Quantcast

Lesson Plan: Ceramics in China
and the Near East

Enlarge Image

Tile with image of a phoenix
Late 13th century
Iran, probably Takht-i Sulaiman
Stonepaste; underglaze-painted in blue and turquoise, luster-painted on opaque white ground, molded; 14 3/4 x 14 1/4 in. (37.5 x 36.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.49.4)

Collection Area: Islamic Art
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Middle School, High School
Topic/Theme: Art as a Primary Resource


Goals

Students will be able to:
  • identify ways works of art reflect exchange between Chinese and Near Eastern civilizations;
  • recognize ways animals act as symbols in various cultures; and
  • create a tile that highlights the qualities and traits commonly associated with an animal.

National Learning Standards

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
NA-VA.K-12.6 Making Connections between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

World History
NSS-WH.5-12.5 Era 5: Intensified Hemispheric Interactions, 1000–1500 c.e.


Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Questions for Viewing

  • Look closely at the tile. What type of lines, shapes, and colors do you notice?
  • Describe the features of the animal. What do they remind you of? Why?
  • The phoenix (featured here) and dragon (found on many other tiles from the same site) are important symbols in Chinese art and culture, in which they are seen as benevolent and auspicious beasts. When the phoenix motif was imported into Iran, it was transformed into a mythical Persian bird, the simurgh. What words might you use to describe the simurgh featured on this tile from Iran? Why?
  • Where do you see tilework in your community? How, if at all, do the types of tiles used at each site differ?
  • Where might a tile like this be found? What do you see that makes you say that? Tiles bearing this motif and possibly produced from the same molds were excavated at Takht-i Sulaiman, the royal summer palace of the Ilkhanid Mongol ruler Abaqa (reigned 1265–82) in northwestern Iran.

Activity

Activity Setting: Classroom or Museum
Materials: Pencil, paper, map of the Mongol empire (PDF), and computer with Internet access (or relevant printouts from this website). For the alternate activity, you will also need clay and paint or glaze.
Subject Areas: Visual Arts, World History
Duration: Approximately 45 minutes

The Ilkhanid Mongols of Iran (1206–1353) and their Chinese Yuan (1271–1368) cousins both lived within the vast area controlled by descendants of Genghis Khan (see downloaded map). Compare and contrast the art of the Ilkhanid Mongols and the Yuan dynasty (see Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson, below). Note similarities and differences between the materials, motifs, and techniques employed, and identify details that suggest ties between these two cultures (see fig. 52). (For young children, focus each student or small group on one comparison image.)

Alternate Activity

Subject Area: Visual Arts
Duration: Approximately 90 minutes

Cultures throughout history have frequently associated animals with specific qualities or traits; for example, many have revered lions for their bravery and strength, and owls for their wisdom. Select one animal and research the various qualities and traits that communities around the world have associated with it. Create a tile design featuring this animal using line, shape, and color to emphasize key details and reinforce those qualities or traits. Present the tile along with your research findings, a statement about your use of elements (such as line, shape, and color) in the work, and a photograph or description of where you would place the tile and why.

Fig. 52. Canopy with phoenixes and flowers, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). China. Silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk gauze; overall: 56 3/8 x 53 in. (143.2 x 134.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Gift, Louis V. Bell and Rogers Funds, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, 1988 (1988.82)


Resources

Carboni, Stefano, and Qamar Adamjee. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

———. "A New Visual Language Transmitted across Asia." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

———. "Takht-i Sulaiman and Tile Work in the Ilkhanid Period." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Department of Asian Art. "Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Ekhtiar, Maryam D., and Claire Moore, eds. Art of the Islamic World: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

Yalman, Suzan. Based on original work by Linda Komaroff. "The Art of the Ilkhanid Period (1256–1353)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.


Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Canopy with phoenixes and flowers
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
China
Silk and metallic thread embroidery on silk gauze; overall: 56 3/8 x 53 in. (143.2 x 134.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Gift, Louis V. Bell and Rogers Funds, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, 1988 (1988.82)

Plate
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), mid-14th century
China
Porcelain painted with cobalt blue under transparent glaze; Diam. 18 in. (45.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Mrs. Richard E. Linburn Gift, 1987 (1987.10)

Dish with two intertwined dragons
About 1640
Iran, Kirman
Stonepaste; painted in blue under transparent glaze; H. 2 3/4 in. (7 cm), Diam. 17 1/4 in. (43.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1965 (65.109.2)


Author: Adapted from lessons by classroom teachers Jesse Johnson and Katherine Huala
Date: 2012

Bowl with cobalt-blue inscriptions

After reading Unit Seven, Chapter One, you will be able to identify how trade and cultural ties led to artistic exchange between China and the Near East from the tenth to the seventeenth century.