The waters of the Bohai Sea are now calm. Soldiers return in triumph to the arms of mountainous views. Flutes and trumpets are played to welcome their return to Tiefeng City.”
The Liao and Jin Dynasties implemented the “Wujing” institution, under which the emperors managed the land where different ethnicities and cultures coexisted. During the Liao and Jin Dynasties, the east capital road fell into the jurisdiction of the east capital. In AD 919, Emperor Taizu of the Liao Dynasty ( Yelü Abaoji) ordered the repairing of the Liaoyang old city, renamed it Dongping County and set up a defence system there. An iron phoenix ( tiefeng) was cast to be placed in the city. Liaoyang thus took the name of Tiefeng City.
In recent years, a great variety of relics from the Liao and Jin periods have been discovered in Liaoyang, Shenyang and the surrounding areas. The cultural relics have helped people become more familiar with the way of life of the people who lived in the past. Great mountain views, fanfare and caravan rides—life in Tiefeng City is worth exploring. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, Shenyang Palace Museum, Shenyang Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute, Liaoyang Museum, and the Liao and Jin City Wall Museum jointly host the east capital district cultural relics show. Exhibits include daily porcelain wares such as cockscomb-shaped porcelain pots, three-colored plates, bronze mirrors, porcelain toys, fine silver earrings, aweinspiring Buddhist statues and tapestries. The cultural relics portray a range of aspects of life at the time. They are political, economic, cultural, religious and daily life-oriented in nature. They show what the Khitan and Jurchen people were like about 1,000 years ago. The exhibition will last until March 2019.
Porcelain-making As Ethnic Tradition
The porcelain industry thrived during the Liao and Jin dynasties. A considerable number of ceramic craftsmen from the central plains area brought the culture of porcelain making to Liao and Jin. From a technical perspective, Liao and Jin ceramics were influenced by the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–906), Five Dynasties (AD 907–960) and Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279), but the porcelain also has its own ethnic traits in styling and decoration.
Dining and container wares such as cups, bowls, plates, saucers, containers, pots, bottles, cans and others are in line with the tradition in the central plains area. Ceramics that are modeled after hide or wooden containers of Khitans, such as cockscomb-shaped pots, flasks, pots and chicken leg-shaped bottles, have their own style. The cockscomb-shaped pot has a compressed shape. The bottom is round, and there is a vertical tube on top of it. The
side with the handle has a semi-cloud or bow shape, similar to the shape of a rooster cockscomb. This type of pot has five main types: flat body single hole, flat body double hole, flat body ring beam, round body ring beam and short body beam. The age of a pot is determined by the features on its body.
Khitans were horse-riding tribes in the northern part of China. Leather sacs were an important part of their nomadic lifestyle and were used as containers for water or liquor. After the establishment of the Liao Kingdom by the Khitans, their way of life began to change. Leather sacs were replaced by ceramic crowned pots. They were shaped like leather sacs. The exhibition features yellow-glazed crown pots, green-glazed crown pots and green white-glazed pots. The ornamentation on the pots reminds people of the endless prairies and sheep herds.
Cockscomb pots buried in the Liao Dynasty tombs provide critical evidence to ascertain the age of the tomb. A great many cockscomb pots have been found in archaeological discoveries. Their shapes can vary. In the beginning, they bore more resemblance to leather sacs and had ethnic Khitan ornamentation. Cockscomb-shaped pots that were made later had little similarities with the leather sacs. For example, the whiteglazed pot discovered in 1954 in Chifeng, Liaoning Province bears little resemblance to leather sacs and lost some its ethnic charm.
The other porcelain works at the exhibition invariably have high cultural relic value. It would be nice to have a white glazed flower bowl, white-glazed flowerpatterned dish; white-glazed, butterflypatterned plate; white-glaze and browncoloured dish; and white-glazed highlegged bowl in one's home! The whiteglazed octagonal chicken-crown earshaped liquor container; white-glazed, peony-patterned pot; two-handled, brownglaze pot; and yellow-glazed, long-necked bottle that are on display once contained fine liquids. The white glazed black-flower powder box; shadow-blue chrysanthemum petal-shaped powder box; and the whiteglazed, three-set powder box were for women's dressing tables.
At the beginning of the 12th century, Jurchen founded the Jin Dynasty in Northeast China. They later destroyed the Liao and Northern Song dynasties. The Jin Dynasty existed in the same period as the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279). Jurchen culture developed fast along with its economy and military as central plains regimes were conquered. After Wanyanliang moved the capital to Yanjing, the highly-developed central plains culture played a great role in the development of Jurchen culture. Jin Dynasty bronze mirrors and Jiangguantun kiln porcelain help understand the local culture of the time.
