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"Appreciation and Analysis of the Murals Unearthed from a Song Tomb at Wang Shang Village in Dengfeng, Henan Province"

Zhang Songlin and Zhang Deshui
Shoucangjia 38, 2-5

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In this piece, the authors introduce and analyze the wall paintings found in a small brick tomb excavated at Wangshang Village, Dajindian Township, in Dengfeng, Henan province in March 1993 by the Zhengzhou City Cultural Relics Unit. The authors' discussion derives from two main topics: the subject matter and the art historical value of the wall paintings.

The paintings in this tomb are
arrayed primarily in the tomb chamber walls and ceiling and on both walls flanking the passageway. Not counting the paintings on the doors on the south side of the tomb chamber, the other seven walls each contain one independent picture measuring 1.2 meters high and 1.05 meters wide, the composition of which occupies the entire wall. The walls of the passage each depict male attendants, while with flowers and grasses adorn the tomb entrance. Propitious omens, clouds, and cranes flit across the ceiling.

Figures paintings fall into four types: male attendants holding a broom; male attendants with hands crossed at the breast; female attendants in groups of three; and female attendants accompanied by children.

Landscapes with figures in them either depict immortals conversing on the Dao or immortals ascending skyward.

Among the flower-and-bird paintings, we see peacocks amid plum and bamboo and three cranes in reeds and bamboo. There are two mural sections with non-figural decorative motifs.

Although the murals are not large, not exceeding five square meters each), these truly reflect the degree to which painting style evloved during the Song period (960-1279). Even in this tomb of relatively small scope, the pictorial program includes figure painting, figures in landscape, and bird-and-flower scenes, all of high artistry -- an array of gems that fill the eyes.

After analysis of the subject matter and technique of the paintings, the authors conclude that "the Song murals at Wang Shang Village inherited Tang foundations in painting, and are certainly highly-developed masterpieces. . . . From this rare artistic treasure, we can draw important lessons and comparisons towards the study of Song dynasty painting."HT

*The illustrations provided here, reprinted from Shoucangjia, did not indicate the location of murals within the tomb.

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