Giving voice to silent objects, British art historian wins 2022 Tang Prize in Sinology


His contributions show that in addition to writing, there is another talent, another profession, which, by reading the art and artefacts of the world, makes it possible to interpret and understand distant and ancient societies, with their beliefs and interactions. Professor Rawson adopted this approach in his study of Chinese bronzes and jades, and more particularly in the exchanges between the peoples of the center China and their neighbors, for example in horse harness, revealing the role of horse trade with the steppe and along the Silk Road. She showed that the many regions of Eurasia had their own traditions, their own visual systems, in which artifacts, their materials, shapes and multiple ornaments were fixedly combined. By reading these combinations, she was, for example, able to follow and shed light on the transmission of classical Western architectural ornament to West Asia then along the Silk Roads to China, where it was adapted for large Buddhist caves. This exchange was the basis for a brand new design repertoire in China. In due course, this new repertoire was taken up west by the Mongols. As these visual systems are taken up in new contexts, they leave behind their old messages and thus acquire new associations.

Professor Rawson has also done extensive studies of ancient Chinese tombs which offered the dead a complete afterlife world. The vertical shaft tombs of the Shang and Zhou periods were accompanied by bronze and jade artifacts, which gave the dead not only objects for ritual and status, but also weapons and war carriages. Many major changes occurred with the Qin. The elaborate burial of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, contained not only an army of terracotta warriors, but also stables, carriages, court officials, wrestlers, concubines and images of celestial bodies, making from the tomb an image of a universe. , but actually creating this universe for the afterlife of its occupant. In this research, Professor Rawson has drawn our attention to the very different approach of the ancients China to the notion of images, where the terracotta warriors were in the eyes of the Emperor a complete army for the war in the afterlife.

Professor Rawson’s contributions to the field of sinology go beyond original and pioneering scientific contributions. Its tireless efforts to develop and promote exchanges in the field of sinology as well as to help the public better understand Chinese civilization are equally commendable. First a museum curator, she has long been both a practitioner and an academic, and the impact of her curated exhibitions has long been evident to all. Even after moving to University of Oxford After 28 years of service at the British Museum, she has continued to introduce the diversity of Chinese culture to the public through illuminating exhibitions including China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795. Organized at the Royal Academy of Arts from 2005 to 2006, this exhibition took us back to the imperial era Chinato the reigns of three of the most powerful Qing emperors, to explore the artistic and cultural riches of this period and their vivid connotations.

About the Tang Prize
Since the advent of globalization, mankind has been able to enjoy the convenience brought by the advancement of human civilization and science. Yet a multitude of challenges, such as climate change, the emergence of new infectious diseases, the wealth gap and moral degradation, have surfaced along the way. In this context, Dr. Samuel Yin created the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology and Rule of Law. Every two years, four independent and professional selection committees, including many internationally renowned experts, scholars and Nobel laureates, select as Tang Prize laureates individuals who have influenced and made substantial contributions to the world, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or sex. A cash prize of NT$50 million (about. $1.7 million) is assigned to each category, with NT$10 million (about. US$0.35 million) that this is a fellowship intended to encourage professionals in all fields to examine the most pressing needs of humanity in the 21st century, and become leading forces in the development of human society through their outstanding research results and active civic engagement.

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SOURCE The Tang Prize Foundation


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