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Celestial Beings and Bird-Men: Human Flight in Chinese Jade
Published by Philip Wilson Publishers
Jade figurines depicting human flight are a varied and expressive manifestation of this most prized artistic medium.
Jade figurines depicting human flight are a varied and expressive manifestation of this most prized artistic medium. Angus Forsyth, a prominent collector of Chinese jade, in this book explores the making in the Middle Kingdom (over a 2000-year period, from the Han Dynasty onwards) of unique objects depicting figural movement through the air. He examines the depiction of apsaras (flying angels), kinnaras (man-birds), anthropomorphized bird headdress ornaments and finally garudas (humanoid birds appearing in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology). He shows how these flying figures came to be associated with veneration of the gods and specific devotional practice. Examining a variety of representative objects, none of which has been seen in print before, the author reveals that the original concept behind flying celestial beings and bird-men originated not in China but in India and the Christianized West, via the Silk Road. A distinctive characteristic of Chinese artefacts is that, in contrast to their Western angelic counterparts, they often are wingless. The book discusses small and larger jade pieces alike.
Angus Forsyth is an internationally respected collector of, and authority on, Chinese jade and a former president of the Oriental Ceramics Society of Hong Kong. He has given long and dedicated study to ancient jades, with special attention to the Neolithic period, publishing widely on the topic. His publications include Chinese Jade (1991) and Jades from China (co-authored with Brian McElney, 1994). The latter was written as the catalogue of an exhibition held in the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, England, featuring more than two hundred jades from his own Peony Collection.
Reviewer: Nicolas Levi
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