Iconology of the Winged Lion in Iran & China
Encoded concepts and symbolic signs have always been used in art to express religious and ritual beliefs. All throughout the history, human societies have highly regarded various animals. Such outlook has ever been exhibited in the art of world cultures; however, none of these animals have enjoyed such significant status as lion. Since the Paleolithic period, various cultures have used lion's motif both in cave carvings and paintings. Looking at the history of art, we find that lion was one of the animals that held symbolic meaning for the peoples of the ancient cultures and civilizations, and they have used this motif, in combination with other symbolic elements such as wings, to convey other concepts. Although lion is one of the animals that threaten human lives, it has ever been portrayed in a positive role and as a powerful and exceptional animal. Lion is one of the most ancient symbols in Persian art and one of the motifs used most commonly on seals, containers, weapons, reliefs and sculptures. Symbolic meanings of this animal include: summer, monarchy, divine power and strength, protector, controller of spirits and devils, constellation and fertility. Persian art contains different illustrations of this motif and such representation is always associated with the magical concept of this animal in protection against evil elements. The human belief in constellation and its impression on life has significantly affected the development of this symbol. The winged lion is one of the most fascinating and common themes of ancient Persian art and has appeared on various artifacts such as reliefs, mud seals and metal objects. In the course of Sino-Iranian relations of the 2nd millennium BC, the native Iranian animal of lion was offered to the Han Dynasty in China, and with the arrival of this mythical beast, its accompanying symbols also made their way to China. In the process of transfer of symbols between nations, the meanings and concepts associated with each symbol are not necessarily transferred or accepted. In the new home, many of the symbols are merged with the old beliefs of the inhabitants and thus take new functions and meanings. Yet, during the transfer process, some symbols not only take their forms with them but also their accompanying ideas. The paper at hand first elaborates upon different types of winged lions portrayed on artifacts and architecture of ancient Persian civilizations to be followed by a study of this motif in ancient Chinese art. Moreover, the study aims to: 1- Recognize the ancient artifacts and artworks holding winged lions' motif which belong to ancient Persian art and art of the Chinese Han Dynasty and 2- Identify the similarities and differences of this symbol between the two cultures. Besides, the paper seeks to address these questions: 1- Where is the origin of the winged lion symbol? 2- Has Iran's winged lion motif affected the appearance of its Chinese counterpart? In what areas can this impression be studied? What are their similarities and differences? In order to answer these questions, the study endeavors to cover wing and lion motifs in terms of their mythical concept and application in both the civilizations through the study of the remaining objects. it seems that the first representations of the winged lion, as the guardian of the temples and tombs, were formed in ancient Elam civilization of Iran and have then become popular in China. Taking historical and descriptive-analytical approach and using library resources including documents, texts and images as well as numerous examples of winged lion in the art of ancient Persia and China, the article tries to make a fresh analysis of the subject matter and present examples of the impact of Persian art on Chinese motifs. The objects to be studied range from the artifacts of the ancient Persian to the Parthian period and the ancient China to the rule of the Han dynasty. The statistical population of this research includes the artworks in the Louvre Museum, National Museum of Iran, Metropolitan Museum of New York and the United Kingdom's Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Zurich Museum Rietberg, the Atkins Museum of Kansas City, The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, Guimet Museum in Paris, the Hermitage Museum, Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago, Taipei's National Palace Museum, the Iraqi Museum of Baghdad and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. A total of 21 Iranian and 18 Chinese pieces have been chosen for this study.
Article Type:
Research/Original Article
Journal of Theoretical principles of Visual Arts, Volume:5 Issue: 1, 2020
21 - 37
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