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Africa: Household utensils  

Marla C. Berns and Margret Carey

One of the most essential domestic items is the knife, which may be used for such diverse tasks as skinning animals, cutting meat or fish, peeling root vegetables, splitting reeds or cutting bark tie when making baskets, shaping wood, trimming fingernails or shaving the head. Generally, knives belong to the individual rather than the task. Forks feature little in African culture, other than as tourist commodities, but spoons are significant and are made in a wide range of forms and materials. The most important are those used for serving food, which have large bowls and are sometimes elaborate. The Dan people of Liberia, for example, have special rice spoons with a large bowl, sometimes decoratively carved at the back, and with the handle often carved in human or animal form. Such spoons are used by women in lavish hospitality at times of festival and help celebrate women’s social role. They are often the work of a master carver and are inherited. Many have decoratively carved handles or bowls, as they may be used for ritual feeding of respected elders, for making offerings to the spirits or for serving food on special occasions. The ...


Africa: Mask and masquerade  

David Binkley and Simon Ottenberg

The term ‘mask’ refers primarily to the object that is worn to hide the face of the masker. The term ‘masquerade’, however, refers to the multimedia activity of transforming a human being into a powerfully animated characterization. While much art-historical research has focused on the mask object itself, the African art form of masquerade comprises an entire ensemble of costume, dance, music and song. Indeed, masquerade is one of Africa’s major contributions to world art; it is certainly the most spectacular. Further information on African mask and masquerade will be found in the entries on the arts of individual peoples, cross-references to several of which appear in the article below.

Mask forms have often been reproduced in other media. They have sometimes been adapted as architectural ornamentation or reproduced in miniature for personal adornment, as for example among the Pende of Zaïre (see Pende, §2). There are several traditions of miniature masks, which are not worn over the face or head but simply displayed as symbols of status and achievement. Among the ...


Africa: Tobacco containers and pipes  

Margret Carey

Tobacco was introduced into Africa from America by Europeans in the 15th century, while hemp, often called dagga, may have entered Africa from the east and north, via Arab contacts. In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the east and south, the preferred form of tobacco was snuff, made from dried, ground tobacco leaves, which in the late 20th century continued to be taken by both sexes. Snuff-boxes belonging to chiefs or important men might be distinguished by their size, superior workmanship or use of some exclusive material, such as elephant ivory. The great majority of snuff-boxes, however, are quite small and are portable as neck or waist pendants or, if they are made from a length of reed or wood, worn as an ear-plug. Small gourds are often used, either left plain or decorated in a variety of ways, such as pyrogravure, impressed beads or wire and beaded covers; and short lengths of cane or bamboo used to keep snuff may also be decorated by pyrogravure, shallow carving and beaded covers. In ...


Africa: Tools and implements  

Pierre de Maret

The oldest known tools in the world are the African flaked cobbles and stone flakes from c. 2.5 million years bc. From this time stone artefacts gradually became more elaborate. Acheulian tools, mainly hand axes, from c. 1.5 million years bc represent a remarkable intellectual achievement: the equilibrium of the shapes, the fine workmanship and the choice of the raw materials combine a functional approach with some concern for aesthetics. Later, polished tools, such as one made of haematite from Uele in Zaïre (see Van Noten), showed outstanding craftsmanship. Such materials as wood, vegetable and animal fibres, ivory, leaves, bones, horns, leather, eggshells, snail shells, seashells, gourds, clay and metal have also all been in use for millennia. In some places specific tools were developed to work these materials, which were used in turn to create numerous other implements, mainly for cultivating, hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, cooking and drinking. The number of tools owned by any given family, however, was quite small, with basic objects such as a knife, hoe or axe serving several purposes....


China: Brushes, kites, rhinoceros-horn carving, and other arts  

Jan Chapman, Peter Hardie, Henryk Jurkowski, J. A. Marsh, Bent Nielsen, Jane Portal, Richard Rutt, F. Richard Stephenson, John E. Vollmer, Boda Yang, and Cordell D. K. Yee

See also China.

