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Timelines of World Art: Asia

c. 300 BC–200 BC

Large kettledrums are made of bronze and decorated with geometric patterns and miniature frogs, animals, warriors and human figures in Dong Son in northern Vietnam. Read more...

300 BC–100 BC

Influenced by nomadic peoples to the north and northwest, Chinese metalworkers produce portable accoutrements such as belt plaques and clasps decorated in animal forms derived from Central Asian motifs for both the domestic market and for trade with northern peoples. Read more...

259 BC–210 BC

China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi joined existing defensive barrier fragments to establish one of the world’s most notable architectural structures, the Great Wall, effectively demarcating his territory as a unified and fortified nation. Read more...

c. 250 BC

As part of King Ashoka's energetic support of Buddhism and its spread throughout the Indian subcontinent, he commissions many building projects, including the erection of a series of columns with symbolic references to the Buddha and his teachings. Read more...

221 BC–210 BC

A massive, life-size army of terracotta warriors is created by China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi to protect him in the afterlife in his magnificent tomb in Xi'an. Read more...

c. 200 BC

Remnants of the world's earliest paper found in tombs in Xi'an date to the early Han dynasty. Paper is initially made of hemp fibres, producing a course tissue paper-like substance. Read more...

200 BC–100 BC

Mystical Daoism's rise in popularity inspires the production of bronze incense burners (boshan lu) in the shape of magical mountains. These censers are among the first representations of mountains in Chinese art, which become one of its most important subjects. Read more...

c. 150 BC

Sanchi temple in central India is expanded and renovated with an upper level for circumambulation added to Stupa 1, which is said to contain some of the remains of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. A century later four gates or torana are added that are richly sculpted with instructional narratives of the life of the Buddha. Read more...

c. 150 BC

Relief sculptures that originally decorate the railings and gates of the Bharhut Stupa incorporate among the representations of the Buddha's life foreign imagery and such pre-Buddhist indigenous deities as male and female earth spirits (yaksas and yaksis respectively) and serpent kings (nagarajas). Read more...

c. 140 BC

The Marchioness of Dai is buried in a tomb at Mawangdui in Hunan province in a series of wooden coffins topped by a painted silk banner that provides China's earliest complete painting and reveals the religious beliefs and artistic practices of the day. Because the tomb was never looted, the varied and sumptuous furnishings and even the body of the noblewoman remain in exceptionally good condition. Read more...

100 BC–1 BC

Voluptuous females who look filled with life and fecundity are represented on terracotta plaques made in northern India in the Mauryan and Shunga periods. The visual appeal of these images is heightened by abundant surface decoration and production speed is aided by the use of moulds. Read more...

c. 65 BC

Parthian coins are struck with figures shown in an innovative frontal pose, a distinctive element of Parthian art that appears in temple sculptures as well as portraits on coins. Read more...

c. AD 1–c. AD 200

The Great Stupa at Amaravati in southern India is refurbished with numerous religious and decorative images rendered in relief on the stupa railings and surrounding gates. Read more...

AD 1–AD 200

Dotaku, cast bronze bells, are among the most impressive and distinctive examples of early Japanese metallurgy. Based on Korean horse bells, Japanese dotaku, which could be quite large, have some of Japan's earliest pictorial scenes cast in relief on their sides. Read more...

AD 100–AD 200

Chinese bronze-casters laud the speed and grace of horses imported from Central Asia and are inspired by them to cast one in full gallop with only a single hoof alighting on a flying swallow. Read more...

AD 100–AD 500

A large Buddhist monastery is cut into the rock walls at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Flanking the monks' cells are two colossal stone Buddhas (destr. 2001) that attract pilgrims from miles away and epitomize the concept of the Universal Buddha. Read more...

AD 344–AD 407

Court painter Gu Kaizhi sets a style, as seen in his Admonitions of the Court Instructress, for figure paintings that incorporates firm and fluid brushwork and subtle expression, which is revered for millennia. Read more...

