Welcome to our new competitions page. We will be running regular give-aways, as well as partnering with other exciting brands, in order to give our readers plenty of opportunities to win Asian art-themed prizes. Keep your eyes peeled for our next competition!
The following are some of our favourite entries from a recent give-away we ran to mark the publication of our 200th issue:
‘My favorite piece of Asian Art is the Buddha Akshobhya. It is a spectacular gilt bronze sculpture of a seated Buddha showing the elegant forms and gilding that typifies art made at court during the reign of the Ming emperor Yongle (1403-1424). The Buddha sits on a double-tiered lotus pedestal placed on a very articulated throne decorated with botanic scrolls. The richness of the details makes this piece my favorite. For example, his full shoulders, long legs, and quiet articulation (probably derived from the Indo-Nepalese technique introduced during the Mongol Empire) as well as the soft folds of the clothing flowing over the legs exemplify the Chinese taste of the period, as does the extremely careful casting of the entire bronze sculpture.’
Stefano Di Genua
‘My favourite: Tiny Chinese Imperial Civil Service Examination Cheat Sheets.
The tiny booklets, printed on silk, date from the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) and may have been used by students to jog their memories of Confucius’ Analects and other works of literature required for the Imperial civil service examinations.
One of the texts, discovered in Qingdao, is thought to be the smallest book ever found in Eastern China. The 160 page text is two-and-a-half inches long and under two inches wide and can fit into a matchbox. It contains 140,000 characters drawn from examination texts. The other book, found on the southern island of Hainan, is slightly larger but contains 32 million characters over 32 pages.
The fearsome Imperial exams were used for 1,300 years to decide admission to the civil service. This tradition ended only in 1905 during the last years of the Qing Dynasty. Theoretically, they were open to any man in China, but the education required to become a civil service official was most prodigious.
Candidates were tested on military strategy, law, taxation, agriculture, geography, music, arithmetic, writing and in some cases archery and horsemanship.
“This is the first time we’ve found an entire book,” said He Xiang, the vice chairman of the Hainan Collectors’ Association. “The examinees had all sorts of ways of hiding these cheat sheets. They hid them inside hats, the soles of their shoes or their lunch boxes. Some sewed them into their underwear,” he said.
Thankfully Asian Art News can help provide the necessary Asian Art knowledge required today…..’
‘The objects that are my favorites in my collection are Islamic terra cotta bowls decorated only with Arabic calligraphy. As Oliver Watson said: “The telling use of empty space and the subtlety of the rhythm and the weight of the calligraphy put them . . . into an artistic class higher than any ceramic . . .”’
‘My favourite piece of art from the Asian art world is the “Shiva Nataraja”, specifically in the iconic representation in bronze which sprung out of the exuberant artistic output of the Chola empire in Tamil Nadu. I love the naturalistic quality imbued in the sculptural form and its ability to effortlessly capture drama, action and beauty. Looking beyond the aesthetics, and like so much of Asian art, I also love its ability to convey complex philosophical meaning behind every gesture.’
‘I have so many favourite pieces of art from Asia, but one of the top ones would have to be Tatsuo Miyajima’s Sea of Time ’98, which is a permanent installation on the island of Naoshima.
The work is housed in an old house and the traditional tatami room inside has been flooded with a pool of water. I love the contrast of inside and outside, and the juxtaposition of old and new with Miyajima’s submerged LED lights, which look like lily pads floating across the water. The LED devices count from 1 to 9 all at different speeds. I can spend what seems like hours watching the numbers flicker!’
‘A nineteenth century royal Malay skirtcloth, woven with silk and gold-wrapped threads and known locally as a kain limar songket sarong, has always both bedazzled and beguiled me.
It combines a magnificent opulence, redolent of the grandeur of the ancient courts from which it came, with a refinement and visual beauty that gives credence to the claim that textiles are one of Southeast Asia’s greatest art forms.
A tour-de-force of weaving, its design, while adhering to principles of international Islamic art, nevertheless contains a distinctive aesthetic that locates it to its origins in Terengganu, Malaysia.’
‘The Dancing Celestial Deity in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for me describes ultimate beauty. Her face and poise is composed and sublime. Her jewellery is gorgeous the movement at once seductive and discreet.
And, because I have never been able to make up my mind, I would also like to mention a gilt bronze figure of a wild dragon that to me sums up what a great work art should be: Lively, energetic, restrained, wild, abandoned, passionate and magic. This piece is to be found in the Shaanxi Museum in China.’
‘One of my favorite Chinese pieces is the Guanyin of the Southern Sea that is on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum; I have to see it every time I visit. Even though it is around a thousand years old and time has muted once brilliant colors, it is a stunning piece of work. The sculptor brought to life an enlightened being with a gentle gaze who looks down upon the viewer from a ledge where a sea breeze teases the bodhisattva’s sash. Guanyin’s natural reclining pose further emphasizes his enlightened presence. One is truly humbled while standing before him.
I hope you enjoy all of the submissions sent in to celebrate your 200th issue!’