Chinese brushes, sometimes referred to as pens, are writing and painting instruments made from animal hair (deer, goat, rabbit, fox, or wolf), bird feathers, or human hair. They stand in tiered “pen mountains” or in brushpots, hang from penracks, or are kept in penboxes. Brush, paper, ink, and inkstone are called collectively the Four Treasures of the Study (wenfang si bao; see also Scholar’s table). The brush-head is made up of “heart” (or “pillar”) bristles surrounded by a “skirt,” with an outer layer of “cover” (or “padding”) bristles. Ideally, “the heart is hard, the cover-bristles fine, the point like an awl, and the whole is even like a mirror.” The skeleton of the brush is its heart, which is used for holding the ink. The point is formed from the combination of the tip and the cover-bristles, the skirt being for decoration. The space between the cover-bristles and the tip where the skirt does not extend acts as an ink reservoir. The point is even and the body strong; there is complementary stiffness and flexibility. When the brush is lifted during writing it naturally draws inwards to form the point. The main type of brush-head is of the “bamboo shoot tip” style, but there are also “orchid-head” and “calabash-head” types. The length of the brush-head must be just right, because a slightly shortened point is easy to blunt. In terms of function there are writing brushes and painting brushes. These can be further divided into brushes with various properties, each with its own name. Brushes made for the royal family and for other exalted users, apart from emphasizing the brush-head, also used specially selected precious materials and exquisite decoration for the handle and cap as well as for the brushpot and brushstand....


China: Jade-carving  

Jenny F. So and Barry Till

Both the term “jade” and the Chinese equivalent, yu, are mineralogically inaccurate terms used to refer to a variety of hard and soft stones susceptible to polishing (see Jade, §1). In China, the most commonly worked stone from the Neolithic period (c. 6500–c. 1600 bce) was nephrite. Chemically a silicate of calcium and magnesium, nephrite has a fibrous structure and a hardness of 6–6.5 on the Mohs scale, which means it cannot be scratched or cut by ordinary metal tools. The richest and best-known source of Chinese nephrite recorded in ancient texts was located in Central Asia, along the mountains and river valleys of East Turkestan in modern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Two rivers in this region, the Karakash (Black Jade River) and the Yurungkash (White Jade River) probably derived their names from the treasures recovered from their beds. However, artifacts made in nephritic materials different to those excavated in ...


China: Popular and national minorities’ art  

Frances Wood

In China, as elsewhere, “popular art” is a term used to cover the production and decoration of forms peculiar to the common people as distinct from the aristocracy. Popular art includes architectural decoration, ceramics of all sorts, dress and textiles, jewelry, furniture, paper, and printing. Neither the end of the dynastic era in 1911 nor the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 ended the production of popular handicrafts. The continuation of many traditional festivals, leisure pursuits, and customs through the latter part of the 20th century ensured a constant demand, even with the introduction of modern materials. In addition, several techniques were revived; traditional weaving and embroidery skills, for instance, are being fostered at the Embroidery Research Institute (founded 1957) in Suzhou and at other centers. The national minorities of China mainly inhabit the border regions, and their culture is often related to that of groups across the borders (the Miao in Yunnan Province and Burma; the Mongols in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and in Mongolia; the Kazaks and Uighurs in Xinjiang and the Central Asian republics, now Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan; Koreans in Jilin Province and Korea, etc.). Their clothing, embroidery, and production of other artifacts are therefore closely related to those of their cross-border relatives....


Indian subcontinent: Calligraphy, furniture, glass, and other arts  

P. A. Andrews, Ziyaud-Din Desai, Susan Gole, Henryk Jurkowski, Hana Knížková, Kirit Mankodi, Robert Skelton, Geraldine Smith-Parr, Susan Stronge, and Woodman Taylor

See also Indian Subcontinent [India and South Asia before 1947]

Except for the Chinese method of block-printing used in Tibetan areas (see Tibet, §V, 9), the technology for mechanically reproducing texts and images was introduced into South Asia by European colonial powers. The production of printed books as well as single prints and broadsheets was initially controlled by colonial officials and European missionaries, who established printing presses at colonial ports. Printing began in Portuguese Goa in 1556 and is recorded at the British colony of Bombay in 1674, at the Danish colony of Tranquebar by 1792 and in Bengal by 1778. The first Devanagari founts were developed in Calcutta to print Hindi and Sanskrit text. Charles Wilkins, working at the Fort William College in Calcutta, and William Carey, at his Serampore mission, developed founts for printing the scripts of many regional South and South-east Asian languages.

