Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Images from ancient divination

  • loan
  • Description

    The images depict turtle plastrons, or shells, which were used for divination in the Shang dynasty (c.1600-1050 BC). The shells were used in the same way as the bones of sheep or ox scapulae that can be seen in the gallery China 3000 BC-AD 800. Holes were drilled, and a question or comment was inscribed to one side. A hot needle applied to the hole resulted in cracks that were then interpreted as answers to the questions. The forms of characters incised on the Shang oracle bones are the earliest systematic script in China.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaChina Hong Kong (place of creation)
    Zhang Yi (born 1936) (artist)
    Zhang Yi (born 1936) (calligrapher)
    Material and technique
    ink and colour on paper
    page 27 x 19 cm (height x width)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    On loan from the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Sullivan, Michael, Modern Chinese Art: The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection, revised edn (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2009), no. 1 on p. 32, illus. p. 33

    Sullivan, Michael, Art and Artists of Twentieth Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pl. 53


    • currently in research collection

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