History Assignment


response paper for an article about ‘Chinese art history. List at least two arguments from the article, and followed by 2 evidences in each argument, then talk about your own point of view about the two/three arguments the author listed with some own experience or other evidence.


Influence on Near Eastern Art Forms on Chinese Bronze Age Art

The aim of this paper is to list the main arguments made in Robert Bagley’s article on Chinese art history. It provides pieces of evidence for those arguments followed by my own point of view. The first argument is that the animal motifs that were dominant during the Bronze Age China underwent profound changes due to the effect of art designs from the Near East. Evidence for this argument is to be found in the Near-East influence on the rendering of imaginary plants that were invented in Egypt or Crete called palmette scroll, which was being used in ancient Western ornament (Bagley 20). Another piece of evidence is to be found at the Houma Foundry Site, where the native tradition came into contact with the art of civilized parts of Near East. By the end of the fourth century, Chinese castors were making discrete lion-griffins similar to those being made by Egyptians (Bagley 25). Those art forms did not bear any semblance to the imaginary animals of the Erligang period. I think that this influence was the inevitable outcome of the coming together of the Chinese and Near Eastern civilizations.


            The second argument in the article is that during the Erligang period, which lasted between 1500 and 1300 BC, the animals being portrayed in motifs of the native tradition underwent reinvention, for example, the tendency to make strange things appear somewhat familiar, something that was evident in the motif art of 500 to 200 BC. One piece of evidence for this argument is an illustration showing a “ding-type” tripod bowl (Bagley 18). The evidence shows that the ding motif first appeared as a jue motif, characterized by strap handle, a band of decoration, and an oval cross section. The second piece of evidence is the fascinating, seemingly incoherent images that were being produced by Erligang casters. The level of coherence in the resulting images depended on whether the castor omitted the eyes or not. In my view, such reinvention reflects the changing socio-cultural realities of the Chinese people at that time.

The third argument in the article is that the level of intricacy, tangibility, and impact in motif art increased enormously during the Chinese Bronze Age. One piece of evidence for this argument is that the positions of eyes, horns, mouth, nose, upper jaw kept shifting with time during the Erligang period, thereby creating suggestive patterns whose level of intricacy kept changing due to the influence of Near Eastern art.  Another observation to support the argument is that with time, subsequent generations of castors started creating sharply defined dragon images in order to emphasize impact over mystery (Bagley 20). In essence, they started gradually turning away from two-century old practice of drawing patterns that suggested animals in preference for those that represented tangible animal images themselves.

I agree with the proposition that to use the terms “representation” and “depiction” when comparing Erligang animals to real-world animals is to assume that the connection between the thing depicted and the depiction is not problematic. According to Bagley, it does not make sense for a pattern that evokes the animal in a vague manner to be described using the concepts of depiction and representation (22). Meanwhile, the use of these concepts is indicative of the influence of Near East art on Erligang animals’ portrayal by castors during the Chinese Bronze Age. In conclusion, the article has provided compelling arguments that prove that animal motifs of the Chinese Bronze Age were influenced in subtle but profound ways by Near Eastern art forms.

Works Cited

Bagley, Robert. “Ornament, Representation, and Imaginary Animals in Bronze Age China.” Arts Asiatiques 61 (2006): 17-29.

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