Representation of heaven and beyond: The bi disc imagery in the Han burial context

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Abstract

The bi (“disc”) is an object that was originally made from jade, and became an independent motif that appeared widely in different pictorial materials during Han times. The bi disc is considered one of the earliest jade forms, and has been used for ritual purposes or as an ornament from the Neolithic period until today. This paper focuses on the Han Dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE), a period in which jade bi discs were extensively used and placed in burials of different ranks. Present finds show that images of bi discs also appeared widely in Han burials, in which they were depicted on coffins, funerary banners covering coffins, and mural paintings, and were also engraved on pictorial stones and pictorial bricks, these practices becoming more ubiquitous in the later Han period. By studying various images of bi discs in different burials throughout the Han period, this paper will explore the development and significance of different pictorial representations of bi disc in Han burial context, and also attempt to reveal the rich content and thoughts embedded in the form of bi discs during this period of time.

Bi (»disk«) je predmet, ki je bil prvotno narejen iz žada, pozneje je postal samostojen motiv ter se je pogosto pojavljal v različnih slikovnih podobah v času dinastije Han (202 pr. n. št.–220 n. št.). Disk bi velja za eno izmed zgodnjih oblik žada, ki se je uporabljala za obredne namene ali kot okras od neolitika pa vse do danes. Pričujoči članek se osredotoča na obdobje dinastije Han, v katerem so se diski bi uporabljali v velikem obsegu in različnih oblikah znotraj grobne komore. Opazimo jih lahko na krstah, na pogrebnih praporjih, ki so prekrivali krste, v grobnih poslikavah in tudi kot rezbarije na kamnitih in opečnatih zidakih. Vse te prakse so postale še posebej razširjene v pozni dinastiji Han. S pomočjo raziskav upodobitev diska bi v različnih tipih pogrebov skozi celotno obdobje dinastije Han bo članek prikazal razvoj in pomen različnih slikovnih upodobitev tega diska v grobnem kontekstu dinastije Han ter razkril bogato vsebino in ideje, ki se kažejo v upodobitvah diska bi v tem obdobju. Copyright © 2019 Hau-ling Eileen Lam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-151
JournalAsian Studies
Volume7
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jun 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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funeral
Dane
religious behavior
Burial
Heaven
Imagery
present
time
Coffin

Bibliographical note

Lam, H.-L. E. (2019). Representation of heaven and beyond: The bi disc imagery in the Han burial context. Asian Studies, 7(2), 115-151. doi: 10.4312/as.2019.7.2.115-151

Keywords

  • Bi disc
  • Imagery
  • Pictorial representation
  • Heaven
  • Han dynasty
  • Disk bi
  • Podoba
  • Slikarske upodobitve
  • Nebo
  • Dinastija Han
  • Alt. title: Upodobitev Neba: Podoba diska bi v grobnem kontekstu dinastije Han Izvleček