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Reviews 537 Jenny F. So and Emma C. Bunker. Traders and Raiders on China's Northern Frontier. Seattle: University ofWashington Press with the Arthur M. Sadder Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1995. 208 pp. 206 illustrations (40 in color), 2 maps. Paperback $35.00, isbn 0-295-97473-7. This book is divided into two parts. The first contains an elaborate, geographically differentiated typology ofartifacts that were preferred by urban dwellers and nomadic pastoral tribes from the earliest periods through the Han dynasty of the first century a.d. The second is a descriptive catalogue with bibliographies, provenances , and other pertinent references. As the authors point out, the nature of the geography and the possibilities for livelihood in the inhabited lands along the northern frontier were the determining factors in the cultural development ofnon-Chinese peoples in that region, and this is reflected in the artifacts of these people that have been discovered. In their introduction, the authors state that the artifacts included here "have been described in a bewildering array of ambiguous terms that have no historical or archaeological basis: Animal Style, Sino-Siberian, Scyfho-Siberian, steppe/ Ordos, barbarian." However, although they criticize these terms, do not offer any suitable alternatives. The authors also believe that "consumerism" was one of the most important influences on trade and the style ofluxury goods. I feel that this is a bit ofan overstatement . In another part of the text (p. 36), the authors offer a well-stated, if contradictory, view tiiat these artifacts entered through "trade, war, intermarriage, or other circumstances." It is a gross understatement, however, when the authors refer to the plunder taken during the course ofviolent warfare as "war souvenirs." The authors effectively point out the sociological, archaeological, historical, and other differences in the early trade artifacts between the Chinese and nonChinese burial sites found in the vicinity ofthe Taihang Mountains. Further regional subdivisions are pointed out that coincide with eastward expansion. The accumulation ofwealth by hunters and settled farmers led to a desire for luxury items containing gold. In chapter 3, it is stated that die presence of Chinese motifs in non-Chinese artifacts, and vice versa, is evidence of "expanded cultural exchange." This reviewer feels tiiat the presence of such stylistic influences is not necessarily an indication of the adoption of another culture. For example, in Europe after the first© 1997 by University Crmíi¿e> Christian art incorporated a number ofIslamic motifs, butthis did not oj awai ? ressmean the adoption ofthe Islamic faith or culture. Therefore, the adoption by die Zhou people of funeral carts ornately decorated with animal images is not an in- 538 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 dication ofa strong "cultural exchange" between the Han Chinese and the people of the northern frontier. It is noted in the book tiiat the situation in eastern China in the seventh and sixth centuries b.c. changed with the arrival of mounted tribes. In discussing the image of die crouching horse, the authors point out the similarities in execution between these horses and crouching tigers; the crouching horse is felt to be an expiation of its owner's status. My feeling is that this presentation is not necessarily an indication ofwho may have owned the animal, but rather that this is, simply, an image of a trained military horse. The pose ofboth horse and tiger suggests a "hiding" position. The tiger either is waiting to pounce on its pray or is already consuming it, and the horse is hiding from an enemy. This preference for a "hiding " image suggests a people's preoccupation with hunting and trapping. Where animal images are concerned, I feel that one should take into consideration that certain images have extremely important symbolic meanings for both the Han Chinese and the peoples on their northern frontier; for example, there is the Chinese "Zodiac" and its association of certain stars with animal images recognizable in their "sky maps." One such map, discovered on the ceiling of a tomb found near Xian Jiaotong University, dates back to around 50 b.c. In the culture of the non-Chinese groups along the northern frontier, the white horse and the stag are among the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 537-538
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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