Tang Dynasty Murals
A Tang Dynasty mural is more than a pretty picture.
The mural artist was akin to an ancient paparazzi, dedicating his craft to the lifestyles of the rich and famous via the medium of dazzling frescos that bedecked the walls of imperial palaces, aristocratic residences, Buddhist and Taoist temples. And what lifestyles. Aristocrats, monks, guards, maidservants, architects and foreign diplomats frolic, feast, march, cavort, hunt and prance across the murals maintained in the purpose-built, moisture-controlled, glass-encased basement showroom of the provincial museum, the temperature maintained at a steady 18-20 C.
Their golden time - the Tang (608-907) - comes top in all popular polls for best dynasty, revered by Chinese of all stripes and persuasions for its 288 glorious years of global greatness, commercial and technological exchange, art and poetry. The women of this era enjoyed unprecedented freedom. They conducted themselves in business, expressed themselves, sung loudly, and drank to their heart’s content. They learned politics, economics, history and military skills, even participating in battles and other things that they could not do during former – or subsequent – dynasties. Even divorce was possible.
First Tang Emperor Li Yuan established his capital in Changan, the most populous city in the world at the time, a magnet to scholars and artists throughout the country, home to poets Du Fu and Li Bai and painters Zhang Xuan and Zhou Fang. It was the Dark Ages in Europe but in China, woodblock printing was taking off. The Diamond Sutra was printed using this technique in 868 as Buddhism, imported from India via the Silk Road, became firmly entrenched in Chinese culture.
Today a suburb of Xian, Changan remained capital for 13 dynasties and a trade apex with the rest of the world. The exquisite murals grant a rare glimpse into the life of people living through one of the most prosperous periods of Chinese history, making a museum visit a must.