three-piece artifact dating back to Dynastic China. The base consists of an elephant with three attachments that sit on top of the back of the elephant; the top tier is missing, however, there are holes on the top attachment of the elephant where this piece would connect. The burner stands 24” high when assembled. It is made from bronze and each piece is hand painted in multi-color designs, including light blue, dark blue, teal, light green, dark green, purple, yellow and white. The incense burner was used to burn incense as remnants of this process are evident because you can hear the remaining fragments moving around inside the elephant as you lift the object. There is also proof of aging in the form of green discoloration on the insides of the attached tears as well as the top of the elephant, which is a result of the bronze oxidizing.

 

The period of the Shang and Zhou dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age in China. During this time in China rituals that centered on incense burners like this one had an important social function, because these were so important for creating societal cohesion. Since these rituals were so valued most objects used were made from bronze, which represented the superior sectors of society, as bronze was highly valued. Therefore, the material used to create this burner leads us to its cultural significance, as bronze burners are the most precious. The rituals this burner was used in became increasingly religious over time and were used to communicate with gods, spirits, and deceased ancestors. [1, 3]

Shang_Dynasty_1600_BC_-_1046_BC

Map courtesy of Arab Hafez licensed by CC-BY

Although we cannot pinpoint the exact date this incense burner was created, I am led to believe that it was likely constructed sometime during the Bronze Age (Shang and Zhou dynasties). Research shows that excavated Han Dynasty tombs had depictions of incense burners and elephants, therefore, the significance of these symbols in this culture was created before the Han Dynasty. This incense burner was likely to have been constructed in the orange/yellow region of the map on the right because that is where bronze paraphernalia used for rituals was being created at the time of the Bronze Age. The remnants found in incense burners excavated from tombs also prove that China was engaged in the global economy through international trading at the time these burners were being used because some of the spices found in the remnants were not grown in China. [2]

 

These burners were historically used to burn incense and spices for religious purposes and are contemporarily used for the same reasons; however, the religious symbolism has evolved over time. Earliest documented scent culture emphasizes simplicity and the belief that complex aromas were inherently suspicious because of the extravagance the original purity of virtues is lost. The original simple scents and spices used were intentionally unpleasant to avoid the corruption the pleasant but complex scents were thought to bring. Over time a change occurred and the idea of antique simplicity died off. Today, diverse incense and spices are used in combination with different religious ceremonies or rituals. [3]

 

The authenticity of this bronze incense burner is affirmed in its physical structure and visual signs of aging. Feet elevate the burner above the table surface, which is a requirement of an authentic incense burner, as without them the object would not be able to function correctly. The green discoloration on the top of the elephant also exemplifies its age as bronze greens from oxidation. This burner was undoubtedly handmade as the intricate designs that appear throughout the artifact are hand painted. Although the process for molding these bronze burners may be derivative, I would assert that these designs are unique to this particular burner, and exemplify the maker’s creativity and originality. The time put in to paint this complex design on such valued material denotes the importance of this object. [4]

 

((Kayla Grudzielanek))- Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Works Cited:

  1. Department of Asian Art. “Shang and Zhou Dynasties: The Bronze Age of China.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. 2004, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/shzh/hd_shzh.htm.
  2. Kim, Minku. “CLAIMS OF BUDDHIST RELICS IN THE EASTERN HAN TOMB MURALS AT HORINGER: Issues in the Historiography of the Introduction of Buddhism to China.” Ars Orientalis, 44, 2014, pp. 134-154., http://www.jstor.org/stable/43489801.
  3. Milburn, Olivia. “Aromas, Scents, and Spices: Olfactory Culture in China before the Arrival of Buddhism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 136, no. 3, July 2016, pp. 441-464., http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7817/jameroriesoci.136.3.0441.
  4. Stone, Elizabeth Rosen. “A Buddhist Incense Burner from Gandhara.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 39, 2004, pp. 69-99., http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034602.

Picture:

“Ancient Chinese Dynasties: Advancements and Achievements.” Ancient Chinese Dynasties: Advancements and Achievements – The Zhou Dynasty, anchientchinesedynasties.weebly.com/the-zhou-dynasty.html.

