The Ann Paludan Photographic Archive consists of more than 10,000 photographs (both slides and prints) on the subject of historical Chinese sculptures. It represents over thirty years of site visits and research by Ann Paludan (1928–2014), a writer and art historian, who pioneered and advocated the study of sculptures in China, a subject area largely unrecognised both in and outside China at the time.
The Ann Paludan Image Library is the online database of digitised images of the Ann Paludan Photographic Archive, accompanied by contextual descriptions. Through digital access, the Library promotes the use, study and research of photographic archive compiled by Ann Paludan on the subject of sculptures in China.
1970s to early 2000
Ann Paludan (1928–2014)
Over 10,000 photographic slides and prints of historical sculptures from over 200 sites and museums in China
Did you know?
Historically sculptures in China were not considered as a form of art, but a craft practice.
Ann Paludan moved to Beijing in 1972, as the wife of the Danish ambassador. Sunday visits to imperial tombs of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) sparked a fascination for monumental stone statues as part of mausoleum complexes, which then became a life passion of hers for the study and research of sculptures in China, a subject she initiated and published substantially. From 1975 to 1976, Ann Paludan enrolled at the Beijing Languages Institute studying Chinese, among the first cohort of foreign students in Mao’s China.
For the next thirty years, Ann returned to China frequently and visited archaeological sites, museums, mausoleums, temples, and monuments across the country, often in remote places. Using various cameras and with detailed note-taking, she compiled a photographic archive of figures in diverse materials, such as stone, wood, metal, ceramic, in various forms, from Buddhist and Daoist deity statues in temples to cliff carvings, tomb statuary, architectural features, and clay tomb figures.
The time frame of these sculptures spans a vast range of China’s history from the Neolithic to the 20th century. They include some very famous pieces, such as the terracotta soldiers of China’s First Emperor of the 3rd century BC, less known but charming clay animals from the Shijiahe culture (c. 2400–2000 BC), and evolutionary themed cast concrete sculptures from 1978 in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. Studying these sculptures within their contexts and a historical framework, Ann Paludan identified a distinctive Chinese sculptural tradition.
The time setting of the archive is also unique. It covers a period of significant change in China, namely the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and Reform and Opening (post-1978). Ann Paludan’s repeated visits to many sites constitute a first-hand documentation of chronological changes that cultural heritage sites have endured, from degradation, looting and excessive modification/renovation and pollution due to political movements, tourism and other re-development to natural disasters, with some sculptures no longer extant.
Elephant, Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD), Nanyang, Hunan Province, China.
Bixie (a mythical hybrid creature), Southern Dynasties (420-589 AD), Royal Tombs, Tomb of Xiao Dan, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China.
Column base, Southern Dynasties (420-589 AD), Royal Tombs, Tomb of Xiao Xiu, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, 1988.
South end of the spirit road with a horse, Qianling, Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), Qian county, Shaanxi Province, China, 1981.
Pailou and stelae, Tomb of Zhu Yiliu, commonly known as Lujianwang, Ming royal and official Tombs, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), Xinxiang, Henan Province, China, 1986.
Steps up to the main entrance of Huating Temple with a stone lion sculpture, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, 1988.
Dragon and phoenix gate at Tailing, Tomb of Yongzheng (d. 1735 AD), Western Tombs, Qing dynasty (1644-1735 AD), Yi county, Hebei Province, China, 1981.
Statue of Chairman Mao outside the Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China, 1986.
Sculptures inside the Xuankongsi (Hanging temple), originally Northern Wei Dynasty (386-535 AD), Heng mountain, Hunyuan county, Shanxi Province, China, 1993.
Buddhist carvings in a cliff cave, Qianfoshan, Jinan, Shandong Province, China, 1981.
Lake and Xuanzong's summer palace pavilion, Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD), Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China, 1981-1991.
Dragon and qilin at the base of a pailou, Ming Tombs, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), Hebei Province, China, 1972-76.
Head of Six Boards along the spirit road, three-quarter length, Ming Tombs, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), Beijing, China, 1972-76.
Ceramic relief at Bei Hai near Beijing, China, 1979.
Bronze ox at the Summer Palace, Beijing, China, 1988.
Stone carvings at Deyang, Sichuan Province, China.
Two wooden figurines (height c. 47cm), about 2nd century BC, Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-9 AD), Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan Province, China.
Civic sculptures, a modern sculpture from the 20th century, possibly at the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China, late 1980s.
Fabulous iron beast at the Forbidden City, Beijng, China, 1989-1993.
Sculpture of a horse trampling a barbarian, Western Han dynasty (206 BC - 9 AD), at the Tomb of Huo Qubing, Maoling Museum, Xingping, Shaanxi province, China, 1981.
National Museums Scotland is privileged to have the Ann Paludan Photographic Archive in the collection as a gift from Ann Paludan herself, as well as associated archival materials of Ann’s research. We have since then received the generous support of her family for its digitisation, which has made the image library possible. A Study Day on Historical Chinese Sculptures and the Ann Paludan Archive commemorating Ann Paludan and her work took place at the National Museum of Scotland on 30 March 2019.
The Imperial Ming Tombs, Yale University Press and Hong Kong University Press, 1981
The Ming Tombs, Oxford University Press, 1991
The Chinese Spirit Road, Yale University Press, 1991
Chinese Tomb Figurines, Oxford University Press, 1994
Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors, Thames & Hudson, 1998 (& 2008)
Chinese Sculpture, Serindia Publications, 2006
Header image: Unarmoured infantrymen above ground at the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China, 1991. © Estate of Ann Paludan.
Please note that if you ever come across a record without an image, the item is an identical duplicate of another slide or print, or the image is under review due to copyright restrictions. Please use the search by descriptions to find the duplicate images