In our minds, elephants tend to be gentle, stocky and naive, despite their large size and well-muscled muscles.
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The image of elephants in our minds is often gentle, solid, and naive. Although they are huge and muscular, they are friendly, docile, and approachable. They are a contradictory entity of strength and softness, and have a distinct "cute contrast".
1. Elephants as auspicious beasts.
Today, elephants are only distributed in the southern part of Yunnan, China, and it is found that as far back as the Neolithic Age, the Yellow River basin may also be the activity area of elephants, so it can be seen that the story of Dayu controlling elephants is not groundless; according to archaeological discoveries, it confirmed the existence of Asian elephants in late summer and early Shang Dynasty.
Ivory products have been found in Yin ruins, Sanxingdui, and Jinsha sites, and bronze statues of the Shang Dynasty have been unearthed in Liling, Hunan Province, which further shows that elephants also have important traditions in aesthetic orientation and spiritual life.
However, with the change of environment and climate, the livable belt of elephants pushed southward, until the Han Dynasty, elephants had become unusual, and elephants could only be seen in the Central Plains by paying tribute.
At this time, the elephant had an extra layer of political meaning, including Fang's consciousness of paying tribute to the central regime and the political sincerity of "domestication".
In addition to separate "elephant" pictures, elephant images in the Han Dynasty were often combined with character images, and most of them were Hu people or monks.
This phenomenon is based on the fact that after Zhang Qian's access to the Western regions, he opened a window for the people of the Central Plains to know Central or South Asia, and learned that the people there were good at taming elephants and were influenced by Indian Buddhism at the same time. Therefore, the Silk Road of "Hu Ren-Elephant" and "Monk-Elephant" spread eastward to the Han Dynasty, was fixed as an art model, and integrated into the artistic tradition of the Han Dynasty.
The picture generally shows the scene of taming and riding elephants.
Although the concept of "auspicious" appeared as early as the warring States period, it was the most popular in the Han Dynasty.
As recorded in the literature, at this time, the variety of "auspicious" is rich and the restrictions are loose, and Taishou can use the auspicious symbol smoothly.
Civilians are not willing to be outdone, they all declare their good virtues to others in the name of advocating all kinds of auspiciousness.
In this process, elephants from foreign lands are mainly influenced by primitive Buddhism, and after localization, they are mixed with immortal beliefs, showing people's simple wishes in a mixed form. As auspicious, they were carved in the tombs together with all kinds of auspicious dragons and unicorns at that time, for blessing, and at the same time, they also took the opportunity to show their good virtues to the immortals and pray for their acceptance.
In the Tang Dynasty, the entertainment meaning of "Elephant" was even greater, and this entertainment was also based on royal dignity. Elephant taming performances were often seen in court ceremonies and banquets, and "giant elephant breasts" were often performed in the Sale hundred operas often performed in the Tang Dynasty.
The particularly precious "White Elephant" is regarded as a sacred object, which is clearly defined as "Da Rui" in the classification of the six Classics of the Tang Dynasty, juxtaposed with the dragon, phoenix, and other divine objects.
In major political activities, the White Elephant was sent to drag the tripod and praise it, which shows that the royal estate is the divine gift of monarchy and the fall of heaven, which is orthodox and reasonable.
2. The attitude towards elephants gradually changed in the Song Dynasty.
The Song Dynasty attached importance to the symbolic significance of elephants at the level of etiquette, and elephants have increasingly become a symbol of the monarch, which is not only reflected in specific rituals such as suburban sacrifice, ceremonial guard, sacrificial music, and mountains, but also the image of "elephant" is generalized into banners, stone statues, poetry, and other forms.
And also began to put the stone statue in the Shinto of the emperor's mausoleum. The 'elephant' in the stone statue was set up by the imperial mausoleum of the Northern Song Dynasty and inherited by the imperial tomb of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
"Elephant Zizhi" is a mostly wild elephant, which mainly shows the undirected behavior of "Heaven falling auspicious", while the domesticated elephant captured and trained manually is very difficult to move freely to the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, which means the conscious behavior of the subject of domesticating elephant.
For example, the classification of the picture of taming elephants in Zhang Dongxuan's True Sutra of Yumui, such as "Taming Elephant tribute shape", "Fan Nu Taming Elephant shape", "Pan King riding Picture" and "Tuan Xiang shape" all reflect a kind of self-esteem and self-respect, condescending to accept the tribute and obedience of the border region.
It can be seen that at this time, Xiang has become a symbol of unorthodox culture, and the pace of entering the Central Plains is also sounding the sound of peace all over the world.
However, before the noble status of "Elephant" was settled, he turned over under the suppression of the scholar group in the Southern Song Dynasty.
According to the historical records, for example, in the process of rebuilding etiquette in the Southern Song Dynasty, it was regarded as the embodiment of the orthodoxy of the successive imperial dynasty, and there was still a large-scale tribute in the early Southern Song Dynasty, which became the handle of the scholars' opposition after that.
The speech of "materiality" prevailed in the period of Song Gaozong, and the monarch gradually formed a pattern based on "materiality" when releasing rare birds and animals, which meant that both nature and human society must imitate nature; keeping elephants that should run freely violates the way of nature and loses the basis of existence.
As for the auspicious tradition, the sincerity of the heart should be used to replace the demand for auspiciousness under the "feeling between heaven and man".
There is a new argument for the reason why the elephant stopped using the elephant during the Song Xiaozong period. Elephants were regarded as harmful animals because they trampled on crops. When Zhu Xi was the governor of Zhangzhou, elephants ravaged crops. "there is quite a lot of wasteland in the state, and the litigations are disturbing. Elephant animals are in danger of trampling on food.
It is that people do not dare to reclaim the land. "
Originally, it was only kind enough to remind farmers to pay attention to elephants, but after the frequent occurrence of agricultural disasters, people further demonized the image of elephants, killing innocent wild elephants.
Neo-Confucianism flourished in the Song Dynasty, and in the new concept of heaven and monarchy established by Neo-Confucianism, "Heaven" itself had no will it was impossible to judge whether the monarchy was good or not. Only through the monarch's initiative to internalize the morality of the monarch can the relationship between heaven and the monarch be constructed, so the quality of the monarchy lies in restricting the moral standards of the monarch, rather than paying attention to some nihilistic formalism.
Dynasties changed continuously, and the elephant regained its "auspicious" status in the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.
And elephants are also coveted ivory because people pursue curiosity, and have been killed and bought and sold bloodily.
In the torrent of history, there are often many "symbols" that serve the political, social, and cultural needs of a specific period and are given different interpretations. on the other hand, these "moral meanings" imposed by human beings in one thought will have a wonderful impact on innocent species in a passive position.