The Arts of the Kitan-Liao Empire, 907–1125

Over the past three decades a number of sensational archaeological finds have drawn scholarly attention to the long neglected Kitan-Liao empire in northern China. The finds show that the non-Chinese Kitan elite built a sophisticated and unique court culture, which not only adapted Chinese models but itself became a model for other non-Chinese elites, most notably the Tangut Xi-Xia, farther west. The presence of the powerful Kitan empire, moreover, redefined contemporaneous understanding of what it meant to be Chinese, especially among the intellectuals of the neighboring Song dynasty in central and southern China. This seminar examines the main archaeological Liao sites in order to examine notions of cultural and political identity and cultural exchange. Themes to be explored include the forced migration of artisans and other conquered people, diplomacy and the exchange of luxury goods such as silk and silver, the commercial and ritual uses of ceramics, nostalgia for the past and the rise of antiquarian collecting, Western imports, and the importance of Buddhism for Liao material culture. 3 credits. satisfies pre-1800 or non-Western requirement.