Art of conquest

     

The kingdom of Champa existed alongside the Khmer kingdom, sometimes passing under its rule, sometimes maintaining a precarious independence. From the north it was continually subject to lớn the pressure of the advancing Vietnamese, a people racially related to lớn the Burmese & Tnhị, who were themselves under pressure from the Chinese. The Hinduizing dynasties who ruled Champa from the 6th century were obliged to lớn pay heavy tribute khổng lồ the Chinese empire. After 980 they were forced by the Vietnamese lớn abandon their northern sacred capital, My Son; thereafter, except for a brief return to My Son in the 11th century, their southern capital at Vijaya (Binch Dinh) became their centre. Under such disruptive sầu circumstances, it is perhaps surprising that the Csi succeeded in creating and maintaining a dynastic art of their own. It was, however, always on a relatively modest scale, devoted lớn a conception of divine kingship similar to but far less ambitious than that of the Khmer.

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Panel of a pedestal altar showing a Cmê say ascetic playing a flute, sandstone, from My Son E1, Vietphái mạnh, second half of the 7th century; in the Csi mê Museum, Da Nang, Vietnam. Height 60 cm.

The glory of Csi art is the sculpture of the whole of the first period. Much of what survives consists of lesser figures that formed part of an architectural decor: heads of monsters, for example, which decorated the corners of architraves, & figures of lions, which supported bases & plinths. These figures reflect the heavy ornateness of the Cham mê decorative style at its most aggressive, và many of them effloresce inkhổng lồ the solid wormlượt thích ornament that is the Csay mê version of Indo-Khmer foliage carving and carries strong reminiscences of Dong Son work. The remaining fragments of the large icons suggest a double origin for Cham mê art traditions. On many of the capitals và altar pedestals are series of figures carved in relief in a sensuous style, which is nevertheless strictly conceptualized. This sophisticated work is reminiscent both of late Chenla art (see above Cambodia và Vietnam) & of Indonesian decoration, especially during the 11th-century return. Other figures are more emphatic in style, with the defined cubic volumes of Melanesian sculpture. It is thus probable that artists trained in the sophisticated Cambodian tradition worked for the Cham mê kings at one time or another, while Champa’s own native craftsmen emulated the work of the foreigners in their own fashion.

Apart from My Son there are one or two other sites in north and central Vietnam where Cyêu thích art was made in quantity. The most important of these is Dong Duong, in Quang Nam. It is a ruined Buddhist monastery complex of the late 9th century, conceived on the most beautifully elaborated plan of structured space in Champage authority. The architectural detail is distinguished from the My Son work by its greater emphasis upon the plasticity of architectural elements such as angle pilasters & porticoes. The circuit wall was about half a mile (one kilometre) long and once contained many shrines dedicated to Buddhist deities. It is possible that, when this complex of briông chồng courts, halls, and gate pavilions was intact, it may have resembled very closely the contemporary Buddhist monasteries of northeastern India.

Art of the southern capital: 11th–15th century

After 980, when the northern provinces were taken over by the Vietnamese and the Cyêu thích capital was established at Binch Dinch in 1069, the kings maintained a gradually diminishing splendour. After the Khmer attaông chồng of 1145 they could clayên ổn little in the way of royal glory.

Although the Cđắm say kings made a brief return to lớn My Son from 1074 khổng lồ 1080, most of their artistic effort was spent on shrines at Vijaya (Binch Dinh) và a few other sites in the south. The early 12th-century Silver Towers at Binch Dinc are simplified versions of the older northern towers, with corner pavilions added lớn the roofing stories & arches of pointed horseshoe shape. Throughout the 13th & early 14th centuries the building of successive shrines gradually declined. The plastithành phố of the old pilasters & architraves became simpler, và the beauty of the buildings became largely a matter of proportion. By the mid-14th century the temples erected at Binh Dinc articulated only reminiscences of the classic Csay đắm style.

Sculpture shows a parallel change. One or two reliefs at the Silver Towers convey a sense of tranquility và splendour, but an indigenous style of cubical emphasis came progressively lớn dominate the iconic Hindu figures at southern sites. The curlicued thiết kế of earlier figures was gradually converted inkhổng lồ a style of massive sầu blocks that convey an impression of strength, but without the refinement of preceding art.

