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Masterworks of Ancient Chinese Art: A Conference at the Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum presents a special conference on early Chinese art.

September 22, 2012 1:00pm to 12:00am


Strange Beasts from the Aristocratic Tombs of Chu
Cortney Chaffin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Composite creatures with dragon-like bodies, bulging eyes, long tongues, and deer antlers are unique to the aristocratic tombs of Chu, a kingdom that flourished in the middle reaches of the Yangzi during the Zhou dynasty (11th-3rd century BCE). The Portland Art Museum's antlered figure (known in Chinese as a zhenmushou) belongs to a rare group of tomb guardians with a double-dragon body, a type found in tombs near the Chu capital of Jiangling.
Dr. Chaffin completed her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007, writing a dissertation on Chu tomb sculptures. She has lectured on this topic at the College Art Association, the University of Wisconsin, and at Wuhan University in China.

Money Trees of the Han Dynasty
Susan Erickson, Ph.D.
Professor of Humanities, University of Michigan-Dearborn"Money trees" (Ch. yaoqianshu), are type of tomb object characteristic of the Eastern Han in southwestern China (principally Sichuan and neighboring provinces). Consisting of a pottery or stone base, a bronze tubular trunk, and radiating, filigree bronze 'leaves,' these trees often feature coin-shaped motifs and an array of auspicious imagery associated with longevity or the cult of the Queen Mother of the West. Susan Erickson will examine the particular features of the Portland Art Museum's money tree and place it within its original archaeological and cultural context.
Since completing her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 1989, Erickson has become one of the leading scholars in the West on Han mortuary art. She wrote a seminal essay on money trees in 1995 for the Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and has since written or lectured on money trees in several U.S. collections. Erickson recently contributed chapters on Han dynasty tombs and the archaeology of the Non-Han Southwest to China's Early Empires, A Re-appraisal (Cambridge, 2010).

Panel Discussion
Kenneth Brashier, Ph.D., Moderator
Professor of Religion and Chinese Studies, Reed College, PortlandBrashier has matriculated in Chinese studies at Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge.  His recent publications include "Han Mirror Inscriptions as Modular Texts," in The Lloyd Cotsen Study Collection of Chinese Bronze Mirrors, and a highly praised monographic study from Harvard University Press titled Ancestral Memory in Early China (2011).

The conference is free for Museum members or with Museum admission. College students will be admitted free with I.D. Seating is limited. Advance tickets are recommended and available online at (see or on site.

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