This show will bring to life 50 crucial years in China (1400-1450) through various exquisite objects loaned from 10 Chinese and 21 international museums (and yes, an iconic blue and white Ming vase will actually be there to see). These objects tell a number of stories. During this period, when the Ming Imperial family was building Beijing’s Forbidden City, China sailed into first place on the world stage; the intrepid explorer Zheng He’s discoveries predate Christopher Columbus’s by decades. The fabulous Chinese courts, outshining Europe’s grotty capitals, were dotted around the vast nation and flourished thanks to increasingly close cultural contact with Asia and Arabia. The show tells of the unfamiliar Ming political system and how four emperors shared the crown.
The ‘Warrior’ emperor Yongle's sword, the ‘Bureaucrat’ emperor Hongxi's calligraphy and the ‘Aesthete’ emperor Xuande's paintings are some of the strangest and liveliest exhibits. The fourth, the Zhengtong emperor, was too young to rule; his regents’ paintings will hang alongside the prince’s gold , jewellery and furniture . There will also be the world’s first encyclopaedia , from long before the printing press reached England, and countless other artefacts, from weapons to robes. Visit this show to witness nothing less than the reincarnation of a nation through its material culture.
The British Museum’s worthy goal is to put right the pernicious Western view that not much of note happened in China until Europeans went there. In this century, when we’re likely to see much more of China’s influence, understanding this country’s history is essential. But this exhibition is also an unmatched assembly of some of the most rarely seen and beautiful works of art ever created, and they may well turn your artistic instincts on their head.
|What||Ming: 50 years that changed China, British Museum|
|Where||British Museum, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3DG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Holborn (underground)|
18 Sep 14 – 05 Jan 15, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Price||£16.50, £13.00 concessions|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via the British Museum|