Dynasty in Stone
In ancient China, stone statues of people and animals were placed in front of the emperor’s tomb creating a spiritual path. Standing on the both sides of the path and in a certain order, the statues became the honor guards of the mausoleum. This practice began in the time of the Qin (221–206 B.C.) and Han (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) dynasties. Thereafter emperors and powerful officials of successive dynasties adopted this rite; it differed only in the number of statues and their style. The stone statues were not only the epitome of imperial power, but also the symbol of the power, wealth and civilization of ancient China.
The earliest statues were mainly animals. Later in the Tang (A.D. 618–907) and Song (A.D. 960–1279) dynasties, the figures of officials, generals, foreign envoys, maidservants, and other courtiers were added.
From the standpoint of time, all matter may eventually disappear, regardless of the once splendid civilization or the strongest stone in nature. From the dimension of space, the existence of this thousand-year old cultural legacy is a strong lesson for our own era and makes us reflect on the critical situation of our ancient civilizations. With accelerating globalization, the industrialization of social economy and the imbalance of environment and economic development, this heritage is rapidly fading away. What else may we have lost? How should we protect, inherit, and develop this heritage?
To make this series of photographs, I traveled numerous provinces in China including Shanxi, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Liaoning. These are tombs of the Han, Tang, Song, Ming (A.D. 1368–1644) and Qing (A.D. 1644–1912) dynasties.
Qian Jin was born in 1960 in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China and currently lives in Beijing. He graduated from Zhejiang Sci-Tech University majoring in visual communication design and learning photography. Qian has worked as a magazine editor and as commercial photographer. In 2015, he changed his focus to fine art photography. He is a member of the China Photographers Association, vice president of the China Textile Photography Association, and is the chief representative of the Images Copyright Society of China.