National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition Brochure

The exhibition is at the National Gallery of Art from 19 September 1999 until 2 January 2000.

Introduction | Late Prehistoric | Bronze Age | Chu Culture | Early Imperial | Timeline

For thousands of years, Chinese collectors have treasured antiquities both for their beauty and as venerable relics of the past. Yet little was known of the original context and meaning of ancient works of art until the introduction of archaeology in the early twentieth century. After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Chinese intellectuals and reformers embraced foreign ideas and technology, which attracted Western missionaries, explorers, geologists, and other scientists to the new Republic of China. Archaeologists from Europe, Japan, and America soon followed and launched the first scientific excavations in the country. Chinese scholars were impressed by the discoveries, and rather than leave the excavation of their past to foreigners, they embraced the new field themselves. Archaeology has flourished in China in the past fifty years, and especially in the period since the 1970s, which Chinese archaeologists now consider their "golden age." New finds have revealed the existence of regional cultures that were previously unknown and works of art that are unprecedented in style and subject.

The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology is in part a sequel to the exhibition of archaeological finds from China shown at the National Gallery of Art in 1974. At the time of that exhibition, most of the works of art now on display were still lying deep in the ground. Dating from c. 5000 B.C. to A.D. 924, the finds include precious jades, lacquerware, silks, ceramics, objects in gold and silver, and extraordinary works of sculpture in terra-cotta, stone, and bronze. These discoveries have shed new light on the complex origins of Chinese civilization and necessitated the rewriting of early Chinese history.

Introduction | Late Prehistoric | Bronze Age | Chu Culture | Early Imperial | Timeline