As was the case in Cambodia, this change in art by the mid-14th century may be attributed to lớn the people’s loss of confidence in the concept—&, with it, the imagery—of divine kingship. Theravada Buddhism, as a popular religion based upon numerous small local monasteries, adopted probably from the Tai, was spreading all over the region. The northern Vietnamese, who had originally been organized in self-contained kingdoms without any concept of royal divinity, owing an intermittent administrative sầu allegiance only to the distant Chinese emperor, found this ultimately suitable as a state religion after the final eclipse of Confucianism in the 17th century. They did incorporate echoes of older Hindu architecture, however, in details of the dramatic ornament used on eaves và gables of their wooden monastery buildings.

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Vietnam: 2nd–19th century

The great achievement of Vietnamese art, at least during the Le period (15th–18th centuries), seems to lớn have sầu been in architectural planning, incorporating Confucian, Daoist, or Buddhist temples inkhổng lồ the landscape environment. The plans themselves include halls for a multitude of images in the South Chinese vein & provision for a variety of rituals. There are no intact monuments of early Vietnamese architecture that are unrestored. Numerous fragments exist, however—either isolated stone bases, columns, stairways, và bridges or carved wooden members incorporated into lớn later buildings—all of which are influenced lớn some degree by Chinese styles.

Tombs of generically Chinese type from the 2nd to lớn the 7th century contain bronze furnishings, in many of which, such as lampstands, the influence of the Dong Son style is clearly visible. There are no spirit images so typical of Six Dynasties (220–589 ce) & Tang (618–907 ce) Chinese tombs. The Chua Mot-cot, Hanoi, has vestiges of a stone shrine probably dated 1049. The only old paintings, on roông chồng, at Tuyen Quang (9th century), represent the Buddha, bodhisattvas, và donors. The Van-mieu at Hanoi (built 1070 but frequently restored) contains ritual bronzes in a Chinese style.

Perhaps the most interesting early sculptures khổng lồ survive are the stone fragments from the Van-phuc temple (9th–11th centuries), which are based on Chinese Buddhist imagery but in a style strongly Indianized, perhaps by Cđắm đuối influence. The most important piece of old work still virtually intact is the portable octagonal wooden stupa kept in the hall of the But-thap, at Bac Ninch, east of Hanoi. It has wooden panels carved in an ornate 14th-century Chinese style; part of it bears a representation of the Buddhist paradise of Amitabha. Incorporated in many Buddhist temples of the Le period (15th–18th centuries), as well as in stone terraces, bridges, and gateways, is extremely elaborate carved & coloured woodwork in a style based upon the coiling dragon-and-cloud decoration of Ming (1368–1644) & Qing (1644–1911) China, but with a characteristically Vietnamese emphasis on weight and curve sầu.

At Tho Ha there was a potters’ village where the glazed ceramic figures used on many types of Chinese temple were manufactured. The remains of many tombs, palaces, bridges, and Confucian and Daoist temples decorated in similar vein are known everywhere.

19th–21st century

The imperial courts of Vietnam’s last ruling dynasty at Hue (constructed in 1805–32) were selectively modeled after the Beijing courts using the ancient theory of geomancy (fengshui), with the thành phố facing the Huong (Perfume) River & the Ngu Binc mountain protecting the imperial gates from evil spirits. It consisted of a series of simple rectangular one-story pavilions, laid out among trees inside a group of courts. These buildings were southern Chinese in their basic conception. Following the devastation caused by the Vietnam War in 1968, work began in the 1990s—under the auspices of UNESCO—lớn restore và preserve this important urban cultural site.

The establishment in 1925 of a fine arts school by the French administration led to a first generation of Vietnamese painters. Their training adhered to Western conventions, but they consciously aimed khổng lồ produce works that drew on a Vietnamese cultural background, such as local scenes in the celebrated ancient capital of Hue. At the time of independence from France in 1945, some 128 artists had graduated from the school. From the outmix, students were encouraged to choose traditional painting mediums, such as silk & lacquer, and lớn develop an indigenous style, albeit using Western styles. Masters of Vietnamese painting included Nguyen Gia Tri, Mai Trung Thu, Nguyen Phan Ckhô hanh, Vu Cao Dam. Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Bui Xuan Phai, & Nguyen Sang.

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From the separation of North and South Vietphái mạnh in 1954 khổng lồ the 1970s, artists in the north, such as Nguyen Thi Klặng và Pmê mệt Van Don, were influenced by the current of Sociadanh mục Realism prevailing in both Đài Loan Trung Quốc và the U.S.S.R., while artists in the south followed Western trends. Faced with political and social divisions, artists shared a common longing for national unification. A popular symbol used in folktales & legover of three figures representing the south, central, and north of the country became a regular metaphorical device in their work. Since the 1990s the emergence of new patrons & markets resulted in considerable innovation and variety of styles and techniques in Vietnamese contemporary visual art.


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