Art Histories Seminar
Mon 26 Jun 2017 | 15:00–17:00

Exotic and Domestic: The Consumption of Bronze Mirrors in the Inner Asian Frontiers (300 BCE–300 CE)

Yanlong Guo (University of British Columbia, Canada/ Art Histories Fellow 2016/17)

Wissenschaftskolleg, Villa Jaffé, Wallotstraße 10, 14193 Berlin

Mirror riveted with the handle of ibex, Yiwu county, Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, 5th – 3th c. BCE, 16 cm (H), 7.7 cm (D). Xinjiang Museum, Urumqi.
Mirror riveted with the handle of ibex, Yiwu county, Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, 5th – 3th c. BCE, 16 cm (H), 7.7 cm (D). Xinjiang Museum, Urumqi.

Decades of archaeological excavations have led to the discoveries of a number of early mirrors from tombs that belonged to different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, a vast region connecting the Eastern Eurasian steppes and China’s Central Plains. These burials, the majority of which dating to the first millennium BCE, yielded a variety of metal mirrors—the grip mirrors, the animal-style mirrors, the Han mirrors—which were either locally manufactured or exchanged through migration, trade, and colonization. In contrast to textiles and other metal objects, however, mirrors from the “barbarian” lands have received scant scholarly attention so far. This talk will present some previously little known objects buried in archaeological reports published in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and English. Through typological and geo-spatial analyses, it endeavors to map out the modes of distribution and circulation of various styles of these metal objects, investigating the occurrences of certain decorative patterns and their implication of aesthetic preferences. Situated against the backdrop of the emerging nomadic pastoralism and early empires, this talk tells a microhistory of the movement of peoples, objects and ideas before the formal inauguration of the Silk Road.

Yanlong Guo received his BA and MA from Sun Yat-sen University with a major in Archaeology, and a PhD in Art History from the University of British Columbia. His primary research focuses on the art and material culture of early imperial China. His doctoral dissertation, titled Affordable Luxury: The Entanglements of Metal Mirrors in the Han Empire (202 BCE-220 CE), investigates the massively and luxuriously consumed mirrors in the context of a monetized economy. Yanlong has excavated at various pre-Qin and Qin-Han sites in Guangdong, Hubei, Henan and Shanxi provinces in China. He served as the managing editor and translator for Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Chinese version). He has published more than 100,000 words of academic translations in the field of contemporary Asian art. As Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices Fellow 2016/17 at the Berlin based Forum Transregionale Studien, Yanlong is developing a new research project that explores the consumption of bronze mirrors in Inner Asia in the first millennium BCE.

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