Across Times, Across Borders: A Report on the Chinese Art Exhibition
By Sritama Halder
Kolkata. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of China and the Archaeological Survey of India jointly organized an Exhibition titled Treasures of Ancient India that was invited to tour four cities of China. Reciprocating this effort, State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of china has arranged an exhibition titled The Treasures of Ancient China. This exhibition that started on 19th February in New Delhi and travelled to Mumbai and Hyderabad, then came to the National Library in Kolkata. In Kolkata the show started from 8th September and continues till 7th November. The objects are collected from ten museums and institutions of six Chinese provinces.
With 95 objects from the Neolithic Age to the Qing Dynasty spread over three rooms.The exhibition presents some stone equipments associated with farming from the Peiligang culture, Liangzhu culture and Yangshao culture in central China such as axe, spade, millstone, spades etc.
The Shang bronze technique continued and so did many shapes such as the jue vessel. One example of a Zhou exhibit is a bronze dui vessel, used as a food container. Two life size terracotta warriors of the Qin dynasty (PLATE 1) dominate the next room. Qin Shi Huang undertook grand projects like the Great Wall. They have different hairstyles probably reflecting specific provincial characteristic wearing the uniform of the Qin soldier.
Almost all the examples of Han art in the exhibition the brick doors, clay figurines of music players, story teller and nursing mother are excavated from such tombs. A clay-model architecture a four storey barn used as a burial substitute is displayed. The large model house is made of grey clay and covered with white slip with an occasional touch of red.
In the exhibition, along with the usual ceramics, mirrors and jewelleries we see the same objects on display such as mirrors, vessels and grain containers with Buddhist iconography and narratives. From the Tang dynasty some examples of the tri-coloured potteries and white glazed vases are exhibited. The tri-colour pottery was not necessarily limited within three colours and was favoured for their bright colour scheme.
One unique exhibit from the Yuan period is a bronze mirror with a figure of an eighteen armed gandi-Bodhisattva carved on the back surrounded by incantations translated to actual Sanskrit pronunciation. The fascination is the figure of Bodisattava sitting with his back turned towards the viewer as if his face is hidden behind the shiny surface of the mirror.
The already existing underglazed blue pottery from Tang was further refined. A Ming Bodhisattva reveals the uniqueness of Buddhism assimilated with Chinese culture. The figure is of a female Avalokitesvara with a child sitting on her left knee. Her eyes are cast downwards as her left hand touches the child. Along with the Ming blue and white potteries and monochrome potteries Qing period saw enamel decorated ceramics as well.