E/1955/18/139 in the Sam Noble Museum Ethnology Collection

 

Additional Reading:

Maguer, Sterenn Le. “Typology of Incense-Burners of the Islamic Period.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, vol. 41, July 2010, pp. 173-185., http://www.jstor.org/stable/41622131.

 

Object: Porcelain Figure

Object: Porcelain Figure

Accession Number: E/1955/18/029

Object: 8 ⅝” porcelain statue of Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion

Location: China, Qing Dynasty

Date: 1736-1795

Materials: Porcelain

Keywords: China, porcelain, figure, statue

   

The woman in the figure is Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion and perseverance whose name literally means “She Who Hears the Cries of the World.” The statue was created during the Qing Dynasty in China anywhere from 1736-1795 [2]. It is only 8 ⅝ inches tall, and the coloring is an off-white shade of cream that is made of molded porcelain. The figure depicts her with a soft facial expression, flowers in her hair, and an extravagant dress with long, curly accents and intricate beading that connects a series of medallions. She is also barefoot and standing on a fish with very long whiskers. The artifact seems to have been used to display and honor the bodhisattva, Kuan Yin, and summon her powers of compassion, perseverance, focus, and inspiration into their daily lives.

During the 18th century China when the porcelain figure was made, the Chinese were trying to embrace a new dynasty under the Qing-long emperor. Qing was determined to separate himself from the previous rule and undertook many reconstruction projects to build Tibetan-style temples and wanted citizens to embrace a new capital city other than Beijing [3]. He even went as far as persecuting those who spoke against him [3]. He wanted to be a Buddhist ruler, and perhaps his extra push and his new way of ruling inspired people to delve deeper into their Buddhist practices and utilize idols like Kuan Yin. Her use in modern culture is present in the LGBTQ community in the United States where members find her qualities of compassion and perseverance just as incredible and inspiring as people did in the 1700s [1].

The story and transformation of Kuan Yin throughout the course of history helps express why she means so much to so many people. Kuan Yin is known as a bodhisattva. “The bodhisattva is often described as a kind of Buddha-to-be, one who postpones ultimate nirvana in order to work tirelessly to eliminate the suffering of all living beings,” [1]. Kuan Yin was believed to have originated in India during the Common Era as a male spirit named Avalokitesvara. The spirit’s presence in China became female around the 12th century. The transformation between genders can perhaps be attributed to the Chinese association between wisdom and femininity and compassion and masculinity as these are two qualities central to Kuan Yin’s existence [1]. Furthermore, the version of Kuan Yin that seems most relevant to the porcelain figure in the Sam Noble collections is that of “the Chinese princess Miao-shan, a common fisherwoman, a goddess springing from a clam, and thousand-armed and thousand-eyed deity whose multiple arms and eyes symbolize the infinite powers of her saving compassion,” [1]. The aspect of being a fisherwoman may explain why the creator of this statue displayed her standing on a fish with long whiskers.

fosterbrooke_85809_9610732_IMG_4986

I also found another image of Kuan Yin where she is surrounded by the sea and confirms that this was a common view of her in Chinese culture.

fosterbrooke_85809_9610733_GuanYinPuSa58      [4]

The gender fluidity of Kuan Yin’s story as well as her essence of compassion, perseverance, and wisdom clearly explains why she is a modern day inspiration the LGBTQ community.

The discovery that statues of Kuan Yin are being used for the same purpose by a variety of different people expresses how significant Buddhism and other religions have been all around the world. Idols and statues like this one of the bodhisattva, Kuan Yin, reinforce the importance of divination and guidance across cultures and throughout the passage of time.

 

((Brooke Foster)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Works Cited

[1] Bailey, Cathryn. 2009. “Embracing the Icon: The Feminist Potential of the Trans Bodhisattva,

Kuan Yin.” Hypatia. 24(3): 178-196.

[2] Ethnology. 1956. “Porcelain Statue.” Museum of the University of Oklahoma. E/55-56/18/29.

[3] Hay, Jonathan. 1999. “Culture, Ethnicity, and Empire in the Work of Two Eighteenth-Century

‘Eccentric’ Artists.”Anthropology and Aesthetics 35: 201-223.

[4] Raven, Shikoba. “I Am Creation.” My Kuan Yin, Shikoba Raven, 14 June 2011,

mykuanyin.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-am-creation.html.


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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