Translated Titles

The Imperial Imagination in Depictions of Journeys by Horse and Carriage in Han Dynasty Stone Reliefs


吳旻旻(Min-Min Wu)

Key Words

畫像石 ; 漢墓 ; 車馬出行圓 ; 漢代 ; 帝國想像 ; stone reliefs ; Han tomb ; depictions of journeys by horse and carriage ; Han dynasty ; imperial imagination



Volume or Term/Year and Month of Publication

28卷4期(2010 / 12 / 01)

Page #

1 - 39

Content Language


Chinese Abstract


English Abstract

Depictions of journeys by horse and carriage (車馬出行圖) are one of the most common types of stone relief found in Han dynasty tombs. Past scholars studying these artworks have analyzed them in several ways. For example, the number and fittings of carriages in the reliefs have been compared to those in the ”Records of Carriages and Clothing 輿服志” section of the Book of the Later Han 後漢書to try to ascertain the socioeconomic class of the tomb's occupant. The placement and positions of figures and other elements in the scenes depicted in the stone reliefs have been analyzed to infer the functions of the carriages and horses. It has also been held that the images in the stone reliefs reflect social life during the Han dynasty. This article discusses the pros and cons of previous analyses, and points out that, although they are mortuary artworks, the stone reliefs reveal characteristics of the desires of the living, and possess a strong political and imaginative flavor. With an increasing number of Han tombs and their stone reliefs excavated, scholars are in increasing agreement that most of the tombs belong to low-level officials or civilians. However, the common types of mortuary artworks, including depictions of journeys by carriage, depictions of obeisance in a storied building (樓閣拜謂圖), and depictions of wars between Hu and Han (胡漠戰爭圖), usually portray the lives of high-level officials. These artworks not only depict aspects of material life but also imply abstract ideology; this article proposes that the practical aspect of the themes selected for depiction in Han stone reliefs reveals a characteristic ”imperial imagination.” This interpretation was arrived at by analyzing from a visual perspective those artworks depicting journeys by horse and carriage. The pictorial language of these reliefs expresses the symbols of a strong and robust empire as well as the ideology of aspiration for political position. They also reflect the fact that the conception of empire was built upon the administrative and legal systems of prefectures and counties. The article concludes with an explanation of the factors of the imperial imagination present in the stone reliefs in Han dynasty tombs

Topic Category 人文學 > 哲學
人文學 > 歷史學
人文學 > 語言學
人文學 > 中國文學
Times Cited
  1. 梁哲瑋(2015)。運輸的圖像:盤車圖的形塑和變遷。臺灣大學藝術史研究所學位論文。2015。1-157。