The Art and Culture of China:
2000 B.C.-20th century
Second floor, rooms 351-364
In the first room, from among the material reflecting the culture of
ancient China, we should note particularly some very ancient relics of
Chinese writing-inscriptions dating from the fourteenth century B.C.
on the bones of animals. These texts which were used for telling the
future are simple in content - "isn't it time the harvest was begun", "will
the hunt be successful" - and they enable us to determine the economic
structure of the very ancient inhabitants of the country.
The basis of the exhibition in room 351 is a rare collection of loess
sculpture and some fragments of sixth to ninth century murals, brought
in 1914-15 from the monastery of Chi'ien-fo-tung (the "Cave of a
Thousand Buddhas") near the town of Tunhuang by the expedition
of Academician Oldenburg. Among these relics of medieval art the
figures of two monks, a Bodhisattva, and fantastic beasts which guarded
the entrance to a temple are particularly striking.
Presented in room 352 are items found in Khara-Khoto, a dead
town discovered among the sands of the Gobi by the Russian traveller
Kozlov. At one time this was the capital of the Tangut kingdom, which
fell in the thirteenth century under the attacks of Jenghiz-Khan. The
paper money, fabrics, ceramics, tools and household articles found at
Khara-Khoto testify to the extent to which crafts and trade had devel-
oped in this medieval eastern town. Some valuable works of art have come
from Khara-Khoto, including paintings on canvas, paper and silk of the
Tibeto-Tangutan and Chinese schools, sculptures, and some carved
wooden boards for printing books and etchings.
Rooms 354-362 contain porcelains, lacquers, enamels, ivories and
examples of painting and sculpture from the period of 1300 to 1900. The
exhibition is rounded off by some pieces of twentieth century art;
room 363 contains the work of the famous Chinese artists Chi'i Pai-shih
(1872-1957) and Hsu Pei-hung (1894-1953), and in room 364 there
are examples of modern applied art.