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Terracotta Warriors And Cai Guo-qiang: The Visible And Invisible Worlds

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The elemental frontage of the Qin Dynasty, has compelled many to follow suit and progress from premodern China to the world today. Spreading the ancient history of China throughout the world and letting others embrace the delicates materials to the religious aspects. The terracotta warriors is considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries ever, they represent something a lot more than years of hard work and sculpting to create them, they gave us a deep understanding into ancient chinas burial rights, and their passage to afterlife. Cai Guo-Qiang questioned our thoughts and concepts of interiority upon the opening of the NGV’s Transient Landscapes and Terracotta warriors exhibition, the collection of work created by Cai combined ancient Chinese materials with more modern day materials in order to create a conversation between more contemporary work and ancient work, which could be found in the mausolean in China where the terracotta warriors were discovered. Invisible and visible aspects of the terracotta warriors are also very apparent throughout the exhibition and Transient Landscapes; furthermore the underlying links to religion and art are sometime so intertwined with materials and history, that one must really immerse themselves to have an understanding. Luckily Cai has assisted us with creating the conversation between ancient China and more contemporary topics, such as art.

The essence of spirituality is deeply woven through the long and rich history of Chinas dynasties. In premodern China, the majority of civilisation observed beliefs and followed practises which has an affiliation to mortality, that they learnt as fellows of households and municipalities, not as affiliates of arranged religions. These notions and practices are often absorbed under the umbrella of Chinese popular religion. The established and well known forms of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and several other traditions bestowed numerous practises and beliefs to other favoured and liked religions in it own town or community variants. Personal growth was considered the perfect way to live, as an unwelcome response, succeeding in some kind of afterlife salvation, such as living forever, possessing the state of enlightenment, or being birthed in a divine realm. Yet, personal preservation was a more minor aspect of more well known and popular religions. In ordinary community versions of well known religion, the special importance was heavily based on passing into an ancestral realm, from this world, which reflects the world and the interlinkages connecting ancestors and living human beings.

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Physical materials offer a greater understanding into the complex, yet rich history of Chinese structures. As well as creating structural elements, ceramics were used to create items for everyday use, such as plates, cups and other day-to-day items. Delicate and ornate, high-quality porcelain items were typically created for decoration purposes, or given a gifts. Additionally, their skills were put to use to create decorative statues and elaborate trinkets for people in the higher class. Porcelain was considered the creative fruit of the blue collared people of ancient china, since the Han and tang dynasties, porcelain has been distributed from China worldwide. Porcelain actively encourages economic and cultural exchange between the outside world and China, which profoundly influences the traditional culture and the lifestyle of people outside of China. In the period Emperor Qin was ruling, materials reprise need a specific trait, which was essential to the Chinese culture. As time was moving and the towns were progressing and developing, materials started playing an even greater role within everyone’s life, no matter what class you were in; materials were then used to create a sort of currency, which was contributed to the beginning fo Chinas major export, as well as creating a connection to spirituality. Cai Guo-Qiang’s specialisation work is conceptually anchored in current social related issues, combined with his long standing passion for Eastern philosophy, in order to understand our connection to the world and beyond. Revealing materials such as porcelain, silk and paper to explosions of gunpowder throughout a collection of combustions, The Transient Landscape brings a brand-new collection of art heavily inspired by the past, culture and places that were the background of Gin Shihuang’s reign of China as an emperor, and the construction of the terracotta warriors. Linking to his great knowledge of the ancient culture in China and his thoughts that conversing with tradition and the past can give energy to more modern and present type art, Guo-Qiang has designed and created a awe inspiring and immersive backdrop for the display of the terracotta warriors and his work which the NGV commissioned earlier this year.

The Chinese conception of the afterlife is based on a combination of Chinese folk religions, Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism. When someone passes away in Chinese culture, it is thought that the persons spirit is lead by messenger to the god and roller of moats and walls, Ch’eng Huang, who organises a type of initial hearing, The people who are found to have high moral standards go directly to a Buddhist paradise, to the residence of the Taoist immortals, or the tenth court of hell, for immediate reincarnation. The Qin Dynasty was the first ever imperial dynasty of China, they lasted fifteen years; from year 221 all the way to 206 BCE. The Qin state was strengthened by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BCE, throughout the Warring state period. The philosophy of legalism, whereby focussing on written law text to the exclusion of the intent of law, enhancing very strict observance to law over mercy, justice, common sense and grace. In the period of mid to late 3rd century BCE, a series of very immediate conquering was ordered by Qin, which defeated the ineffectual and weak Zhou Dynasty and slowly eliminating the six remaining major states of China, which lead Qin to be the controller over the entire country of China. This in turn meant that China was together and unified for the first time in history. Interiors are often a container for spiritual and other abstract ideas, similar to the terracotta warriors key meaning, of protecting the emperor into his afterlife, interiors can harness may different characteristics and possess many forms. The exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV); Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality and Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape, shows us how a purpose designed display for the terracotta warriors can convey such different meaning and understanding to them, since they have been taken out of contact and away from the mausoleum in china.

The Qin Dynasty played a significant role in shaping China that we know of today. From starting up trade and export agreements to being a country known for some of the highest quality exports of well known commodities, which is used all around the world; as well as offering outsiders a greater understanding into their rich and beautiful history of their religion, which has been around for thousands of years, and has slowly adapted and allowed modern day people to posses some aspects of the ancient religion. The visible and invisible aspects, also highlight to the viewers the remarkable time and effort which the artists bestowed upon creating such life like terracotta warriors to protect Emperor Qin to his journey into afterlife, this also links to the dedicated artists and workers who invested years into creating the Melbourne iconic landmark fo St. Paul Cathedral. The NGVS’s Transient Landscapes also gives thanks to Cai Guo-Qiang for his remarkable expertise and specialisation in his area to display the terracotta warriors in such a astounding way to highlight the ancient Chinese rich history.

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