image - symbol - metaphor
In addition to distinguished aesthetic values, which, while admired by western viewers, are often stained with exoticism or enveloped in a mystery, the art of China, Japan, or Vietnam, has its second bottom hidden under an appealing layer of images pleasing the eye.
The shapes enchanted in bronze shells, landscapes painted on silk, sculptures carved in jade, ornaments on porcelain, or mother of pearl inlays, all may as well contain a substancial element of beauty as a hidden message.
This iconography is conditioned by beliefs, legends, history and the fact that many Chinese characters are homophones; although the ideograms are different, the pronunciation is identical or very similar. And so, the flower of chrysanthemum (ju), often associated in Western culture with sadness and mourning, in China refers to qualities such as faithfulness to principles, strength against adversity, and longevity, thanks to the similarity in the pronunciation to the word "forever" (yongjiu). On a deeper, perhaps more intellectual level, there is an association to a famous poem glorifying the peace of mind and retreat in natural environment
In China and Japan the history of art is divided into periods of reign of following dynasties. The development of art itself; the subject matter of the works, style or ideas guiding the creators are not a criterion here. The exception is the case of porcelain, where the constantly improved technology of its firing, testifies of the historical period.
Whether during the Tang, Song or Ming dynasties, artists and craftsmen derived their inspiration from both the natural world and from legends or myths. Hence the division into categories:
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