Angus Forsyth on 'Flying Manbirds and Fairies - Chinese Jade Parallels Intertwining Shamanism and Buddhism'
Mankind aspires to move up to Heaven. He is earthbound and the fast track way to Heaven is through flight. Western culture equips fliers with wings as in angels. This concept was fed into the Greco-Roman aesthetics of Gandhara in Bactria, and thence to Indian Buddhism, and from there to China.
Buddhist human form cultural fliers are depicted wingless, but Chinese jade fliers include both winged specimens in human only form, and in combined human and bird form in the Kinnara. Shamanism in China as elsewhere, acclaims and worships the flight of birds which closely adopt human attributes and are represented in a Buddhistically inspired form of anthropomorphic birdlike jade headdress ornaments. The focus of both Buddhist and Shamanistic flight persons spans a period of perhaps 1200 years from 200 A.D. to 1400 A.D., and the history of the development of flight in Buddhist iconography and Shamanistic ritual is traced over this period by reference to actual examples in jade.
Our speaker, Angus Forsyth, is a long-standing member and the Honorary Legal Advisor of the Museum Society. A long-term resident of Hong Kong, he is a keen scholar on all aspects of Chinese jade from Neolithic period to the Qing dynasty, and a published writer on Chinese jade of all periods.