Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Chasing the Beyond: Depictions of Hunting in Eastern Han Dynasty Tomb Reliefs (25-220 CE) from Shaanxi and Shanxi

Wallace, Leslie V (2010) Chasing the Beyond: Depictions of Hunting in Eastern Han Dynasty Tomb Reliefs (25-220 CE) from Shaanxi and Shanxi. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (990kB) | Preview


During the first and second centuries CE colonists living along the Northern Frontier of the Han Empire built tombs with stone doorways that depicted scenes of the hunt. These reliefs depict a fabulous world inhabited by mounted archers, hybrid xian (immortals) and frolicking/fleeing animals. Within these reliefs there is also a limited tendency to draw on the alternate lifestyles of the Xiongnu, a confederation of northern nomadic tribes who served as both neighbor and foe to the Han Chinese who lived in this area. Previous scholarship has seen hunting imagery in these reliefs as passive reflections of the mixed culture and economy of the region. I instead maintain that it was part of an iconographical program that depicted and facilitated the passage of the deceased to paradise across the dangerous borderlands between Heaven and Earth. My dissertation argues that imagery in Shaanxi and Shanxi was actually a refinement of earlier Eastern Zhou (771-221 BCE) and Western Han (206BC- 8CE) depictions of the hunt and immortals, but that in this region, the positioning of the hunt at doorways created a liminal space representing the "Great Boundary" between this world and the next. This world is described in an inscription from a tomb excavated in Suide, Shaanxi that warns the deceased of the dangers that confront him if he does not return to the world of the living. On the basis of this inscription and similar "soul-summoning" passages from the Chu ci (Songs of the South) and Eastern Han dynasty tomb-quelling texts (zhenmu wen), I argue that hunting imagery in Shaanxi and Shanxi belongs to the desolate spaces that were believed to exist between this world and the next. Furthermore, I conclude that these images were a local response adopted by the patrons because they lived in a militarized, colonized setting in which fears of foreign neighbors fused with their apprehensions of the 'beyond'.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wallace, Leslie
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLinduff, Katheryn Mlinduff@pitt.eduLINDUFF
Committee MemberWeis, Anneweis@pitt.eduWEIS
Committee MemberBarbieri-Low, Anthony
Committee MemberGerhart, Karen Mkgerhart@pitt.eduKGERHART
Date: 24 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 February 2010
Approval Date: 24 June 2010
Submission Date: 12 April 2010
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: China; Han Dynasty; hunting; Shanbei; tomb reliefs
Other ID:, etd-04122010-104329
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:36
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:39


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item