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A Pensive Prince or a Lady of Leisure? Hourglass Stools and Tang Ceramics of Seated Women


Conference by Dr. Kelsey Granger, Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich.

Tuesday 19 March 2024, at 6 PM at Maison de l’Asie, 22 avenue du Président Wilson, 75016 PARIS.

The Chinese Tang and Song dynasties saw the proliferation of chair seating replacing earlier floor- and mat-sitting. While the corded chairs of Buddhist monasteries and the folding stools of likely non-Chinese origin have incited the interest of furniture scholars, one seat has received little scholarly attention. The hourglass stool, seen in fifth century Chinese Buddhist cave depictions, became the seat of women in a series of ceramics produced between c. 700–750. This talk will discuss a number of these ceramics to argue, first, that women were involved in commissioning or using these ceramics, which were likely intended to be placed in local tombs rather than for export. Secondly, this talk will unravel the complex relationship between the hourglass stool’s production centres in the maritime south of China, its usage in Buddhist and Central Asian imagery from the overland Silk Roads, and the resultant mix of iconography in these ceramics of fashionable elite women.