A great many bronze mirrors that were modeled on the mirrors from the Han (202 BC–AD 220), Tang and Song dynasties appeared during the Jin Dynasty. Meanwhile, a large number of bronze mirrors with local characteristics also appeared. New patterns in the mirrors reflected social life, hunting and
gaming during the Jin Dynasty, and people's aspirations for auspiciousness and good lives.
The bronze mirror of the Jin Dynasty also reflected the political climate at the time and its absorption of central plains culture. The influence from the central plains was not invasive. These bronze mirrors retained the regional and ethnic characteristics of the northern people. The wisdom of the Jurchen can be seen in the polished surface of a bronze mirror.
Liao and Jin porcelain account for a considerable proportion of the exhibition. A batch of the porcelain comes from the village of Jiangguantun in Xiaotun Township of Liaoyang City. A kiln was built there during the Liao Dynasty and thrived during the Jin Dynasty. By the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), it started to decline and was eventually abandoned. It was regarded as one of the representative kiln factories of the east capital of Liao. The site was discovered during an archaeological investigation in the 1930s and 1940s. The kiln site was expansive and once produced a great number of porcelain. Its centre was Jiangguantun, but it also had presence in the Yanzhou City, Yingshou Fort and Diaoshuilou.
White-glazed coarse porcelain was mostly made at Jiangguantun, with a small amount of white-glazed black flowers and black porcelain. The white porcelain mostly consisted of cups, saucers, dishes and containers. The exhibition also exhibits some porcelain figurines and animals, such as the black-glazed, beast-head porcelain; pig-head-shaped porcelain; white-glazed brown colourful maidens; colourful sheep; colourful horses and horse riders. These items were exquisitely made.
Other items include agate chess pieces, copper wheels, gold rings, silver earrings, amber monkey-shaped pendants, polished stone seals and animal-faced, patterned tiles. These objects are made from different materials and in various styles and show details about people's lives at the time.
The Footprints of Buddhism
Buddhism was highly honoured during the Liao Dynasty. The emperors strongly advocated and supported the religion. It had many followers across various classes of society. The prosperity of Buddhism had an important impact on the politics, economy, culture and customs of the Liao Dynasty. The Liao Dynasty was a multiethnic regime. The fact that Han Buddhism became the common belief of almost all ethnic groups in the territory greatly promoted the exchanges and integration of people from different ethnic backgrounds and also played a major role in prolonging the ruling of the Khitan and the existence of Liao. Inlaid turquoise gold medals; diamond pestles; glass beads; iron-braided, plumpatterned trays; and copper bells reflect the strong influence of Buddhism.
The Jin Dynasty was also an important period for the development of Buddhism in ancient China. In most periods, the government implemented a policy of protection and rectification for Buddhism. A stone engraving from the year 1161 unveiled a story from the past.
Li Hongyuan was the mother of Wanyanyong, who was the Jin emperor
at the time. She decided that she would lead a purely religious life in Liaoyang. The imperial court allocated a huge amount of money to build a temple for her. She became known as the Tonghui Yuanming Master. In 1155, Wanyanyong was reunited with her. She died in 1161 and was buried in the Chuiqing Temple.
The White Tower in Liaoyang is located on the north side of Zhonghua Street. It gets the name because the bricks on the tower are whitish grey. It is the tallest brick tower in Northeast China. Its base is decorated with Buddhist patterns and Buddhist shrines on all eight sides of the tower. Brick Buddhas can be found inside the shrines. The top of the tower has iron bars and wheels. An iron wind chime with the words “Bai Rumei'' once hung on the tower. The wind chime is black, and the inscriptions on it remain a mystery. Some say the words are the names of the supporters of the tower, while others say they are the names of the builders of the chimes.
Buddha relics and relics from warring times have been found from various dynasties. After the Jin people destroyed the Northern Song Dynasty, they not only occupied the vast areas of the regime, but also acquired skilled gunpowder, firearms and weaponry craftsmen. The Jin Dynasty created various firearms on the basis of the Song craft. The rockets, fireballs and other weapons that were once invented by the Northern Song Dynasty to fight against the Jin were later further developed by the Jin and applied in actual warfare.
The pottery beads at the exhibition have unique shapes like a hedgehog under attack. They were used to load gun powder and set firing cables. There are small compartments in the middle of the beads with tiny iron blocks inside. Pots that were filled with gunpowder and were commonly used in battlefields at the time influenced them. Pottery bombs were used at the time also. The thinner they were, the better. When they hit a target, they would break into pieces and spread fire. However, the destructive power of the thin and fragile pottery surface was weak, so the craftsmen added thorns to the surface of the pottery. The thorns gradually became bigger to create more impact. Porcelain fireballs are upgraded versions of this. These developments indicated the advent of an era of fire weaponry. An iron helmet is also exhibited that was used by ancient Chinese soldiers. It was usually worn in conjunction with body armour. The expansion of the iron manufacturing industry was directly related to the development of the military forces of the Jin Dynasty.