Liao Architecture is a study of Duddisht halls, tombs, and pagodas built primarily through the patronage of Northeast Asian lords of Qidan nationality from the mid-tenth throught the first four decades of the twelfth century.
During those years, North China was part of a larger Qidan empire known as the Liao dynasty. The Qidan, in the ninth century, were a seminomadic tribe living along China's northern and northeastern borders. Less than fifty years later, by the early years of the tenth century, they and other North Asia groups were confederated under the leadership of a Qidan chieftain named Abaoji. In 947 Abaoji's son established a Chinese-style dynasty named Liao. Liao territory stretched from the Gobi Desert, across Mongolia, into China's Northeast provinces (former Manchuria), and into Korea. It also included sixteeen prefectures of North China. In the course of the book, the structures of the fourteen extant Liao wooden buildings and selected tombs and pagodas are analyzed. Especially important are bracket-set formations, the placement of images, ceiling design, and the positioning of buildings in Buddhist monasteries. Through these details, Steinhardt postulates the employment of god-king imagery in individual halls and the combination of buidings and their decoration into three-dimensional mandalas. She also explores the influence of Tang (618-906) Chinese architecture on Lian buildings and concludes that Tang is just one among the earlier cultures whose building patterns gave away to Liao forms. Architecture of the Korean peninsula, she suggests, was at least as influential. Steinhardt persuades the reader to understand Liao as a North Asian dynasty rather than as a mere offshoot of Tang China, and, further, to see later Northeast Asian construction as inheriting, preserving, and occasionally restoring Liao architectural innovations. This highly interpretative study will serve as a standard reference on a pivotal but heretofore ignored period of Chinese and East Asian art and cultural history.
Published by University of Hawai's Press, Honolulu., 1997
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