Fine Arts | COAS TOPICS COURSE - THE DRAGON THRONE
E103 | 0050 | Nelson
THE DRAGON THRONE: ART AND THE EMPEROR OF CHINA
In traditional China, people admitted to the presence of the
emperor entered the "Forbidden City"the imperial palace compoundby way of
a long series of monumental gates, courtyards, and terraces, past bronze
incense-burners the size of small cars, to kowtow before the emperor
seated in embroidered yellow robes on the Dragon Throne: a grand
high-backed seat carved with dragons, brilliant with lacquer and gold,
high on a platform in a magnificent audience hall, the "Hall of Eternal
Harmony." This lavish display is one of many aspects of the imperial arts
of Chinaart made for use in private life, for ritual or religious
observances, and for public projects designed for propaganda and
The works of art with which the emperors of China surrounded
themselves over historybuildings, sculptures, pictures, ritual objects,
things of daily usewere more than luxurious private possessions; they also
played a role in public life and national politics. In exploring this
material the course will progress from early to later times, emphasizing
the historical context throughout, and offering an overview of many
aspects of Chinese art and culture. Subjects to be considered include
artifacts used in imperial sacrifices to the spirit world; the structure
and furnishings of royal tombs, designed to provide for the emperor in an
eternal afterlife; and paintings commissioned to advertise the glory of
the ruler and the state. The last unit of the course will focus on the
Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), and their use of art to
reinforce their claims to ownership of China and Chinese cultureand indeed
of world culture.
Readings are assembled in a course reader, and images of all the
important works of art considered in the class are accessible on the web.
Assignments include quizzes, short written assignments, and a final exam.
No previous knowledge of Chinese culture is necessary.