Introduce Chinese arts, including Chinese folk art, Chinese handicraft, Chinese painting, Chinese Calligraphy, Beijing opera,etc
Visitors to China's mausoleums,temples and parks will come across many a stone stele standing on a stone pedestal in the form of a tortoise.Some of these stelate are well shaped out of high-grade smooth stone and bear inscriptions engraved in elegant calligraphy;the more important ones are sheltered by pavilions from weathering.
A stele of this type consists of three parts:the crown,the body and the pedestal.The crown is usually carved with a patern of chi,a mythological animal supposed to be one of the nine sons of Dragon.It has often been taken as a dragon's head,which it resembles.
The carving of inscriptions on stelae has a history extending a long time back.When a stele bears an inscription written by an emperor,it invarialby has a stone tortoise as the base.Such inscriptions,whether written personally byemperors or by their ministers on their behalf,normally extol the emperors'virtues and achievements so that they might be remembered by posterity.Some stelae were erected for other purposes,too.A huge one standing in front of the hill in the Summer Palace bears an account of the building of the Hill of longevity and Kunming lake written in the hand of the 18th-century Qing Emperor Qianlong.The whole block,magnificently shaped and exquisitely carved,has an overall height of 9.8 metres with distinctive Chinese features.
Although ancient stelae were meant to bear inscriptions,yet a small number have nothing in writing on them at all.These are popularly called"wordless stelae",and most of those in front of the Ming Tombs fall into this category,though they are also named"stelae of divine achievements and holy virtues".The explanation for this can be found in a historical work devoted to the study of imperial mausoleums.Zhu Yuanzhang(1328-1398),founding emperor of the Ming,once said,"Stele inscriptions at imperial tombs have always been written by scholars to whitewash the royal dead;the practice should not be taken as the standard for posterity".So,the practice was suspended during the Ming(1368-1644),yet it did not prevent beautiful stelae from being carved and erected.For instance,the one at Dingling,the tomb that has been opened for visitors,is sculpted in low relief with six chi coiled round one another,so expressive that they seem to be fighting playfully on water for a big pearl.The huge stone tortoise at the base is no less a masterpiece of sculpture.Raising its head,it looks into the distance with almost real attention.Around the tortoise are carved images of prawns,crabs,fish and turtles,partly concealed in patterns of waves.All this provides the backdrop of a surging sea,which helps with its buoyancy the tortoise to bear the dozens of tons of stone on its back,while still doggedly forging ahead.
It may be necessary to point out that the animal under the stele is no tortoise at all as it is popularly supposed to be.Strictly speaking,its name is Bixi,the ninthe son of the mythological dragon.It was born with such unparalelled strength that it could move the mountains and used to play havoc in the seas.Somehow it was tamed by the Great Yu,the legendary hero who fought the Flood,and helped him move obstacles and dig canals,contributing much to the conquest of the rampant waters.After the Flood had subsided,Yu was afraid that Bixi might slip back to his old ways and,to prevent this,made it carry a mammoth stone with an inscription praising its meritorious feats.This cost Bixi forever its freedom,as the heavy weight proved too cumbersome.In time,its image was confused with that of the mundane tortoise.Still it was supposed to possess extraordinary capacity for great weight and,for this has been employed by emperors of all ages to bear their stelae.And for the Chinese who are accustomed to the sight of Bixi or the tortoise under the stele,it would be unthinkable to see anything else in its place.
One might be tempted to ask how the stelae,some of which are as tall as a dozen metres,were lifted up and erected on the back of the stone tortoises in the days when mechanical devices were unknown.The problem,legend has it,was solved at the suggestion of a deity who appeared to the Ming Emperor Chengzu in his dream.The emperor wanted to erect a monumental stele for his father Zhu Yuanzhang,founder of the Ming,but the stele was too big,and the workers were all at loss what to do.The god in the dream told the vexed emperor to use a method in which"the stele and the tortoise will not see each other".Enlightened by the cryptic message,the engineers and masons buried the stone tortoise and made a slope with earth,along which the stele was moved up and placed on top of the buried tortoise.With the earth removed,the stele was stood well in place.After that this became the standard operation for erecting stelae.
Tortoise-borne stelae are now regarded as important cultural relics,valued for the light they throw on historical events,studies of calligraphic arts and related subjects.
The bronze ding.a cooking utensil in remote times,was used like a cauldron for boiling fish and meat.At first,about 5,000to 6,000 years ago,the ding was made of fired clay,usually with three legs,occa...
These are percussion musical instruments unique to ancient China.The zhong are made of bronze while the qing generally of stone.They may be played cither individually or in groups.In the latter case,t...