With the proliferation of presses that could print South Asian languages, vernacular newspapers quickly appeared. These early newspapers included some of the first printed graphic art produced by Indian artists. By the 1830s, traditional ...


Indian subcontinent: Colonial-period decorative arts  

Geraldine Smith-Parr

See also Indian Subcontinent [India and South Asia before 1947]

The enormous wealth of the Mughal family empire attracted craftsmen, architects and builders to the imperial workshops, not only from throughout the Indian subcontinent but also from other parts of Asia. These workshops were attached to the major centres of government (Agra, Delhi and Lahore), and in them goldsmiths, painters and weavers produced artefacts for the court. The provincial centres followed the Mughal model, each workshop answering the needs of a particular noble or ruler. Commercial centres also existed for products traded with the rest of India and exported to Iran, the Middle East and (with the increasing involvement of the European East India companies) to the West; Kashmir had an established shawl industry, Golconda was famed for its chintzes, Gujarat for its inlaid mother-of-pearl wares and carved wood, and Cambay (modern Khambhat) for its hardstone-carving. Crafts brought from Europe during the Mughal period also affected imperial workshops. European royal gifts influenced the Mughal style in painting and the decorative arts. A fusion of indigenous Indian and imported Iranian and European styles took place. The ceaseless flow of European artefacts to the court, the strong Iranian cultural and political ties and the arrival of European and Iranian artisans, who were taken into the workshops to join the Hindu and Muslim craftsmen already there, not only influenced the style and decoration of objects but also seem to have created entirely new industries....


Indian subcontinent: Popular and folk art  

Brian Durrans and Ann Wood Norton

A rich variety of arts and crafts are produced in the subcontinent’s villages, where over four-fifths of the population lives. Two aspects of society in particular shape the close relationship between rural and urban popular arts. The first is the close tie through kinship of rural and urban populations. Even city dwellers, who are a relatively small minority, generally consider their true home to be their family’s village of origin, maintaining connections with it, especially at times of festivals and rites of passage (Skt saṃskāra). The second is the subcontinent’s cultural continuity, which unites village and city, allowing them to share many of the same myths and rituals. ‘It is because they perform and know the same stories that we can say that villager and urbanite belong to the same culture and civilization’ (Marriott, p. 75). Thus artistic expressions of the simplest villager and the most sophisticated urbanite may have certain similarities. Links with the distant past reflect cultural continuity over the centuries. For example, the pinchwork sun-baked clay ‘bird-mothers’ made by Bengali women as ...


Japan: Coins, kites, tattoos, and other arts  

Joe Cribb, Patricia J. Graham, Willem van Gulik, Henryk Jurkowski, Sadako Ohki, Tal Streeter, and David Waterhouse

The subjects discussed in this section reflect modern art-historical classification systems that were not recognized in pre-modern Japan (see Japan: History and culture). The art forms are therefore not necessarily considered as such in Japan, but their inclusion conforms largely with comparable sections elsewhere in the Dictionary of Art.

See also Japan

Since prehistoric times, Bamboo has been one of the most versatile and ubiquitous of materials in Japan for the making of objects, from simple utilitarian devices to carefully crafted articles esteemed as artistic creations, and it has long occupied an important place in Japanese daily and ritual life. Bamboo is one of the three plants displayed on felicitous occasions to bring good fortune. It is commonly used for baskets, weapons, toys, musical instruments, notably flutes (see §7 below), tools, combs, tea ceremony utensils, furniture, window blinds and curtains (sudare, for dividing inner from outer rooms), architectural elements, ...


