Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
"The Administrator of Kuaiji [Wang Xizhi, ca. 303–ca. 361] is all mannerist cliché.
As the study of calligraphy declines, I enjoy a free rein with a laugh.
Scornful of following known calligraphers like a maid,
I take the stone tablet of Mount Hua as my master."
In 1736, leading artist Jin Nong (1687–1773) wrote this iconoclastic quatrain that reflects a momentous turning point in the development of Chinese calligraphy during his time. Abandoning the venerated tradition defined by the classic elegance of its patriarch, Wang Xizhi, Jin Nong turned to an earlier, less-sophisticated model—stone inscriptions of the ancient Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220)—for guidance.
Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Calligraphy is considered the premier art form in Chinese culture because it so directly reflects an artist's character and mentality. Sequences of lines and dots trace the creative process with utmost immediacy, and one can envision the movements of the calligrapher's hand and sense his mood, while the words—especially poetry of one's own composition—convey his thoughts. The calligraphy album of Chen Hongshou (1599–1652), currently featured in the exhibition Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy—Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, exemplifies this unique union of visual and verbal arts.
Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
In the year 1561, the scholar, painter, and calligrapher Wen Peng sat down at his desk to write out the Thousand-Character Classic, a sixth-century poem often used by Chinese calligraphers to build or maintain their brush skills. The sixty-three-year-old Wen Peng was no stranger to the Thousand-Character Classic—he had likely written it several hundred times during his life, and no doubt knew the text by heart. But this time he did something unusual: He transcribed the text in a form of writing known as "clerical script," an archaic script used primarily for commemorative purposes; and he wrote the characters larger than normal, filling oversized sheets of paper with just twelve characters each.
Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014
The shadowy, newly blossomed plum tree and crescent moon painted on the interior of a black-glazed tea bowl (fig. 1) and delicately incised into the center of a green-glazed bowl (fig.2), both of which are now on view in the Great Hall Balcony, illustrate a complex web of cultural allusions. Understood as references to the ephemeral nature of life, plum blossoms also symbolize hope and endurance: They are the first flowers to bloom in early spring as winter begins to fade.
Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014
Duan Jianyu's Beautiful Dream series (2008), currently displayed in the exhibition Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, showcases clichéd renderings of tourist attractions and scenic Chinese landscapes on flattened cardboard boxes. The charming naiveté of the silhouetted forms belies her witty treatment of the banal subjects and materials: soda-can rings reinforce the Great Wall's bulk, and an exposed area of corrugation simulates rippling water, animating an otherwise bland Guilin representation where the distinct Karst mountain forms are typically shown with reflections in the Li River. By playing with these surface particularities, the artist seems to celebrate the cardboard's well-worn materiality rather than merely exploiting its symbolism to critique consumer culture.
Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014
To celebrate the Year of the Horse, the Metropolitan Museum is presenting a selection of exceptional works in Gallery 207 for a limited period.
Since its domestication in prehistoric times, the horse has played an essential role in Chinese life. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties (ca. 1600–256 B.C.) horse-drawn chariots were a sign of high social status and the premier weapon of war. By the fourth century B.C., increasing encounters with nomadic horsemen led to the adoption of mounted cavalry as a dominant force in the battles between rival states that culminated with the unification of the country and establishment of the first Chinese empire—the Qin dynasty (221–206 B.C.).
Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The current exhibition Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles (on view through June 15, 2014) is drawn entirely from the Museum's extensive collection, and features many works that haven't been shown in decades. These exquisite miniatures not only illustrate the extraordinary technical virtuosity and refined aesthetic sensibility achieved by Qing craftsmen, but also provide a window on life and culture in late imperial China.
Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014
The lush green hue of this Chinese court robe was created using peacock feathers, which were twisted onto silk threads before weaving the garment. The use of such peacock-feather threads is thought to have begun in China in the fifth century. However, the first preserved examples date to the early seventeenth century, and costumes woven with peacock feathers are extremely rare. This robe, which has not been displayed for more than fifty years, is now on view in Power and Prestige: Chinese Dragon Robes, 18th–21st Century.
Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011
Many Americans—and nearly all museum professionals—have noted with great concern the recent reports of the arrest and detention in Beijing of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. This news has come just as the City of New York prepares to install the artist's first major American exhibition, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, which opens at Central Park's Grand Army Plaza on May 2.
Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2010
We have just opened a new show, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty, one of the most complex and ambitious exhibitions ever mounted by the Metropolitan Museum. It is a true tour de force of scholarship and international collaboration, and it aims to cover every aspect of the arts and culture of China of the Yuan dynasty, one of the most dynamic and pivotal periods in Chinese history.