AD 353

The famous Orchid Pavilion preface, known in Chinese as Lanting xu, is written by China’s most revered calligrapher Wang Xizhi. It forms an important step inf the evolution of writing and brushwork from a tool for scribes to a highly expressive and dynamic art form. Read more...

c. AD 400–c. AD 430

The richly decorated stupa at Svayambhunatha is built and becomes the most important Buddhist site in the Kathmandu Valley. Read more...

c. AD 400–c. AD 450

Emperor Nintoku's keyhole-shaped tomb in central Japan is the largest burial site of its type. It is thought to have been covered with more than 10,000 clay haniwa offering cylinders, including the earliest known one in the shape of a human. Read more...

c. AD 460–c. AD 475

Rulers of the Northern Wei dynasty commission the construction of a series of elaborately carved and painted caves at Yungang in northern China. The centrepiece of this religious site is a massive sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha, carved from the limestone cliffs. Read more...

c. AD 460–c. AD 480

The Buddhist monastery and pilgrimage site at Ajanta realizes its most vigorous period of growth. Excavated from the cliffs, the rooms are decorated with some of the oldest surviving Buddhist paintings in India. Read more...

c. AD 500–c. AD 535

Xie He writes the Six Laws of Chinese painting, the earliest known and one of the most influential texts on painting theory. Read more...

c. AD 500–c. AD 600

Chinese potters are the first in the world to invent porcelain. Read more...

c. AD 500–c.AD 700

Large, free-standing images of the Buddha are sculpted in Sri Lanka. All present him as a monk, standing frontally and with little sense of movement, which conveys a sense of monumentality. Read more...

AD 500–AD 800

One of the earliest sources of silk outside China is Sasanian Iran, which produces and trades silk with China. Weavers in other regions, including China, adopt and adapt Sasanian decorative motifs. Read more...

c. AD 550

Benefitting from imperial patronage and highly skilled craftsmen, the Shaiva cave temple at Elephanta contains technically and icongraphically sophisticated sculptures of Shiva. Read more...

c. AD 550–c. AD 600

Horyuji temple in Nara is established by Prince Shotoku. The wooden buildings and sculptures are among the earliest surviving examples of 7th-century Buddhist art in Japan. Read more...

AD 600–AD 700

Statues representing the bodhisattva Maitreya in a graceful seated pose are made. With fluid drapery, serene facial expressions and delicate modelling, they exhibit all the features of early Korean Buddhist sculpture. Read more...

c. AD 618–c. AD 907

The Mandala of Five Divinities of Avalokitesvara is painted on silk and stored in one of the 500 cave-temples at Dunhuang on the Silk Route. Elegant in execution and opulent in detail, the colourful visualization of a saviour deity in a celestial realm epitomizes the complexity of Buddhist thought and the splendour of Tang-dynasty art. Read more...

AD 672–AD 675

Carved by imperial commission, the 13-metre tall seated stone image of Vairochana, the Universal Buddha, at Fengxian Temple at Longmen, China embodies prevalent esoteric Buddhist concepts of deities with great power. The energetic sense of movement of the surrounding attendant figures shows artistic developments of the period. Read more...

AD 700–AD 800

Sogdian weavers in Central Asia make silk garments that combine fine workmanship with motifs drawn from various regions, inspired by the goods traded by Sogdian merchants. Read more...

c. AD 743

Emperor Shomu constructs the Buddhist temple Todaiji in the capital city of Nara. Todaiji's storehouse, called the Shosoin, is one of the richest repositories of Buddhist and secular treasures, containing items obtained throughout East Asia and the regions around the Silk Route. Read more...

AD 751–AD 774

The carved granite Seated Buddha at Sokkuram cave temple, Korea is among the most important and imposing examples of Buddhist art in East Asia and is stylistically closely related to the Tang sculpture of China. Read more...

c. 775–c. 800

Kailasa Temple, dedicated to Shiva, is the most important rock-cut temple at Ellora. Filled with imposing relief sculptures, the temple is viewed as the abode and sacred mountain of Shiva. Read more...

c. 800

Borobudur, the largest religious structure in Indonesia, is built as a monumental stone manifestation of a Buddhist mandala and as a celebration of the power of the new Shailendra dynasty. Over 1300 carved panels are used to decorate with walls and balustrades with narrative reliefs. Read more...

AD 868

The oldest surviving printed book in the world is preserved in the repository at the Buddhist site of Dunhuang. This illustrated text is a Chinese-language version of the Diamond Sutra and is now in the British Library. Read more...

c. 920–c. 930

The Samanid rulers build a mausoleum at Bukhara of fired brick that is decorated with vegetal and geometric patterns. Read more...


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