Japan: Dolls  

Lea Baten

The Japanese word for doll, ningyō, derives from an archaic pronunciation of the Chinese characters for ‘human’ and ‘form’. Decorative and folk-art dolls trace their origin to prehistoric figurines, which were cult objects, invested with magical, protective, religious and fecundity-giving powers. These ritual overtones were present even when dolls appear to be purely decorative. The earliest doll-like forms included dogū (baked clay figurines) of the Jōmon period (c. 10,000–c. 300 bc); haniwa (‘clay cylinders’; see Japan: Sculpture from the pre- and protohistoric periods, dogū fig, and haniwa fig) placed around mounded tombs of the Kofun period (c. ad 300–710); and sutebina (‘casting off figures’) used in purification rites of the 6th and 7th centuries. A variety of doll-like figurines were enshrined in both Buddhist and Shinto shrines from the Nara period (ad 710–94) onwards; other small bronze figures excavated at Nara in ...


Japan: Folk art  

Takako Hauge and Victor Hauge

The term ‘folk art’ is generally applied to the art of the ‘common people’ in pre-industrial Japan, from about the 12th century to the 19th, though with some survivals into the modern period (after 1868). It embraces religious paintings, prints and sculpture and broad areas of such crafts as ceramics, textiles and woodwork.

See also Japan

The concept of ‘the people’s art’ of Japan was first enunciated in 1926 by Muneyoshi Yanagi, who was struck by the beauty in everyday utilitarian wares—objects dismissed as getemono or zakki (low-class or commonplace things)—and invented for them the term mingei (‘folk crafts’ or ‘the people’s art’, commonly rendered as ‘folk art’; see also Mingei). Yanagi’s writings and organizing initiatives inspired a movement aimed at preserving the legacy of old folk crafts and encouraging continued local mingei production in the face of sweeping industrialization. As a result, many collections of folk art were formed, such as the outstanding collection of the ...


Japan: Masks  

Monica Bethe

Masks have played an important role since prehistoric times in Japanese rituals, festivals and theatrical arts. The finest examples are connected with three performing arts: gigaku, bugaku and the allied forms of and kyōgen (see also Japan: Theatre and performing arts and Japan).

Nearly all Japanese masks are carved from wood, Japanese cypress (hinoki) being the most prevalent, particularly after the 11th century. Other woods include paulownia (kiri) and camphor (kusu), used for many 7th- and 8th-century masks, as well as various hard and soft woods for provincial masks. Almost all the masks are carved out of a single block, starting with the general features. The back is then hollowed out, and, working on front and back simultaneously, the carver opens holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, and finally refines and smooths the face of the mask. In some cases, particularly for the larger masks (...


Japan: Tea ceremony  

John T. Carpenter and Nobuo Ito

The etiquette of tea drinking and its associated arts occupy a unique place in Japanese social history and artistic development. From the late 15th century onwards the tea ceremony has served as a focus for artistic production, architectural development and the cultivation of art appreciation and connoisseurship.

Tea was probably known in Japan by the 8th century ad. The practice of tea drinking began in China in ancient times, and methods of preparing tea evolved under three different dynasties. In the Tang period (ad 618–907) tea was boiled with salt, butter and other milk products; whipping powdered tea in water was practised in the Song period (960–1279); and extracting tea by steeping it in hot water was developed in the Ming period (1368–1644), a tradition known as sencha (infused green tea). The Japanese tea ceremony (chadō; also pronounced sadō; the Way of tea; or chanoyu...



Sharalyn Orbaugh

[Jap.: “paper theater”]

Japanese medium for entertainment and education using illustrations to accompany a storytelling performance. A set of between ten and thirty thin cardboard cards about 25 × 40 cm constituted one play or one episode of a serialized story. The cards, with an illustration on the front and script on the back, were loaded into a small proscenium-style wooden stage, and pulled out one by one as the performer enlivened the script with vivid characterizations, songs, and sound effects. Audiences enjoyed the illustrations, the story, and the skill of the performer, who was visible at all times and constituted a part of the show. Illustrations and storytelling techniques were influenced by and in turn influenced early cinema and manga. Kamishibai comes in two main types: street (gaitō; also known as machikado, “street corner”) and educational (kyōiku; also known as insatsu, “printed”).

