TANG DYNASTY Anonymous
7th-9th c Chinese Tang Sculpture
(618 - 909)
Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts.
From the Tang Dynasty on, scholars were considered to be indispensable to the business of government. All court officials followed a Confucian course of study and had to pass an examination on the five Confucian classics before they could win a court appointment. The examinations were open to all, and in the first real meritocracy, many a young provincial made his way to power through his ability and his studies. These scholars did not study only Confucius' views of politics, but also history, poetry, painting and music. Thus we see a group of highly educated men trained in a common tradition who were both administrators and scholars.
Later Confucianists laid great stress on the proper observance of ritual, on formal training in the classics, and the strictly hierarchical ordering of society. They taught the supreme virtues of filial piety, loyalty, obedience, and a sense of indebtedness to one's superiors. Another school of Chinese thought, the LEGALISTS, went further, asserting that since by nature man was hopelessly selfish the only answer was complete and unquestioning submission to the ruler. Behavior could only be controlled by laws that were essentially punitive and which derived from the will of the ruler.
The ceramic statuette of a court official from a Tang tomb of the 7th or 8th century shows one of these proud and cultured bureaucrats, self-possessed and confident of his power. However, one could also fall from grace, and some poems of the period describe the anguish of banishment from the seat of power while others describe the joys of the simple life away from the cares that power entailed.
TANG | Court offical. | | Chinese | Tang