Mesmerizing Illusory Art
Regardless of whether we believe the perceived world is an illusion, or whether illusions represent the real physical world, illusions can only exist in our sensory perception, for they need to be experienced through our visual senses.
The sinuous serpent body designs of Warring States period jades are often accompanied by unobtrusive legs of uncertain number. For such jade artifacts, when the heads of their designs are viewed in combination with legs of different orientation, dynamic illusions of varying tension, slackness, movement, and stillness can thus appear. As for Han era jade artifacts with beast designs, physiological principles such as forelegs at the chest and hind legs at the abdomen must be adhered to, in accordance with the rules for visual acceptability. However, by distorting the bodies of the beasts so that the chest and abdomen each face in a different direction, the orientations of the attached legs can also be adjusted, to create a dynamic illusory effect.
Jades from the Warring States period and the Han Dynasty respectively adopted the serpent paradigm and beast paradigm for their designs, and although the creative techniques involved may differ, each work is able to achieve dynamic illusion in its own perfect way. These effects are akin to the stroboscopic phenomenon utilized by modern filming, in which repeated exposures of continuous movement are taken at very short intervals. When viewing such works, human vision can automatically draw together differently oriented heads and limbs, to produce illusions with a rich sense of motion and speed.
Jade Dragon Pendant
Middle Warring States Period
- L 16 cm
Jade Scabbard Chape with Sacred Beast Design
Early Western Han Dynasty
- W 7 cm
Agate Scabbard Slide with Dragon Pattern
Middle to Late Western Han Dynasty
- L 9.3 cm, W 2.6 cm, H (including the iron piece) 2.6 cm
When we observe wave patterns, even if short branches extend from the body of the
wave, our discernment of the main wave shape is not affected, and this is known in psychology as "the
principle of visual continuity." Now, take a look at these jade dragons, each with their own jutting
claws or twists and turns. Is your perception of the main body for each divine dragon affected in any
way by these branching designs?
The technique of "visual obstruction" consists of bisecting the center of a twisting
beast body, for the purpose of obstructing our line of sight and thereby reducing the discordance
stemming from the distorted orientation of the front and hind sections of these beasts. With this
principle in hand, the creative impulses of individual designers are allowed to flow freely; for
example, the Jade Bi Disc of Chang Le uses the outer rim of the jade bi disc itself to
bisect the body of the divine beast located at upper left, while the designer of this jade she thumb
ring-shaped pendant concealed the central section of the divine beast depicted within the body of the
she thumb ring design. Both these designs display an extraordinary level of ingenuity.
Exquisite Artistic Designs
Right angles generate stability in visual perception, but considering that the
aesthetic goal of Han era jades was to achieve dynamism, when faced with jade material containing right
angles, what corrective measures did jade craftsmen of the time employ? The designer of this jade
she thumb ring-shaped pendant slightly rotated the original jade material, elevating the main
right angle to the upper right by a fraction to achieve dynamism through imbalance. Such ingenious
adjustments did not require extensive work to achieve a sublimating effect, and this work serves an
awe-inspiring exemplar of creativity for future generations.