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VIRTUOUS TREASURES: CHINESE JADES FOR THE SCHOLAR'S TABLE
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17 Nov 2007 - 17 Feb 2008

The University Museum and Art Gallery of The University of Hong Kong is delighted to announce an important exhibition of Chinese jades reflecting Chinese scholarly taste.

Featuring over 140 jades, dating mostly to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), this exhibition brings together for the first time jades from several private collections, alongside examples from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Art Museum of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to illustrate the extraordinary achievements of the jade carvers art. The exhibits include small fondling items carved into pleasingly tactile forms that were carried around to bring delight and inspiration to their owners; specially-commissioned items bearing the mark of individual artists such as Lu Zigang of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644); and monumental jades imitating mountains or ritual bronze vessels that declared not only the taste but also the wealth of their owners.

Jade is unique in the history of Chinese culture and Chinese art in that it has always been recognised as a material out of the ordinary. As early as the Neolithic period, jade was created into enigmatic forms suggestive of solemn ritual items. Ever since that time, jade has remained a material reserved only for the most significant or momentous occasions. This was compounded by the sheer difficulty of obtaining and working jade, which made objects created from it both costly and labour intensive, with a single piece taking many months to complete.

Some of the highlights of this exhibition feature the unmistakeable taste and connoisseurship of the Qing emperors, with a selection bearing imperial marks. Ever since the Warring States period in China (475-221 BCE), the qualities of this precious stone have been associated with the qualities of an ideal gentleman: pure, constant and incorruptible. While some of the jades in this exhibition suggest a practical function, many more reflect particular personal or philosophical concerns, shedding light on the private interior lives of scholars, artists, and officials, a role best exemplified by the emperors themselves.

On Saturday 17 November, Ming Wilson, Senior curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum will give a lecture entitled, 'Chinese jades in the two London exhibitions 1935 and 1975', at 2:30 pm (in English). On Saturday 8 December, Zhang Guangwen of the Palace Museum will give a talk on 'Appreciating Ming and Qing jades', at 3:00 pm (in Putonghua). These talks will take place in the Museum and are free and open to the public. No registration required. Please see lectures and events for other lectures and events.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with scholarly essays, available from the Museum in December 2007.

Exhibition sponsored by Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's

 

Monkey and young 

 18th century 

H: 17.5 cm

(Photo courtesy of V&A images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London) 

 

Teapot 

 Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (r. 1736-1795)

H: 11.5 cm W: 18.5 cm


Buddhist lion group 

 Qing dynasty, 18th century 

H: 10 cm W: 16.5 cm

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