Liao-Dynasty Elites in Light of Their Archaeological Remains

Liao-Dynasty Elites in Light of Their Archaeological Remains

François Louis - Associate Professor, Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture

Monday, February 19, 2018 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Room 202, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511

Although the tomb of Yelü Yuzhi (d. 941) and his wife Chonggun (d. 942) was partially looted in 1992, it still provides the most comprehensive material record of known members of the early Liao ruling elite. Yuzhi was a cousin of Abaoji, the dynastic founder, and a brother of Abaoji’s right-hand man Helu; Chonggun was a sister of the second Liao empress. Although they, like their imperial relatives, were proud Kitans, their tomb was furnished with artifacts reflecting Chinese and Turkic artisanal traditions. The multicultural nature of this burial is typical for early Liao nobility and manifests the growing international power and multi-ethnic population of the Kitan state. A century later, Kitan elite tombs would embrace a different style, one that suggests a greater self-consciousness in presenting a Kitan heritage. This talk will offer a close reading of select objects to uncover the intercultural dimensions of Kitan self-fashioning.

François Louis is Associate Professor of Chinese Art and Material Culture at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. From 2002 to 2008 he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Artibus Asiae. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Zurich and has published widely on the visual and material culture of ancient and medieval China. He has authored a history of goldsmithing in Tang and Song China as well as a monograph on Song-era Confucian ritual illustrations entitled Design by the Book: Chinese Ritual Objects and the Sanli Tu (2017). Recent co-edited volumes include Antiquarianism and Intellectual Life in Europe and China, 1500–1800 (2012) and Perspectives on the Liao (2013). He is currently working on a book interpreting the archaeological finds of the Liao dynasty.