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Observations sur les sculpteurs de statuettes religieuses du Hunan

Abstract : Occasionally, in a context in which information is sparse, exceptions arise. Since ancient times, Chinese woodworkers have, in certain circumstances, appended their signatures to the items they produced. This is, for example, true of engravers of printing plates who were sometimes obliged to account for their work, make claims for their artistic skill, etc. It is also true of sculptors of religious statues in Hunan, whose signatures implied a degree of "technical" competence not only in terms of woodworking but also of religious knowledge (consecration rituals, funeral rites, etc.). The inventory of these artisans in three collections of statuettes is remarkable for both its wealth and precision: all the names are accompanied by dates and places. However, a problem remains-how can this information be made to "speak" about ordinary people when traditional historical sources are obviously lacking. The article focuses on contemporary materials, which provide information about present-day practices and shed retrospective light on what such practices may have been in the past, before moving on to a comparative analysis of the data drawn from the statuettes and their certificates of consecration, ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The "portraits" of the sculptors remain imprecise and the ancient secrets of the "profession" obscure-but how could it be otherwise for a practice reserved to initiates? However, the article does succeed in describing the role of the sculptors, a role as important as that of other "actors" presented in this volume, within the ambit of a local rural society in which religion is a central part of life and gives structure to the social network.
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Michela Bussotti. Observations sur les sculpteurs de statuettes religieuses du Hunan. Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie, Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 2010, 19 (1), pp.135-181. ⟨10.3406/asie.2010.1351⟩. ⟨halshs-02510008⟩

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