Palace Maid Murals: Establishing a Feminine Space in the Tang Imperial Tomb of Princess Yongtai
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This thesis examines Princess Yongtai’s satellite tomb in Qianling Mausoleum, which was constructed in 706 CE during the Chinese Tang dynasty. It boasts one of the most intact and exemplary murals of palace maids within its inner chambers. As the tomb was inextricably linked to the contemporaneous society and politics of the period, and if read as paneled screens, these palace maid murals reveal the contemporaneous feminine space that governed women’s behaviors in early imperial China—examples which can also be seen in the paintings created during the Tang dynasty. The naturalistic and illusionary realism used by the Tang artist to construct these murals suggest an agency afforded to women that yields new understanding of the women’s place in Tang society. This new perspective will hopefully open a door into which a gendered reading may be a more frequent approach in the field of Chinese art history.