Frontal Sketch of the Maoling Stone Lion

Yuan Yunsheng

  • Medium:Ink and color on paper
  • Year:1981
  • Size:94x64cm


Animals were commonplace motifs in ancient stone carvings, usually in the form of lions, sheep, tigers, horses, or other auspicious beasts regarded as symbols of good fortune and strength. These creatures shouldered the function of warding off evil spirits and served as guards. The traditional Chinese image of the beast originated in early society. At that time, people’s lives were closely related to nature, especially in the worshipping of influential animals in nature. This worship began to emerge and gradually developed based on a long history of social practice and reverence for deities. Because of this, the traditional images of animals are derived from yet placed above nature. They have become auspicious symbols and spiritual sustenance for the ancients in their hopes for good fortune.

This group of ink and color paintings on paper was created in 1981 when Yuan Yansheng went to Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, to sketch the Maoling Mausoleum of Emperor Wu of Han and its satellite tombs where military strategist Huo Qubing was buried. Using a brush to draw quick sketches, he blended the forms of freehand, line drawing, and abstraction. The lines depicting the stone sculptures are brief and simple, thick and even, utterly majestic. Adorned with angry eyes and half laughs, the evocative figures exude an aesthetic interest that transcends time and space.

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