Yan Liben (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Yan Liben introduced a new sense of realism to portrait painting, a genre which he did much to develop during the period of the T’ang Dynasty.
Yan Liben was born to a distinguished family of artist-officials. His father, Yen P’i, was a famous Sui Dynasty painter, calligrapher, and official, holding the title Vice-Director of Construction. Apparently, Yen P’i spent much time with his two sons, Li-te and Li-pen, training them in art and calligraphy. Lipen’s older brother, Yen Li-te (c. 580-656), rose to become President of the Board of Public Works and held the title Grand Architect during the early years of the T’ang Dynasty.
The first half of the T’ang Dynasty is generally considered to be one of the two most glorious periods in Chinese history, the other being the Western Han (206 b.c.e.-8 c.e.). During the period between 618 and 750, the T’ang rulers were committed patrons of the arts as well as conquerors who expanded China’s frontiers. By the end of the seventh century, the Chinese Empire was one of the largest in world history. During the second half of the seventh century, moreover, the capital city, Siking (modern Sian), would become the most cosmopolitan city of its day and one of the most sophisticated cities of all time.
The first ruler, Li Yuan—known to posterity as T’ang T’ai Tsu (reigned 618-627)—rose to power primarily through the...
(The entire section is 2162 words.)
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