Street kamishibai, which flourished from about 1930 to the early 1970s, was an entertainment business, based on the sale of candy to children who gathered to hear the stories. To maximize profits, creators delivered hand-painted illustrations and serialized storylines that would appeal to children, and performers were free to ad lib to suit the mood of the young audience. Illustrations featured monsters, detectives, highwaymen, robots, tearful children tormented by evil stepmothers, characters from Japanese popular premodern legends, or silly cartoons. During the height of the Asia Pacific War (...


Korea: Popular and folk art  

Seon-Mi Cho and Sam Dae-ja Kim

Popular forms of art in Korea were for many centuries associated with social groups largely excluded from political and economic power and from the formulation of social and artistic standards, such as women, farming communities and the artisan classes. Itinerant painters met popular needs for decoration; folk beliefs were often expressed through the use of ritual objects; and personal and domestic requirements were satisfied through the supply of artefacts.

Though appreciated for their skills, artisans were long constrained to accept a lowly position in society, subordinate to the needs of the aristocracy and organized through offices and workshops. In the 20th century social rigidity was loosened, Korea turned from agriculture to industry, and the country was exposed first to Japanese, then Western influence. As many native traditions came under attack, the South Korean government instituted the system of National Intangible Cultural Assets. Ninety-four forms of traditional art have been designated as such assets, and thirty different traditional skills are now protected and supported, and an interest in traditional arts is encouraged. The present state of the popular arts in North Korea is unclear....


Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica: Arms and armor  

David M. Jones

Warfare played a significant role in Mesoamerican culture. Apart from fighting for political and territorial reasons, the cult of the warrior became increasingly important during the Late Classic (c. 600–c. 900 CE) and Postclassic (c. 900–1521 CE) periods, when societies of “knights” were formed, with their own rituals and meeting-places. Warfare was more ritualized in concept than in Western Europe. There were no standing armies. Warriors were led by the elite and were drawn from all able-bodied men. Weapons and armor were kept by individuals, or in central storehouses in the case of the Aztecs. “Foreign” mercenaries were sometimes used for particular campaigns—for example, the Cocom Itza used Mexican warriors in the conquest of Mayapán in the Late Postclassic period (c. 1200–1521). Fighting was hand-to-hand after initial bombardment with arrows, darts, and spears. Most “wars” were decided by a single battle, although continual warfare was the rule, especially in the Late Postclassic empire-building of the Aztecs....


Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica: Bone-carving, shellwork, masks, instruments, and other arts  

Christian F. Feest, José Alcina Franch, Roberto Rivera y Rivera, and Anthony Alan Shelton

See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

The earliest use of bone for tools and as a medium of plastic expression in Mesoamerica dates from c. 12,000–c. 8000 BCE. Bone tools were used to perforate hide, work obsidian, and stitch basketry, while notched shoulder-blades, usually from deer, were used as a rasping device and provided one of the earliest forms of musical instrument. A sacrum of an extinct species of camelid, dated to c. 12,000–10,000 BCE, was carved to resemble the head of a coyote and probably used as a mask (Mexico City, Mus. N. Antropol.); this constitutes the first evidence for the ritual use of bone in this area. Bone was undoubtedly used for ornament, needles, handtools, and musical instruments throughout Mesoamerican prehistory, but distinct traditions are not usually identified before the 1st–2nd centuries CE in the Maya region and considerably later in areas further north.

Bone-carving had a long history in the ...


Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica: Mosaic  

Kieran Costello

See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

In the context of Mesoamerica, the term mosaic is used for decoration made up of small pieces of hardstones and other materials applied not only to architectural surfaces (as in the Greco-Roman mosaic tradition of Europe) but also to a variety of prized objects, including vessels, shields, masks, human skulls, and knife handles.

The earliest supposed Mesoamerican mosaic ornament is a group of turquoise chips found in an Early Preclassic (c. 2000–c. 1000 BCE) grave at El Arbolillo, Basin of Mexico. Three large-scale mosaic pavements (each c. 4.5 × 6.0 m) composed of square and rectangular serpentine blocks (c. 485 blocks each) depicted stylized jaguar faces at the Olmec site of La Venta. Each was an offering, deliberately buried under c. 1 m of clay and adobe. A wooden Olmec mask encrusted with jade was found at Cañón de la Mano, Guerrero, dated to ...