Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Part #7: Asian Civilisations Museum - Chinese civilisation

The path through the Kwek Hong Png China Gallery takes the winding form of the dragon, one of the most important symbols in Chinese culture. The Emperor was known as tianzi, the Son of Heaven. A sumptuous Dragon Robe, which embodies within it the majesty, power and status of the emperor, hangs near a collection of delicate imperial porcelains. Facing this is a display on ancestral worship and filial piety. In Chinese society, the patriarchal system, based on Confucianism, placed the father at the head of the family, just as the emperor was the head of state. Great care was taken to respect and look after one's elders and ancestors. Many stories were written to eulogise exceptionally filial acts.

A route to social advancement was through one's prowess as a scholar. The term literati, with its suggestion of idle ease, does not reveal the hardship scholars endured to achieve their official rank. The rigorous system of imperial examinations ensured that only those prepared to persevere could ever hope to succeed. The paintings and calligraphy on display are the serene surface of the highly politicised and sometimes tragic lives of Chinese officials.
The export of ceramics was an important private trade for over a thousand years. Chinese ceramics were sought after around the world, and give an insight into how Chinese artisans and merchants adapted this product to suit the different tastes and requirements of their international trading partners.
A space that suggests a cave temple is the setting for Buddhist stone statues and reliefs, some dating back to the 7th century CE. Large Buddhist figures in wood and smaller ones in gilt bronze are placed together with contemporary Daoist objects, showing the continuity of religious expression in Chinese society.

The museum has a well known collection of white Dehua porcelain. Also known as 'blanc de chine', these finely moulded pieces from the Ming and Qing periods were produced in Fujian province in southern China.

Artefact #1: Calligraphy materials

Paintbrush: to write with
Inkslabs: to create ink
Seals: to authorise

Difference between then and now:
Then: A seal is used to authorise/authenticate a document.
Now: We just sign a unique signature of our own, which is much safer, for it is harder for someone to ‘steal’ it.

 Artefact #2: Wine Ewer

To store wine (made out of clay)

Difference between then and now:
Then: Wine ewers are used to store wine.
Now: We use glass bottles to store wine.

Artefact #3: Clay bowls

For serving food

Difference between then and now:
Then: Clay bowls were commonly used as utensils.
Now: We have bowls of not only clay, but plastic and metal as well.

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