Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tomb Treasures at the Asian

Like the Roman Empire, China's Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) forged one of the most powerful, advanced civilizations of the ancient world, and its elite had it all: unbridled luxury, technical innovations and courtly romance. Tomb Treasures: New Discoveries from China's Han Dynasty, is an original exhibition of more than 160 intriguing works recently unearthed from the coastal heartland of classical Chinese culture.

 Bell set, unearthed from Tomb 1, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu. Western Han period (206 BCE–9 CE), 2nd century BCE. Bells: bronze; stands: lacquer and silver. On loan from Nanjing Museum. Photo: Nanjing Museum.
Ruled by 29 emperors for over 400 years, the Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty in Chinese History and represents the first “golden era” of development in Chinese history, a time when China’s diverse ethnic groups experienced relative stability, social development and harmony. To this day, the majority Chinese refer to themselves as the "Han people."

Tomb excavations are ongoing in China and, every so often, they unearth a major find.  In 2014, Chinese archaeologists in Jiangsu province, Eastern China (somewhat near Shanghai), unearthed more than 10,000 objects from a cluster of more than 100 Han tombs, untouched for some 2,000 years.  Jiangsu was the birthplace of Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu, reigned 202-195 BCE), the founding emperor of the Han dynasty and Jiangsu was a center of concentrated wealth and culture.  There, Han royalty lived extravagantly.  They perceived of the afterlife as a form of existence much like their earthly one, requiring that basic subsistence needs be fulfilled as well those for spiritual enlightenment and entertainment.   Many of the most fascinating possessions from this rich find and earlier Han excavations are on display at the AAM.

Gilded bronze lamp in the shape of a deer unearthed from Tomb 1, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu, Western Han period, 2nd century, BCE. On loan from the Nanjing Museum

On view through May 28, Tomb Treasures showcases these fresh archaeological finds, almost all never-before-seen outside of China. Surviving over 2,000 years underground, such outstandingly crafted royal burial goods reflect Han royalty's daily lives and nightly pastimes, and confirm how the early Chinese courts sought to glorify their statures in this life and in the next one. Yahoo

Dancer figurine, unearthed from the Tomb of the King of Chu, Tuolan Mountain, Xuzhou, Jiangsu. Western Han period (206 BCE-9 CE), 2nd century BCE. Earthenware. Xuzhou Museum.

"In addition to luxuries, royals surrounded themselves with domestic wares that surprise us with their intimate portrait of private life during the Han dynasty," says the museum's newly appointed curator for Chinese art, Fan Zhang. "We have everything from a large silver basin for taking baths, to a working stone latrine with an armrest, to a boldly designed ceramic urinal -- we even have two hollow bronze phalluses that could be used." 

 Coffin. Western Han. King of Chu. 206 BCE

The exhibit is divided into various themes, based on what the Han considered important: Everlasting happiness without end (長樂未央): Luxurious life and palatial entertainment. Daily life, banquets and pastimes of the Han elites are accompanied by the music and dance of the court.
Eternal life without limit (長生無極): Worship of jade and search for immortality. A tomb-like atmosphere allows visitors to explore ancient ideas about the afterlife.
Enduring remembrance without fail (長毋相忘): Private life and intimacy at the court. Affairs of the heart expose secrets from the innermost chambers of men and women fascinated by pleasure.

Jade suit on view in the Asian Art Museum’s Hambrecht Gallery, unearthed from Tomb 2, Dayun Mountain, Xuyi, Jiangsu, Western Han period (206 BCE-9 CE), 2nd century BCE. Jade and gold. Nanjing Museum. Photo: courtesy AAM.

Details: Tomb Treasures: New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty closes May 28, 2017. The AAM is located at 200 Larkin Street near Civic Center.  Parking is easy at Civic Center Plaza garage which offers a discount with your validated AAM ticket. (Get it stamped upon entry to the museum.)

Hours: Tues-Sun: 10-5; Thursdays until 9 (end Oct 8); closed Mondays.  

Admission: General admission $20 weekday, $25weekend; Seniors, students, youth (13-17) $15 weekday, $20 weekend; 12 & under are free. 

1st Sundays are free thanks to Target.  You can pre-purchase your tickets, with no processing fee, online here.

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Boy, do I wish I were in your area. This is the kind of exhibit I love! I'm a huge fan of jade, too. I didn't realize it came in colors until I saw a piece of purple jade, purple being my favorite color. I asked the lady what stone that was and was quite surprised when she said jade. I'm sure the rest of the tomb treasures are magnificent!