Exhibition Artifacts (Part 3)
9. Goose Lamp
The wild goose turns back its head with a fish in its mouth. In the middle of the fish is a hollow cylindrical lamp with a handle underneath. The handle allows the window to be opened and the light adjusted. When the lamp is lit, the smoke travels through the neck and into the body of the goose. There it is filtered through water, removing the solid particles of smoke. In other words, this is a smokeless lamp -- a wondrous invention in its time. The lamp is divided into four sections, enabling it to be taken apart to clean out the lampblack.
Imagine having to light an entire house with candles or oil lamps -- all that smoke and soot! Note: Before kerosene, oils from animals or plants were burned in lamps. These produced a dense, black, oily smoke, making a smokeless lamp even more desirable. Bring in types of lamps and lighting that are not electric or battery-operated to show.
10. Gilded Bronze Horse
This is the only gilded horse of its size ever found in China. It was a treasured object used by the Imperial family. The horse stands with all four legs firmly on the ground. Its eyes are focused, its ears erect, and its mouth opened slightly. The details of the horse are treated in a naturalistic manner. The mane and tail show strands of hair.
The Han people were extremely fond of horses, especially of a breed from a distant region west of China known as Ferghana. It is said that those horses could run so fast that they were called flying or heavenly horses. Emissaries of the Han emperors crossed the desert of Central Asia, traveling as far west as Samarkand, in search of superior breeds of horses. Horses were traded and sent as tribute to the Chinese emperors. These horses gave the Han cavalry a great advantage, especially in their conflicts with raiding nomads.
Read the tale of "The Flying Horses" (Appendix B).
11. Female Court Figure
This example of a Tang court figure wears a long-sleeved blue blouse with yellow designs, a yellow skirt, and pointed shoes. Long sleeves that conceal the hands were common during this period, as was the long skirt that almost hides the feet. The lady looks plump and has pretty eyes and a small, red-lipped mouth. It may be of interest to note that one of the concubines of Emperor Ming Huang (685-762 AD), Yang Kuei-fei, was obese, but was his favorite. It became the fashion to imitate her appearance. This style of moon-faced, pale-skinned beauties, with figures draped in loose-fitting garments, was briefly in vogue during the Tang Dynasty.
Women in the Tang Dynasty grew their hair long and wore it in many styles. Elaborate coiffures were done by plaiting, coiling, and piling up the tresses on the top and sides of the head. Decorative hairpins and combs held the hair in place. Tang women also used cosmetics to enhance themselves. Face powder (made from rice or white lead!), rouge, eyebrow paint, lipstick, and painted beauty spots were all popular. Colored and decorated foreheads were considered chic. Outlines of blossoms, birds, and fish were painted on the brow along with appliqués of gold leaf and feathers.
Read and discuss Po Chu-I's poem on this period, "The Frivolous Rich" (Appendix C).
12. Silver Stirrup Flask
The spout of this flask is covered with a gilt lid and is held in place by a chain attached to the gilt handle. Stirrup flasks derive their shape from leather bags used by the nomadic horse people to the north. Different materials, including leather, wood, earthenware, china, porcelain, and silver, have been used to fabricate flasks. They were mainly carried on horseback or used in households. They have been found containing remnants of milk, wine, and water. Many of these flasks have been excavated from tombs of the period.
This flask has a decorative design of a horse with a ribbon around its neck and its tail flowing in the air. The horse holds a drinking cup in its mouth -- an allusion to poetry from the period describing the "dancing horses." Dancing horses often performed at court. Without riders, they performed maneuvers to music. It is said that during the performance, they were given wine to drink in cups that they picked up and tilted into their mouths. The Tang emperor Xuanzong (712-756) had celebrated dancing horses. On his birthday, 100 horses were covered in rich embroideries fringed with gold and silver, their manes studded with precious stones. They danced in two troupes, with their heads tossing and tails beating to the music. They also stood on three-tiered benches as athletes lifted the benches into the air. Guards in golden armor, foreign acrobats, performing elephants, and palace girls playing the "thunder drums" joined the performance.
Read about the "dancing horses" (Appendix D).
Illustrations Courtesy of Yvonne Todd
Kentucky Horse Park
International Museum of the Horse
The Millennium's First Great
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