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The Archetype Passes by a Scene of Omen, King Wu Ting of Shang, ca. 1300 B.C.


Oil on canvas
30 x 24 inch
Dec. 2001 - May 2002

The Shang is a tribal confederate kingdom that dominated the north China political scene from 1700 B.C. to 1100 B.C., the height of Bronze Age. King Wu Ting was the famed king of Shang towards the end of its political dominance, around 1300 B.C. The historical record has it that one day, the second day after one of his routine ritual offerrings to the ancestor T'ang, who was the founder of Shang, a large bird was seen standing on the cauldron of the bronze vessel used for the ritual. This was immediately interpreted as an alarming sign. The famed adviser to the king, however, used this opportunity to instruct the king as to the proper manners of governing. The king conducted the business of the kingdom accordingly.

This painting depicts the bird standing on the bronze. It shows also, to the right, a shaman exorcising the possible disastrous effect of the bird's act.

The background shows the reconstruction of the famed archaeological site of An-Yang, with buildings A-12 and -13 on the left. An-Yang was the last capital of Shang, where Wu-Ting resided during his reign.

In this picture, instead of Goddess Athena, we have the Archetype of humanity passing by the historical scene. The Archetype is designated by the golden disc above her head. Here, the Archetype descends from her dwelling in the mount Caucasus to conduct her centennial check on the progress of her manifestations.

The Greek inscription on the lower left corner is taken from Hesiod's Works and Days. It reads:

"And the gods dwelling in Olympia first made the golden race of mortal men..."

On the right lower corner is the passage taken from Ssu-Ma Chien's History that describes the historical event depicted in the painting. The characters are reconstructed in the oracle bone's style current in the 14th century B.C. It reads:

"King Wu Ting made offerings to T'ang, the second day, there was a bird standing on the cauldron of the bronze vessel..."

There are two other sketches based on the same model, whose posing is, as you can see:

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