Lecture: Decoding Han Pictorial Art: On Some Key Motifs /Prof. Zhang Hanmo

On the afternoon of May 12, 2021, the invited lecture “Decoding Han Pictorial Art: On Some Key Motifs” was successfully held at Huaxin College CC-126 of UIC. The speaker was Professor Zhang Hanmo of Renmin University of China, who was invited by the Research Centre for History and Culture (RCHC) and the General Education Office (GEO) of UIC. Dr. Xueting Zhang from Hong Kong Baptist University hosted the lecture.

In the lecture, Professor Zhang first briefly introduced the important functions of totems in archaeology and intellectual history; then he used the patterns on the utensils and murals of the Han Dynasty to explain the religious concepts of the time. Professor Zhang also emphasized that art in each era has its own language and grammar. When conducting investigations, attention must be paid to distinguishing the different contexts of archaeology, art, religion, and even politics and society. Images such as clouds, mountains, trees, people and animals often have special meanings and functions in the early cultural context. Therefore, we must pay special attention to avoid misjudgments.


Professor Zhang used a bronze mirror from a private collection of the Han Dynasty as an example to demonstrate the process of decoding Han pictorial art. He proved that the image on the bronze mirror is a serial narrative, the content of which is the popular revenge story of Wu Zixu at that time. He did this by carefully investigating archaeological discoveries and historical legends of the Han Dynasty. In the process of careful investigation, Professor Zhang, just like a detective, showed his delicate deductive logic, leading the audience to solve the mystery of the bronze mirror image step by step.


Finally, the teachers and students present enthusiastically asked questions about the content of the lecture, and Professor Zhang gave detailed answers and explanations to the questions one by one. Professor Zhang’s humorous remarks and his tireless spirit of seeking truth left a deep impression on the teachers and students present.