Oriental art is very distinct from other parts of the world. In their sculptures they still used such materials as clay, wood, and bronzes. However there art work promoted such things as goodness in nature, serenity, graceful balance, spiritual perfection, and a mystical harmony within themselves. There work avoided confusion, conflict and violent emotions at all costs. New or unprecedented experiments in their art work was never welcomed, and the expression of nobility and inner worth where demanded. Ultimately oriental art was said to be “a way of being”, but to understand this you must look at the words of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius who said “Raise yourself to the beautiful.” However not all Oriental art is the same, and to see the difference and the influences of their art you need to look at the area’s of China, Japan, and Korea.
The Neolithic inhabitants of China were energetic in their pottery, and where the first to practice this art, in which China has remained supreme in until recent times. Not very much is known about the earliest Chinese craftsman or the society that produced them, other than the fact that they lived in pounded earth settlements in northern Honan, Shangtung, and Kansu. These early craftsman created fine pottery, and especially beautiful vessels for funerals which where used for food and other provisions for the dead. These craftsmen where taught to honor the “five rulers” who had taught their forefathers how to raise silk worms, catch fish, domesticate animals, plow, reap and use the wheel for transportation and for throwing pottery. The Shang people came into history half way through the second millennium B.C., these people also lived in pounded earth settlements, and made funeral vessels. These people established the li which was the basic metallic shape used in their bronzes. Not only was the li used, but also other shapes have been discovered. In recent excavations, thousands of different vessels have been found, however it is possible to distinguish about forty basic shapes of the vessels. Each vessel served a different purpose in sacrifice or funeral ceremonies. Some where used for wine and water, some for storing foods, while others where used for cooking meats. The Shang dynasty have left some sculptures as original and different as there bronzes. However none of the large statue survived excavations. The importance of the excavations cannot be overemphasized. Who would have imagined an ancient culture so rich that they actually created stone sculptures, wheel made pottery, carved jade, and bronzes, which have never been surpassed.
Too often when people speak of “Oriental art” they think that both China and Japan developed in the same way and the same time. This statement however is false, and the Japanese art did not start till several years after Chinese art did. The first forms of Japanese art can be looked at through the Jomon people, who where nomadic hunters and fishers. A number of human figurines and fertility gods have been found, also vessels made by the coiled clay method. The name Jomon, actually means “coiled rope”. The figures made by these people seem to be very imaginative, and possibly inspired by a fear in supernatural forces. The figures where made to be viewed only from the front, and although there where simply molded, some did have very elaborate decorations. When contacts with Asia and China where made, the style of Buddhist art was developed. This new form inspired sculptors and painters to have totally new viewpoints on their art.
The Korean society was extremely influenced by Chinese culture. This did not stop Korean artists and craftsman from making their own original and distinct contributions to the world of art. In an expedition in 1909 many tombs where unearthed. In them they found mirrors weapons, lacquer objects, pottery, and ritual jades. Most of these items however where said to be from China and this proved the close contacts between the two countries. The Great Silla period was the first and most interesting periods of Korean art. Things that where found during this period of time where openwork metal ornaments, jewelry, images and pendants, which where meant to word off evil spirits. Pottery was also very popular during