location: Frist page History & Culture “Dancing” on the Painted-Pottery Pot(Ⅰ)
2018-03-14
“Dancing” on the Painted-Pottery Pot(Ⅰ)


The painted-pottery pot is also called painted-pottery pot with dancing lines because of the dancing pictures drawn on its inner wall. Excavated from Sunji village in Datong County in Qinghai province in 1957, it is still the only one precious cultural relic which is related to the origin of Chinese Qigong so far.

The height of the pot is about 14 cm, the caliber 29cm, and the bottom diameter10 cm. there are three identical black pictures on the inner wall of the pot. In each of the picture, there are five people hand in hand looking at the direction. On their head, there are sets of short bars which look really like braids of the ancients. For the outsider of each group, an ink line appears on his arm, which shows that his dancing movements have a large range and are in high frequency; on one of his lower limb, there is also a short bar, which might indicate that the dancer wears some sort of decorations. It is worth noticing that the direction of “the braids” is opposite with that of the decorations. This can also reflects characteristic of a large range and high frequency of the dancing.

Background of “Dancing”

According to research, the pot is a cultural relic of the Neolithic Period (namely the Tangyao Period) dating back to about 4000-5000 years. In that period of time, the Central Plains area suffered from disastrous flooding. Related records about this matter can be found in ancient books such as the Book of History and Records of the Historians. Tradition has it that the Book of History complied by Confucius is a collection of ancient historical events and ancient historical deeds. It is said in the chapter of Yu Shu • Yao Dian that the flood surged around the four high maintains and the plains were flooded with the turbulent flow. Everything was drowning in the water world. Is there any populace capable of controlling the flood?” Three Chinese words, “shangshang”, “dangdang”, and “haohao”, are used in the text to describe the turbulent flooding.  The word “shangshang” is used to describe the high speed of surging flow, “dangdang” the powerful strength, and “haohao” the huge coverage. It can be concluded from the using of all these words that the flood was really huge one and it would inevitably result in serious consequences. The Records of Historians is the first comprehensive biographical history book written by Si Maqian in the West Han dynasty. In the chapter of Wu Di Ben Ji, there is an account which is really similar to what had been written about the flood in the chapter of Shang Shu • Yu Shu • Yao Dian, which reads, “well, there is flood all over and all mountains and fields are swarmed by water and people in the downstream are worried who might cope with the disaster successively.” In the Confucian classic volume one of Mencius • Teng Wen Gong, when talking about the event of Da Yu preventing flood, the author pictured a similar flooded scene: During the period of Yao, people still could not live in peace. Floods took place frequently, and all the country suffered a lot from the floods. Therefore, Da Yu was dispatched to dredge the rivers and direct the flow.”  It can be concluded that flooding is the meteorological reason for the emergence of the painted-pottery pot.

According to general knowledge of medicine science, we know that to the residents of the flooded region, they not only suffered from the flood when the flow was running around, but also dampness left by the flood after its retrieving. The dampness would remain for a relatively long period time in the flooded region, and caused various diseases for the residents.  Traditional Chinese medicine holds that dampness is one of the top six factors resulting in diseases. Its main characteristics are heavy, viscous, and hard to dispel. It can remain in different part of human body which causes various kinds of diseases. The most common ones are heavy headache, chest tightness and abdominal distention, inflexibility of the body. Since the limited medical conditions in the archaic times, these illnesses usually cause lots of pain for the patients. Therefore people lived at that time tried in every possible way to cure those illnesses. It is said in Lushi Chunqiu • Gu Le that, “At the beginning of the Yao period, the rivers were blocked by silt resulting in serious floods. People felt suppressed inside the body and painful in bones and muscles. Therefore, Yao led his people to learn dancing so as to promote the circulation of qi and blood, and thus to eliminate the suppressing and pain from the body. Lu Shi • Qian Ji written by Luo Mi in the Southern Song dynasty, is a collection of legends and historical events dating back to the archaic times, concerning about history, geography, custom, and clans of that times.  In the book, there is a similar account as that in Lushi Chunqiu • Gu Le mentioned above: “during the period of Yao, a lot of people in Yin Kang Shi hit by a strange disease caused by their excessive living in the wet environment and heavy work they undertook and later they developed a kind of effective exercise that is beneficial not only to their joints but also to their health. This is in fact the so-called Da Wu”. These paragraphs not only accept the description of the floods in the Book of History, Records of Historians, and Mencius, but also supplement it with more explanation of the illnesses caused by dampness like inflexibility of and pain in bones and muscles, and malaise, in which scenes that patients danced to dredge the circulation of qi, eliminate the dampness left inside the body, and exercise the bones and muscles, in order to fully recover from the illnesses, are also described. More importantly, the time of those events recorded in these two books is almost the same with the emergence time of the painted-pottery pot. Therefore, the dancing pictures on the inner wall of the pot could be considered as a record of those events. In other words, the dancing used to cure illnesses in the archaic times is immediate cause of the dancing pictures on the pot.

(By Huang Jian)

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