Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220)

A preview of the exhibition Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.–A.D. 220), on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from April 3 through July 16, 2017.

Featuring more than 160 objects of ancient Chinese art, this major international loan exhibition will explore the unprecedented role of art in creating a new and lasting Chinese cultural identity. Synthesizing new archaeological discoveries with in-depth research performed over the last 50 years, Age of Empires will introduce a transformational era of Chinese civilization to a global audience.

The works in the exhibition—extremely rare ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and architectural models—are drawn exclusively from 32 museums and archaeological institutions in the People's Republic of China, and a majority of the works have never before been seen in the West. Highlights include renowned terracotta army warriors and a striking statue of a seminude performer whose anatomical accuracy, unheard of in Chinese art, brings to mind Greco-Roman sculpture first introduced to Asia by Alexander the Great.


Thomas P. Campbell: The blockbuster show of the spring is the Age of Empires: Chinese Art from the Qin and Han Dynasties. This is an exhibition that is an immersive experience that takes you back 2,000 years ago to really the foundation of modern China.

The exhibition celebrates the unprecedented role of art in creating a new and lasting Chinese cultural identity. They are works of extreme rarity that really show the culture and the thinking of the time.

There's striking examples of the Han love of spectacle and exoticism. Some of them are ornate ritual vessels. There's refined lacquerware. Together they give the most amazing insight to the life of luxury and power of these early emperors.

We're drawing on the last 50 years of scholarship and we're also drawing on recent excavations—many from the burials of the emperors who went to extraordinary lengths to ensure their well-being in the afterlife.

The Han dynasty fundamentally reshaped art and culture, and established political and intellectual institutions that guided dynastic ruler ship for the next 2,000 years.

Anyone who is interested in the modern world and the role China now plays will be interested in this show.

Director: Christopher Noey
Producer: Kate Farrell
Editor: Stephanie Wuertz
Lighting: Ned Hallick
Camera: Sarah Cowan, Dia Felix
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Production Assistant: Kaelan Burkett
Original Music: Austin Fisher

Images and photographs courtesy of:
Hebei Provincial Museum, Shijiazhuang
Hu Chui
Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha
Nanjing Museum
Qin Shihuangdi Mausoleum Site Museum, Lintong
Qiu Ziyu
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Xi'an
Shandong Provincial Museum, Jinan
Xi'an Museum
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum, Urumqi
Xuzhou City Museum
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Museum, Nanning

© 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Related Videos