Greek Influences on China's First Empire ?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,333
Greek civilization had a great influence of Europe and the near east. China also had influence there, at least through inventions such as gunpowder and paper.

There probably was significant influence on China of Greek civilization through indirect contact with the Macedonian and Roman Empires. That Chinese got the idea of life sized statues and so on from the Greeks is unlikely though.
 

Fantasus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2012
2,381
Northern part of European lowland
At least it sounds like a possibillity there was much more influences, perhaps both ways or even in many directions all over the European-Asian land masses even those times and perhaps before. The more so since the armies from Macedonia, with greek participation, came even perhaps multiple times under Alexander and his successors to India and to Central Asia, establishing direct contacts. So some contacts at least via "mediating" people seems very likely.
 

fascinating

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,373
... and where did the Greeks get the idea of realistic statues , hmmmmmm ?

That is Egyptian and about 4,500 years old. I think it could well be that the Greeks were very influenced by art from Egypt, but that is not the topic of this discussion.
 
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Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,323
Venice
I was watching a doco last night on The Great Tomb, 'terracotta warriors', etc .

It was postulated that the influence of Geek statuary inspired the form of the terracotta warriors, as this form seems to have appeared all of a sudden in China with no predecessor.

They thought the Chinese Empire and the Greek expansion in Central Asia bought them close enough together, and therefore, thought that the 'Silk Road' (contact between China and the west) existed earlier than thought .

They even suggested Greek sculptors worked on the terracotta warriors ? And tried some skull analysis on finds around the tomb ( with unconvincing results IMO ) .

What are your views on this ?

Mine is that if this was the influence, then all it would take would be a large Greek statue, eventually turning up in eastern China. It does not mean Greeks themselves traveled all the way there .

It seems dubious, the Greek statues are totally different from Chinese terracotta ones, if Any greek worked on those he would have used his own artstyle more probably .
 
Feb 2011
1,018
The idea of making life-sized statues may have passed to China through the Silk Road. The idea that Greek artists were involved directly is not likely, as the styles and approaches were significantly different. The buried statues were designed for mass production, such that they could reach the scale of quantity desired, Greek sculpture was individualist, and taking that many Greek artists to China would certainly have been recorded.
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,781
USA
I was watching a doco last night on The Great Tomb, 'terracotta warriors', etc .

It was postulated that the influence of Geek statuary inspired the form of the terracotta warriors, as this form seems to have appeared all of a sudden in China with no predecessor.

They thought the Chinese Empire and the Greek expansion in Central Asia bought them close enough together, and therefore, thought that the 'Silk Road' (contact between China and the west) existed earlier than thought .

They even suggested Greek sculptors worked on the terracotta warriors ? And tried some skull analysis on finds around the tomb ( with unconvincing results IMO ) .

What are your views on this ?

Mine is that if this was the influence, then all it would take would be a large Greek statue, eventually turning up in eastern China. It does not mean Greeks themselves traveled all the way there .
Greek influence is a possibility if one makes connections between Alexander's conquests in central Asia, the existing trade routes, and also the timeframes.
 
Jul 2014
1,608
world
Greeks had absolutely no influence on the Qin empire but Indo greeks had great influence vial silk route. The image of Buddha was first drawn/sculpted by the Indo greeks.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
... and where did the Greeks get the idea of realistic statues , hmmmmmm ?
Indeed.

The Greeks weren't the first civilization living along the Mediterranean to create highly realistic sculpture. Greek sculpture was inspired by Egyptian art.
 

kazeuma

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
2,371


From the State of Yue.

if pic does not work... link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yue_(state)#/media/File:Yue_statue.jpg

The State of Yue existed before the establishment of the Qin

(if link does not work --- link here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Bronze_Standing_Figure.jpg)

This is from the Sanxingdui site.

The Chinese did have the means of doing it. It is far easier to say Greece as the center of everything because the west wrongly believes that the Greeks were the center of everything. If anything, the west has more to do with the Roman Republic than the Greeks.
 
Jan 2017
132
Virginia, USA
Isn't our knowledge of that period's sculpture very sparse so that we really don't know the evolution of sculpture in ancient China? The terracota army was dug up a few decades ago so I wonder if we dig more we could find a lot of other similar statues.
Just to be clear, in the Warring States period preceding the Qin Empire the Chinese were already burying smaller and generally less realistic statues of various people that were meant to serve the tomb occupants in the afterlife. The Terracotta Warriors can thus be seen as a continuation of that. However, they are also larger and significantly more realistic-looking than virtually all the surviving tomb statues of people recovered at burial sites predating the Qin period. Make of that what you will.

On another note, the Chinese didn't really open up to contacts with Central, South, and West Asia until the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the late 2nd century BC, with the establishment of the Silk Road. The Chinese didn't even know about the Roman Empire until about the late 1st century AD, but were already importing Roman glass by the 1st century BC via the South China Sea. The Chinese histories for the Han, Three Kingdoms, and Western Jin periods also claim that Roman embassies visited China via the South China Sea, landing in Vietnam (part of which was under Imperial Chinese control in ancient times). This is obviously way after the Qin era. Buddhist art brought many Greek art forms to China but this was also long after the Qin era.

Indeed.

The Greeks weren't the first civilization living along the Mediterranean to create highly realistic sculpture. Greek sculpture was inspired by Egyptian art.
The Greek sculptors of the Mycenaean and Archaic periods were clearly influenced by Egyptian traditions, in the so-called "Orientalizing" period of Greek art especially. However, the Classical-era Greeks simply surpassed anything the native Egyptians had ever produced and the same goes for the Greeks of the subsequent Hellenistic period, during which the Chinese Qin Empire existed (i.e. 3rd century BC). This isn't just some fanciful opinion of mine, either. This is a well-studied topic and the consensus of art historians. For instance, the contrapposto stance in lifelike statuary beginning with the Kritios Boy of circa 480 BC, at the very beginning of the Classical period. The native Egyptians produced impressive statuary long before the Greeks had a civilization, but let us not pretend that the Egyptians produced anything even nearly as realistic as statues from this period, with freaking veins popping out of muscles, old haggardly women with facial wrinkles, and even clearly defined strands of hair depicted in marble or bronze.

For that matter, this is actually a good argument for the native development of China's Terracotta Warriors. Although very impressive in many respects for the high attention to detail (especially in garments and armor) and unique facial features for each statue, again these were not comparable to the higher level of realism in contemporary Hellenistic sculpture (earlier statuary before Alexander was even more realistic). You really have to hand it to the Classical Greeks, no one aside from Imperial Romans mimicking their works produced statuary as realistic as them until the Italian Renaissance.
 
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