Look back the Chinese rock art research in twenty century
Zhao fu Chen
The discovery of rock art is an important thing in twenty century for Chine in the third make great efforts.
Since then many rock art sites have been found in China. At present, throughout the whole country over 164 counties in 20 provinces have discovered rock art sites, but these are by no means a complete count of all of the drawings and figures.
After the discoveries, the study becomes very important. According to the research in the 20-century, three rock art system, (3) Southeast coast rock art system.
（1）north rock art system, distributing in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Qinghai and Gansu. The subject matters mainly are animals, the artistic style is realistic, and rock engravings are common. They are the works of hunting and herding nationalities that lived in northern and northwestern China.
（2） Southwest rock art system, distributing in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Sichuan, the subject matters mainly are the activities of human being, special the religious activities. Rock paintings, mostly using red pigments, are common in the southwest.
(3) Southeast coast rock art system, distributing in Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The rock art mainly correlation with the activities on the sea. Many rock art are engraved before launch out. The technique is carving, and the most subject matter is abstract designs. These three rock art systems distributed all over the country, but the scope is not the same, north rock art system is far going, and the number of sites is a great deal. The scope of Southeast coast rock art system is incomprehensive, and the number of sites is a little, but not only in content but also in form are independence, have a style of their own.
Rock art is a very big subject; you can from many different angles to research. At present, I try to divide Chinese rock art in to 5 types: (1) hunters, (2) herdsmen, (3) complex economy (4)farmer’s (5) voyagers.
(1) Hunters type
The early hunters type consists mainly of large animal figures and a great deal of symbols. In the rock art of northern China, the large animals include wild oxen, tigers, deer, horses; camels are represented in what is now a desert area. Some of these animals are now extinct. The composition is isolated. It has been suggested that the Americas and Australians were originally colonized from East Asia during the Late stone time. The early rock art of these three continents is abstract designs, as that of China also appears to be. Discussion of early art origin cannot therefore be limited to evidence from western Europe, as the large animal figures has been the case almost exclusively so far.
Later hunter’s art includes scenes of hunting and other daily life activities, man with bows and arrows constitute the most widespread scenes.
Meanwhile, during the hunter time the worship of divinity was appeared. The masked beings are also frequently depicted, revealing a very rich romanticism.
(2) Herdsmen type
In addition to the wild animals there are many domestic animals found in rock art change from a simple hunting and gathering life way toward a more developed,
So-called "Animal Style" was skilled at representing animals. This is the fine art of all nomadic peoples who moved in the Asian steppes.
(3) Complex Economy type and (4) Farmers type
Complex Economy type revealing farming and mixed economy. In the northern grasslands the life of farming was very few, but in the south, we can find this type easily.
Many mask rock engravings have been found in Southeast area. The Lianyungang rock engravings are of great interest, most of masks on the end of stalks; the crop designs appearing in the rock engravings reflect agriculture was developed.
Sun symbols was found. Some just a circle, some have a dot among the circle. Others, masks with raylike projections also link the sun symbol. From that moment on, man was started to farming; he would turn with great attention to the sun, because whose rays fertilized the seeds in the ground. So, after the development of farming the sun cult grew fast.
(5) Voyagers type
Voyagers or Ocean type rock art reflected that the prehistoric man go to the ocean by a small boat.
The southeast coast rock art belong to the voyagers type, boat designs had found in the rock art.
Directly close to Macau there is the Zhuhai City. In Oct. 1989, rock engravings had been found in Zhuhai City. It joined the Chinese rock art research with a new face. The biggest one is 5m long and 3m high. Wave, cloud and boats full the whole design, and the voyagers jumping on the top of the wave. This picture is somehow a mirror reflecting the ancient life of Yue nationality living seashore and their beliefs and worships.
Abstract designs of all kinds were found in voyager’s type. Hua'an rock engravings is highly stylized. Their abstract quality has tempted people to guess their meaning. Many scholars considered the engravings like some ancient writings of minority groups; but can't sure. When I jumped over the boulders and climbed on the cliff I could see the engravings face to face. I surprised some masks are very striking and also others are very stylized, closing to Chinese ancient writing. Here I can see the rock art and writing go together.
In the later stage of 20 century, Chinese rock art research becomes a part of the World. I appreciate foreign scholars present in today's meeting. We appreciate CAR’s attention, special Prof. Anati, owing to his introduce the work of Chinese rock art published in Europe, and then the world knows more of Chinese rock art.
Chinese rock art research need international cooperation, meanwhile many things we also mus ourselves. 20 century is passing, look back one hundred years, I am sigh of emotion, I am near 70 years old, and I would like to look at the youngster.