August 09, 2012
"The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China"
The above-titled show is at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Britain through November 11.
Excerpts from a review in the August 4 issue of The Economist follow.
The suits of eerily beautiful, head-to-toe armour are made of thousands of small jade plaques. They look astonishingly like precious jewels, each the size and shape of a man (pictured below). In a way, that is what they are. Made in the Han dynasty (206BC–220AD), the suits were designed for the bodies of dead kings, to protect them for eternity. Now they are the stars of "The Search for Immortality", a new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This is the first time they have left China, along with many of the other 350 objects in the show.
Everything on view came from Han dynasty imperial tombs, which served as palaces for the afterlife and were furnished accordingly. Half of the objects are from the excavated tombs of kings of Chu in the north of China; the other half are from the tomb of the king of Nanyue, a thousand miles to the south. This is the first time these artefacts have been seen together, even by many Chinese scholars. The exhibition's four rooms offer "the grandest display of Chinese Han tomb treasures to have been seen in the world," explains Yinde Li, director of the Xuzhou Museum, which loaned many of the objects.
The jade burial suit of the king of Nanyue is the centrepiece of the third room, while that of the second king of Chu is the highlight of the last. Each king is accompanied by treasured ornaments and possessions. The most poetic object in the show is the king of Nanyue's faceted jade cup, used to collect dew. It was believed that drinking dew would prolong life and help to achieve immortality.
The king of Chu's burial suit is shown near a jade-covered lacquer coffin, which offered yet another level of protection from evil spirits. The presence of so much fine jade — varied in colour and cut with such skill that some pieces glitter like diamonds and others look like melting, translucent fat — illustrates why it is more highly prized than even gold in China today. A last reminder of this is the plump, milky jade bear placed near the exit, as if bidding visitors farewell. Some kings kept menageries of exotic wild beasts. This bear, with its oddly endearing face, may have been modelled on a particular favourite. It was used as a weight; it is also a work of art.
August 9, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink
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John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Posted by: tamra | Aug 11, 2012 6:54:04 AM
interesting mustache on the last dude
Posted by: sherlock | Aug 11, 2012 1:56:29 AM
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