Sunday, 20 October 2013

T33 - Traditional Silk Paintings from an Ancient Tomb of the Warring States Period, Changsha

Silk Paintings of the Warring States Period (475–221 BC), were paintings done on silk materials and were used on funeral occasions.  During the funeral procession, the painting was held up in front of the coffin, which was said to bring comfort and calmness to the soul of the death.  When they were unearthed from Tomb of Chu State (楚), the silk paintings were flatly laid upon the partition between the inner coffin and the outer coffin.

These silk paintings are one of the earliest silk paintings discovered in China and are acclaimed as national treasures.  To showcase these silk painting arts to the world, the Ministry of the Posts and Telecommunications of People's Republic of China released a set of two stamps on March 29, 1979.

(2-1) 8 fen, Silk Painting of Lady, Phoenix and Dragon   龙凤引魂升仙帛画
(2-2) 60 fen, Silk painting of Man riding a dragon  人物驭龙帛画

(2-1)【Silk Painting of Lady, Phoenix and Dragon】 This painting has the following dimensions: Length: 31 cm, Width: 22.5 cm.  It was excavated from Tomb of Chu State during the Warring States, Chenjia Mountain (陈家大山楚墓), Changsha, Hunan Province, in February 1949; among scattered cultural relics which survived tomb robberies.  

In the middle of the painting is a slender woman wearing a long skirt, so long in fact that it touches the ground.  Her eyes looking straight forward and one of her arms raising upward, as if in praying.  Unfortunately, this part of the painting is blurred, and we have no idea whether she has anything in her hand.  Her wide sleeves and hanging belts seem to have been decorated with flowering patterns.  To her right appears a phoenix that raises its head and seems to be in flight.  A dragon-like animal with sharp claws appears to the left of the phoenix.  The superstitious belief of that time is the phoenix and the dragon are leading the soul of the dead to heaven.

The drawing has lines drawn in traditional ink and brush style (a kind of Chinese outline drawing) and freehand brushwork (a type of Chinese painting that relies on free strokes and shuns details) give to the vividness of the lady, dragon and phoenix.  The dragon and phoenix are in dynamic movements while the lady is in a static posture, presenting the strong effect of sharp contrast.  This painting is now kept at Hunan Provincial Museum. 

(2-2)【Silk Painting of Man riding a dragon】 This painting has the following dimensions: Length: 37 cm, Width: 28 cm.  The silk cloth is in dark brow colour with flat-line pattern.  It was excavated from No. 1 Tomb, Zidanku, Changsha (子弹库楚墓), Hunan Province, in 1973. 

In the drawing, a short-haired man with a sword who dresses well is riding a dragon by holding the rein.  Looking like a member of the nobility, he is riding a dragon (or a dragon boat) underneath a flowering umbrella.  The presence of a large fish on the lower left of the painting seems to suggest that the dragon, like the fish, is underneath the water.  On the tail of the dragon stands a white stork that, being back to back with the man, is serving as a guard.

Like the lady in the other painting, the man is facing left, as "left" means "West" in most paintings of this kind.  People believe that the dead are going west or that heaven is in the west.  The tassels on the umbrella and the scarves around the man's neck are moving in the right direction, indicating that the dragon and its rider are braving wind at a rapid speed.  The people of that time believed that immortals riding dragons to heaven, and this painting seems to have the same meaning.  This painting is now kept at Hunan Provincial Museum.

T33 – Traditional Silk Paintings from an Ancient Tomb of the Warring States Period, Changsha  中国绘画 ---- 长沙楚墓帛画
Issue Date: 1979.3.29
Serial Number:T33
Scott Number:1469-1470
Michel Number:1479-1480
Number of stamps in Set:2
Denomination:8 fen for stamp 1
60 fen for stamp 2
Quantity of Issue:6,000,000 for stamp 1
2,000,000 for stamp 2
Sheet Composition:28 (7 X 4) for stamp 1, 2
Size of stamps:40 X 54 mm for stamp 1, 2
Designer:Shao Bolin 邵柏林
Printing Process:Photogravure
Printing House:Beijing Postage Stamp Printing Works

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