“Arts of China: Glimpses of an Ancient Civilization” on Loan From the Royal Ontario Museum

Lethbridge ~ Chinese culture, traditions and history come to life through the exploration of three materials closely associated with China: jade, bronze and ceramics, in “Arts of China: Glimpses of an Ancient Civilization” — a traveling multi-lingual exhibit developed and circulated by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Arts of China showcases artifacts dating from the Shang Dynasty (c. 1300-1050 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911) selected from the ROM’s world-renowned Far Eastern Collections and opens at the Galt Museum & Archives on Chinese New Year (Friday, January 31). The exhibit closes Monday, May 19.

What do ancient artifacts tell us about the Chinese way of life, Chinese attitudes to the world, and Chinese beliefs in the afterlife? Why is jade such an important material to the Chinese? How can one interpret the symbolism that is present in much of Chinese art? These are some of the significant questions addressed in Arts of China.

“The rich traditions of bronze, ceramics and jade art flourished in China for centuries and are still used by artists around the world today,” says Galt Museum Curator Wendy Aitkens. “Many use similar techniques and finishes developed by the ancient artists in China.”

The Chinese were the first to make stoneware and porcelain vessels which they finished with refined glazes. The quality of the wares was popular in local and other Asian markets; over the centuries, their popularity and influence spread to the Middle East and Europe. Cast bronze vessels, weapons, ceremonial and funereal pieces were often intricately decorated with animals and traditional masks. Artists carved images of animals and plants in jade (prized for its colour and durability) which symbolized long life, fertility, advancement in careers, and good fortune.

Artifacts from the Galt collections such as clothing and ceramic food ware and decorative masks will complement 43 artifacts including plates, bowls, vases, vessels, a dagger axe, jewellery and other adornments, ritual and symbolic items from the ROM.  

The official opening of Arts of China is planned for Sunday, February 9 following a presentation of The Curator Presents… with special guest Lisa Claypool starting at 2:00 pm. Claypool, Associate Professor, History of Art, Design & Visual Culture at the University of Alberta, will offer insights into the meaning of jades, bronzes, and porcelain in the culture of the last dynasty of China (Qing dynasty, 1644-1911), and explore how they were made, circulated, and collected.

Other programs reflecting the exhibit themes will be offered throughout the run of the exhibit, including family activities during Saturdays at 1:00; special topics during Thursday programs for adults; the Family History Day on Monday, February 17; Nerd Fest Redux: All Night Games Tournament March 7; and Eggstravaganza on April 19. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com, call 403.320-3954, or email info@galtmuseum.com.

Anine VonkemanComment