Rare Chinese artefacts, dating as far back as 1,200 years, are going on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The exhibition presents over 70 of the finest examples of Chinese painting, some of which have never been exhibited in the UK before.
It begins with paintings from the Tang Dynasty and includes ‘The Nine Dragons’ hand scroll that captures the world of the mythical fire-breathing monster.
Outlining the developing styles of painting over a 1,200-year period, the exhibition also includes figure paintings on silk for religious sites and landscape painting.
The exhibition is divided into three parts: the very early period, when most of the art was concerned with deities and the symbolism of costume; the middle period, which focussed on nature; and the 19th century, when people’s faces became important in portraits.
Senior curator at the Victoria and Albert, Hongxing Zhang gave an insight into the development of Chinese art:
“In Chinese painting there is a genre we could describe as similar to genre paintings in European history. (It) really started in the 12th century, but became very popular and one of the dominant, major genres of painting in the 15th and 16th centuries. But, the highest achievement of the genre painting was the court art in the 18th century.”
According to the Chinese, painting is a supreme art – something that is in clear evidence throughout the exhibition.
This is the biggest exhibition of Chinese art in the UK since a Royal Academy exhibition in the 1930s. These masterpieces shed some light on China’s past and help understand Chinese society today.
Zhang also spoke of the importance of the exhibition in understanding China and he Chinese:
“China is increasingly exposed in the west for many, many reasons: the economy is a very major one. And so, in order to do business and to have a dialogue with Chinese people we need to know about China and know about really, the stories behind a contemporary China.”
Chinese life is represented in miniature throughout the exhibition; from streets teaming with merchants, to a fishing village and boats on the shore at the edge of the town.
It took years to complete and contains over 4,600 figures and 400 boats.
The exhibition will continue until January 19, 2014.