The Romanticized Art of China – Three Kingdoms
After the fall of the forceful Han Dynasty in 220 AD, China was divided into Three Kingdoms, the northern part was called ‘Wei,’ and to the south of Wei were ‘Shu’ in the west and ‘Wu’ in the east. The Three Kingdoms (called Sangua) Period was a part of the Six Dynasties Era of China, marked by disunity, political instability, and warfare. The Three Kingdoms lasted only from 220 AD to 280 AD. The Art of Three Kingdoms developed in two major areas, ‘Tomb Art’ and ‘Buddhist Art.’
In Northern Wei, Buddhism from India was spreading and so was Indian Buddhist Art, customized as Chinese Buddhist Art in China. Massive Buddhist temples and pagodas were built in Wei. However, none of them could survive through the tides of time. Ts’ao Pu-hsing was an amateur painter of this period. Three Kingdom Paintings, with Taoist and Buddhist essence, were mostly done on ‘walls’ and ‘tomb murals.’
‘Decorative Arts’ in the Three Kingdoms were not very prominent, instead, arts like ‘pottery,’ which served some practical purposes were more sought out. The pots used to be well shaped, with the glaze of green, yellow, or light brown colors. ‘Pottery Figurines’ (a form of sculpting) had ordinary subject matters, such as soldiers, animals, men, and women performing various tasks. Lacking in details or finishing, pottery figurines were chiefly used as grave goods in tombs.
There is a popular notion that ‘Porcelain’ was also created during the Three Kingdom Period of China. ‘Clay Puppets’ for dramas became very popular during this period. Ma Jun was the brilliant mechanical engineer from the Kingdom of Wei, who invented the hydraulic powered “Mechanical Puppet Theatre” for the Emperor. The Chancellor of Shu, Zhuge Liang, invented “Wooden Ox” for supplying provisions to army. ‘Ceramic Candle Stands’ in the shape of a crouching lion, pitchers, earthenware jars, and other grave goods, dating back to the Three Kingdoms Art, were found in various tombs during excavations in Nanking and Luoyang.
Though the Three Kingdoms lasted for a very short time to make any major contributions to art, they however, have been inspiring subject matter for drama and fiction. Many Chinese legends are based on the fascinating stories of chivalry and the romance of The Three Kingdoms. One of the most celebrated examples of historical fiction based on this period was a book, “Sanguozhi Yanyi,” (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) by Luo Guanzhong, in the fourteenth century. Many books, T.V series, movies, games, and cartoons, based on this period are still being produced. Apart from China, the Three Kingdoms’ Art & Culture influenced those of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam as well. The Jin Dynasty captured Wu in 280, ending the Three Kingdoms of China.