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Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats

Works in the Exhibition

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Peony Pavilion

Program information

Presented November 30, 2012

Tan Dun, director

With the aim of animating Metropolitan Museum galleries in new ways, Met Museum Presents offers one of five performances of the sixteenth-century Kunqu opera masterpiece The Peony Pavilion, in a seventy-minute version developed and directed by celebrated composer Tan Dun with choreography by Huang Doudou, one of China's most prominent dancers, in the Met's Astor Court, the courtyard modeled on a seventeenth-century garden.

The performance is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Chinese Gardens: Palace Pavilions, Scholars' Studios, Rustic Retreats, on view August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013, which explores the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years, featuring more than seventy paintings and contemporary photographs as well as ceramics, carved bamboo, lacquerware, metalwork, and textiles drawn from the Museum's collections.

The Peony Pavilion is one of the most important works of classical Chinese opera. A sweeping love story with subplots involving feudalism, the work in its original form consisted of fifty-five acts that take more than twenty hours to perform. This version is directed by Zhang Jun, one of China's most respected Kunqu performers, and remains faithful to the core plot focusing on the love story between the heroine and hero—Du Liniang and Liu Mengmei—and the Peony Pavilion where their love began.

Chinese Gardens

Pavilions, Studios, Retreats

August 18, 2012–January 6, 2013

Accompanied by an Audio Guide

This exhibition explores the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years. In the densely populated urban centers of China, enclosed gardens have long been an integral part of residential and palace architecture, serving as an extension of the living quarters. The preferred site for hosting literary gatherings, theatrical performances, and imaginary outings, gardens were often designed according to the same compositional principles used in painting; likewise, as idealized landscapes, they frequently drew inspiration from literary themes first envisioned by painters. Artists were called upon not only to design gardens but also, as gardens came to be identified with the tastes and personalities of their residents, to create idealized paintings of gardens that served as symbolic portraits reflective of the character of the owner.

This exhibition features more than sixty paintings as well as ceramics, carved bamboo, lacquerware, metalwork, textiles, and even several contemporary photographs, all drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's permanent collections, that illustrate how garden imagery has remained an abiding source of artistic inspiration and invention.

Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307). Wang Xizhi Watching Geese (detail). China, Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), ca. 1295. Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper; 9 1/8 x 36 1/2 in. (23.2 x 92.7 cm); Overall with mounting: 11 x 418 13/16 in. (27.9 x 1063.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973 (1973.120.6)