Bihua or Chinese frescoes

Źródło: Wikimedia Commons

Holidays, holidays and after holidays. After a blissful period of family sitting at the table and gluttony, it is time to return to work, study, and daily duties. Before this happens, I invite you to devote a few minutes to my latest entry, which was devoted to one of the areas of Chinese painting, namely frescoes.
I will not write more. Just read! 🙂

As the title of the article shows us, the Chinese variety of mural painting is called bihua. This is the oldest form of art that has existed in China. As the chronicles say, frescoes decorated the interiors of the palaces, or at least their audiences in the first millennium BC. For example, one of them, Confucian Dialogues, mentions the visit of Confucius to the palace of King Jing Wang of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty in 517 BC, during which he watched a gallery of former rulers (from the legendary Yao and Ahun), which were placed on the walls of the audience hall.
The motif of the early frescoes was the images of dragons and tigers, later also they appeared phoenixes. In turn, later frescoes from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) depicted meritorious ministers and generals, famous court ladies, great scholars and figures of the Taoist pantheon.
Buddhist content on wall paintings appeared during the reign of Emperor Mingdi (58-75) from the Han dynasty, when Indian Buddhist monks came to China. Most of the early Buddhist paintings on the walls of palaces and temples have unfortunately been destroyed. They are known only from descriptions preserved in old chronicles and encyclopedias. 🙁 These were the works of palace artists or monks, and apart from scenes from the Buddha’s life, classic and historical books, rituals, war scenes, maps, astrological symbols, etc. were often illustrated.
The oldest preserved frescos in China can be found in the tomb of Prince Liang of the Western Han Dynasty. They represent four symbols of the Chinese constellation: the blue dragon, the white tiger, the red bird and the black tortoise. Because of the high humidity in the tomb, the mural was cut and moved to the Henan Provincial Museum.
The largest treasury of old frescoes, mainly from the 6th-9th centuries, are the Mogao grottoes in Dunhuang, on the Silk Road route. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, they were forgotten, however, due to the dry climate and improved methods of painting, most of them survived. From the 1840s, they were covered by state protection.
Fragment fresków z grot Mogao w Dunhuang, Źródło: Xuan Che via / CC BY

Fragment of Mogao murals in Dunhuang Source: Xuan Che via / CC BY


With this one pictorial accent I will finish today’s reflections on Chinese frescoes. (Unfortunately, the stock of photographs that I could use was extremely poor). 🙁
How did you like the article? Do you have any insights? I invite you to comment!

Agnieszka Gach

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