Asian Perspectives, vol. 51, no. 2 (2012)


Landscapes of Inequality?: A Critique of Monumental Hierarchy in the Mongolian Bronze Age
Joshua Wright, 139

Khirigsuurs are stone monuments of variable scale and complexity that dominate the archaeological landscape of the Mongolian Bronze Age. Though there are countless typical-sized monuments, there are a few very large structures suggesting that a chiefly hierarchy directed their construction. Using measurements of size and formal complexity to compare these mega-monuments and khirigsuurs within fully surveyed areas this article argues that these monuments are not primarily tombs built to represent the social hierarchy of early nomadic pastoralists. Instead, they are monumental places created for living communities to communicate their organization and enduring nature to others and themselves. This communication was essential for early pastoralist communities to become established and survive.
Keywords: Mongolia, Bronze Age, monuments, pastoralism, heterarchy, collective action

Big Ding 鼎 and China Power: Divine Authority and Legitimacy
Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, 164

Paleographic, art historical, metallurgical, and archaeological data are used to identify the monumental bronze tetrapod ding vessel as a preeminent symbol of state authority and divine power during the Shang era of ca. 1640–1046 b.c.e . Paleographic data based on oracle bone terms and inscriptions includes reference to ding as a verb of ancestral sacrifice, and the ding vessel in the specialized compound, yiding, referring to the ritually and metamorphically empowered ding vessel. Art historical data accounts for differences in form and style between ding tetrapod and tripod types. Metallurgical data derives primarily from a unique source of high radiogenic lead in southern China exploited during the early Shang period. Archaeological data derives from excavated Shang tetrapod ding in royal burial or cache burials. Keywords: Lithic technology, microwear analysis, composite tools, behavioral modernity, Palaeolithic, Philippines.
Keywords: China, Shang, history, writing, bronze, kings, divine power, oracle bone divination, ritual vessels, ancestor worship, ancestral sacrifices, legend

Buffer Zone Trade in Northeast Asia in the Second Century B.C.
Sun-Mi Park, 221

This article employs the theory of buffer zone trade to understand archaeological data related to trade in Wiman Chosŏn (195–108 b.c. ), one of the earliest states in Korean history. Buffer zone trade is performed by an entity (B) placed between a fully developed state with a centralized government (C), and an underdeveloped polity in a periphery (P). B creates a route to convey C’s advanced products, and exports imported goods from C as well as its own products to neighboring polities in the periphery, while controlling the flow of luxury materials. Significantly, in this process B moderates the impact of more powerful and regionally dominant civilizations on the polities in the periphery, therefore preventing these peripheral polities from losing their indigenous cultures entirely or experiencing structural collapse. Furthermore, B exercises authority over the polities in the periphery, controlling the flow of advanced materials. Wiman Chosŏn imported Han’s monetary currency, iron products, weapons, farming tools, high-fired pottery, horse trappings, bronze mirrors, and bronze vessels, while exporting a few simple iron tools like hand knives, bronze mirrors, slender daggers, and fine-lined mirrors to Chin. Interestingly, the discrepancy of both the quality and quantity of the imported Han products takes place in the Korean Peninsula. Additionally, there was no influx of Han currencies and iron weaponry in the southern Korean Peninsula before the second century b.c. I believe that this phenomenon represents a result of trade conducted by Wiman Chosŏn and that Wiman Chosŏn functioned in this way as a semi-core.
Keywords: Korea, Buffer Zone Trade theory, Wiman Chosŏn, Han, Chin, currency, metals, World Systems, political economy

Design Theory and the Australian Tula Adze
Trudy Doelman and Grant W. G. Cochrane, 251

The tula adze is a distinctive composite tool that was used in the Australian arid zone during the late Holocene. In this paper we use design theory to investigate why this particular tool form was so pervasive across time and space. Design theory provides a rational means for classifying tool designs and for determining why particular tool design classes were employed over others. We draw upon ethnographic and archaeological evidence to characterize the design of the tula adze and conclude that it is consistently the product of a “reliable” design strategy. We further determine that the high cost of a reliable design was chosen because the tula adze was employed in situations where failure could not be tolerated. Specifically, we argue that an important role of the tula adze was to manufacture wooden goods for not only personal use but more significantly for trade. The quantity and quality of these goods had an extremely strong bearing on the economic sustainability of arid zone Aboriginal groups.
Keywords: design theory, stone tools, tula adze, Australia, paleoenvironments

Material Practice and the Metamorphosis of a Sign: Early Buddhist Stupas and the Origin of Mahayana Buddhism
Lars Fogelin, 278

From at least the third century b.c. , Buddhist ritual focused on stupas, stylized replicas of the mounds of earth in which early Buddhists interred relics of the Buddha. Beginning in the first century b.c. , Buddhist monks in western India began manipulating the physical shape of monastic stupas to make them appear taller and more massive than they actually were. Buddhist monks used these manipulations to help assert authority over the Buddhist laity. Employing theories of practice, materiality, and semiotics, I argue that physical manipulations of the shape of stupas by Buddhist monks led to the progressive detachment of the primary signs of Buddhism from their original referents. Where earlier stupas were icons and indexes of the Buddha encased within indexes of his presence, later stupas were symbols of the Buddha and Buddhist theology. This change in the material practice of Buddhism reduced stupas’ emotional immediacy in favor of greater intellectual detachment. In the end, this shift in the meaning ascribed to stupas created the preconditions from which the Buddhist image cult and Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first through fifth centuries a.d . The development of Mahayana Buddhism and Buddha images signified a return to iconic worship of the Buddha.
Keywords: archaeology, South Asia, Buddhism, semiotics, materiality


Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi Hill and Archaeologies of Religious and Social Change, c. Third Century B.C. to Fifth Century A.D, by Julia Shaw
Reviewed by Catherine Becker, 311

China in the Early Bronze Age: Shang Civilization by Robert L. Thorp
Reviewed by Roderick Campbell, 313

First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies by P. S. Bellwood, and: The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics ed. by L. Sagart, R. Blench, and A. Sanchez-Mazas, and: The Origins of Pottery and Agriculture ed. by Y. Yasuda
Reviewed by Loukas Barton, 321

China Before China: Johan Gunnar Andersson, Ding Wenjiang, and the Discovery of China’s Prehistory/Zhongguo zhi qian de Zhongguo: Antesheng, Ding Wenjiang he Zhongguo shiqianshi de faxian by Magnus Fiskesjo and Chen Xingcan, and: Kina före Kina by Eva Myrdal
Reviewed by Minna Franck, 333