Influence of Taoism on the invention of the purple pigment used on the Qin terracotta warriors

Submitted by James Miller on Sun, 02/22/2009 - 13:29
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TitleInfluence of Taoism on the invention of the purple pigment used on the Qin terracotta warriors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsLiu Z.(1, 2), Mehta A., Tamura N.(3), Pickard D.(2), Rong B., Zhou T.(4), & Pianetta P.(1 2)
JournalJournal of archaeological science
Date Published2007
PublisherElsevier Science
ISBN Number0305-4403
KeywordsAsia, Bleu gyptien, China, Chine, Chinese Blue, Chinese glass, Chinese Purple, Copper, Cuivre, Dye, Egyptian blue, French:: - Asie, Guerrier, influence, Maya, Maya Blue, Mayas, Mineral, Minral, Pigment, Pourpre, purple, Silicate, Silk road, Taoism, Teinture, Terracotta, Terre cuite, Warrior

Until the 19th century, most pigments were based on naturally occurring colored minerals and dyes, with three significant exceptions: - Egyptian Blue, Chinese Blue/Purple and Maya Blue. The former two are alkaline-earth copper silicates, and because of this similarity it has been proposed that the Chinese pigments were derived from Egyptian Blue. Herein, we analyzed clumps of pigment from the Qin warriors and discovered that in spite of the structural similarity to Egyptian Blue, the micro-structural morphology of Chinese Purple is very different. Therefore, we believe that the synthesis technology for the Chinese pigments was a by-product of high-refractive index glasses (artificial jades) produced by Taoist monks. Further, the disappearance of these pigments from Chinese art and monuments concurrently with the decline of Taoism not only substantiates the link between the two, but also gives a striking example of how cultural changes in the society affected the scientific developments in ancient China.