Twelve Astrological Signs in Chinese Painting
The Twelve signs of the Zodiac from Western astrology are rarely presented in Chinese art. In addition, these astrological signs underwent a transformation when they were appropriated by Chinese artists and placed alongside Chinese symbols and motifs. However, my questions are when and how these astrological signs travel to China, particularly in the 12th and 13th century Mongol China. In order to understand this complex issue, I intend to employ the extant paintings depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac include wall paintings found on the murals of Mogao Grottos at Dunhuang, which is a crucial connecting spot of China and West on the Silk Road as a case study. The major aim of this paper is to understand the function of adoptions of Western astrological signs in Chinese contexts. This will lead to a discussion of how pictorial examples such as these illustrate and suggest a new dimension in the study of Chinese art and a consideration of how theses astrological signs traveled to China and its near regions. While it can be presumed that the pathway was the Silk Road, can we pinpoint a particular group? Some scholars have suggested that spread of Western Astrological motifs to China is associated with the spread of Buddhism perhaps from Sogdian merchants, but does such an association really raise more questions than it answers?
Keywords: Astrological Signs, China, India, Japan
Dr. Diana Y. Chou
Faculty, Liberal Arts