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A pair of servants
Chu KIngdom (3rd century BC)
carved wood, dressed in silk textiles
H: 51 cm (20 in)

The standing figures carved in one piece have a long and elegant body with very well preserved silk textile . Their face with delicately carved and very expressive features. Natural hair are implanted over the head.

The Chu state arose sometime before the sixth century B.C. near the middle reaches of the Yangzi River. Over time, through the annexation of more than forty smaller states, the territory of the Chu kingdom expanded. As a result, Chu culture is a rich mix of diverse influences. At the time of its greatest expansion the Chu Kingdom comprised the Hunan and Hubei provinces and part of Anhui. Shamanism and rituals were an important part of daily life. The importance of Shamanist practices and burial rites explains the variety and opulence of the objects found in princely tombs.

These figures of servants were made to accompany a Chu aristocrat beyond death. They were found in a tomb dug in clay which slowly filled with water ; infiltrated water could not evacuate and protected the wooden pieces and the textile from decay. When found the wood of the figures had softened and they were made up of 50% water (see pictures before treatment in the annexes). The drying process, which was done in a specialized laboratory in the Netherlands was slow and careful. The wood is now stabilized.

Conditions: the statues were treated with dry-frozen technique . During treatment repairs were made.

Silk in China:

China was the first country in the world to raise silkworms and make silk. Jade effigies of silkworms as well as silk fabrics pasted on the surface of bronzes which have been unearthed at Dasikong Village, Anyang, Henan Province, prove that during the Shang Dynasty (16-11 centuries BC) sericulture and silk making had already reached maturity.

During the Warring States Period, a variety of silk textiles were produced. A piece of satin unearthed in a tomb of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period in Jiangling, Hubei Province, is 51 centimeters wide and has a pattern of eight groups of dancers in seven categories, along with dragons, phoenixes and animals. Its beauty and elegance fully demonstrate the scale and achievements of silk weaving of the period. In the same tomb gaze silk (sha or luo) of the same kind and finesse of the one we find at the collar of our statues was unearthed.

Bibliography :
« Wenwu » Two Tombs of the Chu State at Xingyiang » discovered in 1958, published by Culutural Relics Publishing Huose, Beijing 1986
“Wood of Immortality” – Jacques Barrere, published in 1998 in Paris
“Soieries de Chine” by Gao Han Yu published in 1987 Nathan
“Xi Han Mutiao” published in 2003 by the Tianjin Renmin Meishu Chubanshi for the Museum of Nanjing

all text, images Wei Asian Arts


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