Art is mainly the expression of human creativity skills and imagination in a visual form, music, dance or literature. Art stimulates creativity, and it is used to express human emotions. It has been a very important aspect for analyzing the culture of a society for a very long time. Architecture refers to the art and science of designing and constructing buildings. Major architectural works, symbolized by buildings, have always been associated with the culture of society. The buildings have been considered as works of art.
Art has a priceless value to human beings. Arts have a crucial role in promoting social and economic development by developing talents, attracting tourists, and local regenerations. Arts give people a sense of belonging. Art enables people to express their imaginations and appreciate nature. In many cultures, art was also used to perform rituals. Arts are also very important in communication and entertainment. Since ancient times, buildings have been used to represent works of art in society. This paper analyzes how culture and history are represented in four major art masterpieces of the ancient world.
The Todai-Ji Temple
The Todai-Ji is a Buddhist temple complex in Nara, Japan. The temple was constructed in Nara because at this time, Nara was the capital of Japan. In its Great Buddha Hall, there is the worlds largest bronze Buddha sculpture. The temple was opened in 752AD. It is regarded as a UN World Heritage Site. In the temple complex, deer which were regarded as God's messengers in Shinto religion roamed freely. The complex contains two 100m tall pagodas which made it the tallest wooden structure at the time. The complex had Shosoin as its storehouse which stored utensils as well as government documents. It also incorporated aesthetically-designed gardens. It also had an ordination hall called Kaidanin which had four magnificent statues of the Four Guardian Kings.
The temple was constructed with the help of the Japanese people after an emperor's decree that all people should be involved in constructions of Buddhists establishments. The emperor hoped that by incorporating all citizens in the construction, Buddha would be inspired to protect the country from disasters. It is estimated that more than 2.6 million people participated in the construction of iconic Todai-Ji by donating items such as rice wood and cloth or providing labor for the construction. The Shinto religion and Buddhism had great influence in the construction of Todai-Ji. The temple symbolized the fusion of Shinto religion and Buddhism thus representing culture so well. The Japanese hoped to appease Buddha by building a very large temple with the largest Buddha sculpture. Natural disasters affecting the Japanese people also encouraged them to appease Buddha in hope for protection.
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City refers to the architectural masterpiece that was the Chinese imperial palace for years 1420-1912. Located in the middle of modern-day Beijing, the city was the home of Chinese emperors as well as political capital of China for almost 500 years. The Palace complex consists of more than 900 buildings and more than 9000 rooms built over 180 acres. It was designed and built based on traditional Chinese architecture. The palace represents an extraordinary balance between buildings and open spaces in a symmetrical layout. It consists of immense courtyards, stairways and terraces and red buildings decorated with golden roofs. It has amazing columns and red, green and yellow facings. The Forbidden City has a gate tower building called at its entrance called the Wu Men Gate which was 36 meters tall. It was at this gate where the Chinese emperors promulgated the calendar of a new year. This was also the venue where prisoners of war were presented to the Emperor after the victory of the Chinese army in major battles. All major festivals and celebrations in ancient China were conducted at this gate tower.
The Forbidden City represented an image of wealth and a strong sense of earthly power. It was one of the most majestic sites in the world in between 15th and 19th centuries. Its buildings represent the ancient Chinese architecture and culture. The Ming dynasty built it in Central Beijing due to a traditional Chinese belief that a seat of power must be located at a central location. It was designed to create a striking impression on people who were allowed to visit. Its design included colors, shapes, and numbers that represented Chinese advancements in science as well as cultural importance.
Shaded Dwellings among Streams and Mountains
Shaded Dwellings among Streams and Mountains refers to a painting by Dong Qichang drawn between 1622 and 1625. It was drawn on a scroll two feet wide and five feet long using a single shade of ink and an expressive style of drawing. The painting depicts a mountain as the background; a small residence tucked in between the trees and a small creek running past some rock formations. The work represents a study of tree and rock formations through calligraphy. It integrated the cubic, abstract and dynamically expressed masses that were unified by the kinetic energy due to the painters physical movement. Alternation of positive and negative patterns in landscape paintings by Dong led to a new kinesthetic painting style.
Dong used the painting as a form of self-expression. He gives another version of a painting he had seen in a private collection. This painting represents culture so well since it signifies the landscape of China during the Ming Dynasty. It shows the use of square houses and symbolizes the idea that the Chinese people during the 17th century lived on mountain sides.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa
The Great Wave off Kanagawa is one of the most famous Japanese art works. The icon artwork is a polychrome woodblock made on paper by ink and color. It is part of a series of paintings titled; Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji which was made by a Japanese artist, Hokusai. The painting depicts a massive wave, most likely a tsunami, fishing boats and Mount Fuji in the background. The picture shows when the threatening wave is about to crash on the fishing boats. The mountain seems so tiny that it might be swallowed by the huge wave. Hokusais optical play also can be interpreted to show the wave as snow falling on Mount Fuji. The artwork is arranged to fit the mountain. The hull of one of the fishing boats and the curve of the wave dip too low to ensure that the base of the mountain is visible.
The painting depicts the Japanese culture very well. It represents the artists fear of the power of the sea so well. Hokusai mixed Japanese drawing techniques with European techniques. In this masterpiece, a Dutch technique is incorporated. The representation of Mount Fuji in the drawing shows the mammoth respect by Hokusai on the mountain considered sacred in Japan.
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