Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), located in northwestern China, was the ancient capital of China, which at its peak reached two million inhabitants, on the site of present-day Xi’an. It became the capital of more than ten dynasties in the history of China. During its heyday with the Western Han, Chang’an was one of the great metropolises of the ancient world, comparable to Rome (Source: Wikipedia).
It served as the gateway (or terminus) of the so-called Silk Road, overland trade routes linking the prosperous Tang empire with central, western and southern Asia. Foreign merchants joined Buddhist missionaries, diplomatic envoys, translators, artisans, artists and other skilled immigrants to transform Chang’an into a cosmopolitan city. This worldly and wealthy center offered a ready market for exotic imports, such as silver and gold objects, delicate glassware and even grape wine. To meet the growing demand for stylish goods, local craftsmen adapted foreign designs to the Chinese style.
Of all the travelers to Chang’an, the most successful group came from the distant kingdom of Sogdiana, located far to the west in modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These Persian speakers seamlessly connected the cultural realms of China and Iran. While some traders and artisans traveled back and forth across Asia, others settled in China, where they helped fuel a fashion for Central Asian culture. One Sogdian community leader who died in China chose to be buried in a Sino-Sogdian manner and commissioned the funerary couch on view in this exhibition. Over time, the Sogdian population was gradually absorbed into Chinese society. Today, the Sogdians are regarded as a lost people. (Source: asia.si.edu/ Institución Smithsonian)
Here are a number of objects in this series from the ancient Chang’an, the commercial center of the ancient world, from the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Arts.
Gallery of Objects from the Center of the World
Foliated Mirror with Birds and Floral Scrolls
Historical Period(s): Early or mid-Tang dynasty, late 7th-early 8th century. Medium: Cast bronze and applied gold plaque with repoussé, chased, and ring-punched decorat. Dimensions: Diam x D: 22.1 x 1.7 cm (8 11/16 x 11/16 in). Label: This lobed mirror consists of a cast bronze body to which has been affixed sheet of gold that was previously worked with repoussé and incised figures on a ring-punched background. The foliated designs arranged symetrically around the central boss are auspicious symbols. (Source: Smithsonian Institution)
Lidded Box in the Form of a Melon with Grapevines and Knob in the Shape of a Rodent
Historical Period(s): Early or mid-Tang dynasty, late 7th-early 8th century. Medium: Cast and hammered silver with chased and ring-punched decoration and leaf gilding. Dimensions: H x W: 6.4 x 5 cm (2 1/2 x 1 15/16 in). Geography: Shaanxi province, probably Xi’an. (Lidded box in the form of a melon with grapevines and knob in the shape of a rodent, Freer Gallery of Art
https://asia.si.edu/object/F1930.39a-b/ Smithsonian Institution)
Stemmed wine cup with floral scrolls
Historical Period(s): Mid-Tang dynasty, 8th century. Medium: Cast silver with chased and ring-punched decoration. Dimensions: H x Diam: 4.3 x 6.6 cm (1 11/16 x 2 5/8 in). (Photos:Stemmed wine cup with floral scrolls, Freer Gallery of Art
Lidded container with birds and floral scrolls
Historical Period(s): Mid-Tang dynasty, early 8th century. Medium: Cast, hammered, and turned silver with chased and ring-punched decoration and mercury gilding. DimensionS: H x W: 12.3 x 7.1 cm (4 13/16 x 2 13/16 in). Geography: China, Shaanxi province, Probably Xi’an
Description: Surface: gilded; areas of black oxidation; inside surface darkened. Decoration: in delicate line engraving, covering all outer surfaces. (Photo: Freer Gallery of Art/ https://asia.si.edu/object/F1931.17a-b/Smithsonian Institution)
Square mirror with floral medallion, plant sprays, birds, and insects
Covered box in the form of a six petalled flower with birds and floral scrolls
Stemmed wine cup with floral scrolls
Early or mid-Tang dynasty, late 7th-early 8th century
China, Shaanxi province, Probably Xi’an.
Cast bronze with chased and ring-punched decoration and mercury gilding.
H x W: 6.1 x 5.2 cm (2 3/8 x 2 1/16 in). (Photo: Freer Gallery of Art
https://asia.si.edu/object/F1911.70/ Smithsonian Institution)
Foliated mirror with Chang’e (the Moon goddess), hare, toad, tree, and clouds
Historical Period(s): Mid-Tang dynasty, 8th century. Medium: Cast bronze. Dimensions: Diam x D: 14.9 x 0.9 cm (5 7/8 x 3/8 in). (Photo:Freer Gallery of Art https://asia.si.edu/object/F1911.116/Smithsonian Institution)
Textile with floral medallions and lozenges
Historical Period(S): Mid-Tang dynasty, first half of the 8th century Medium: Brocade (jin): woven silk (weft-faced compound twill): Dimensions: H x W: 150.1 x 59.3 cm (59 1/8 x 23 3/8 in). (Photo:Freer Gallery of Arthttps://asia.si.edu/object/F1911.597a-b/Smithsonian Institution)
(Source: Smithsonian Institution)