Monday, May 7, 2012

Rare Han Dynasty Exhibit at Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge)

This is something I would love to see.  Sigh.  Can't afford a trip to England this year.  Only the first several paragraphs are included here.  some fascinating history is given in the later paragraphs (not copied here) about the Kingdom of Nanyue (modern-day Guangzhou Province) whose capital then is modern-day Canton now and was the terminus/beginning of the maritime Silk Road trade routes. 

University of Cambridge/Research News
The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China
May 5, 2012

In the first exhibition of its kind, the Fitzwilliam Museum will relate the story of the quest for immortality and struggle for imperial legitimacy in ancient China’s Han Dynasty.

The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China (May 5-November 11) will feature over 350 treasures in jade, gold, silver, bronze and ceramics in the largest and most important exhibition of ancient royal treasures ever to travel outside China.

The Han Dynasty established the basis for unified rule of China up to the present day. To maintain this hard-won empire the Han emperors had to engage in a constant struggle for power and legitimacy, with contests that took place on symbolic battlefields as much as on real ones. While written accounts provide an outline of these events, it is through the stunning archaeological discoveries of recent decades that the full drama and spectacle of this critical episode in Chinese history has been brought to life.

Dr Timothy Potts, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, commented: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Han Dynasty in the formation of a Chinese national culture and identity. At the time of the ancient Romans, the Han emperors were the first to unify a large part of the regions we now know as China under a sustained empire, which they ruled virtually unchallenged for 400 years.

“The Han Dynasty gave its name to the Chinese language, its script and the vast majority of the Chinese people. It was arguably the defining period of China’s history and the point of genesis for the China of today.

“The spectacular objects in this exhibition bring to Cambridge the finest treasures from the tombs of the Han royal family, the superb goldwork, jades and other exquisitely crafted offerings the kings chose to be buried with on their journey to the afterlife. For their artistry, refinement and pure beauty they rival anything from the ancient world.”

This pioneering exhibition will compare the spectacular tombs of two rival power factions: the Han imperial family in the northern ‘cradle’ of Chinese history, and the Kingdom of Nanyue in the south, whose capital in modern-day Guangzhou formed the gateway to the rich trade routes of the China Sea and Indian Ocean.

Objects from these tombs have never before been displayed together as a single exhibition. Through the exhibition it is revealed how, in both life and in death, Empire and Kingdom played a diplomatic game of cat and mouse, one to assert its supremacy, the other to preserve its autonomy.

Virtual Exhibition

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