– SEPTEMBER 27, 2015
The Shanghai Museum is a museum of ancient Chinese art, situated on the People’s Square in the Huangpu District of Shanghai. Rebuilt at its current location in 1996, it is considered one of China’s first world-class modern museums. There is no charge to enter this museum, which means it is crowed full when you visit. We planned accordingly and allowed many hours to get through this museum.
There is a travelling exhibit that is presented in the first bay of the museum.
Epitomizing China’s ancient civilization and rich cultural heritage, bronze artifacts have been treasured items ever since the time of the Shang and Zhou aristocrats for whom they were made. Ritual bronzes served as ceremonial offerings to ancestors., as banquet utensils, and occasionally as formal gifts. Members of China’s nobility possessed sets of bronzes, the sizes and types of which conveyed the social status of their owners.
Bronze Age artisans mastered complex casting techniques and produced vessels with rich decoration. In the period from the fifth to the third century BC, China’s Iron Age began, but the metal industry was still dominated by bronze casting.
Many bronzes have been found in the border areas of China. Characterized by distinctive shapes and local styles, these bronzes exhibit the artistic achievements of minority peoples living in the border areas, and they also supply valuable evidence of cultural exchanges among the different nationalities of ancient China.
Ceramics constitutes an indispensable part of Chinese civilization, while porcelain is a unique invention of the Chinese people. From the Tang dynasty on, Chinese wares began to be shipped to foreign countries in large quantities. In the Song-Yuan period, kilns for trade ceramics spread all over the coastal areas in Southeast China, and the ceramic trade continued to flourish during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Most of the porcelain was manufactured in Jingdezhen then, while Zhangzhou and Dehua in Fujian province were also important kilns of trade wares. Before the mid-Ming period, Chinese ceramics were mainly circulated within Asia and Africa, while afterwards, Europe and America became the most important markets for Chinese porcelain.
Pottery is an important innovation of Neolithic times. Plant domestication and agriculture gave rise to a settled life, and it was at this stage that people discovered how to make pottery. In Neolithic times pottery was produced in great variety almost everywhere in China. Particular Neolithic culture types can often be characterized by the distinctive decoration and workmanship characteristic of their pottery.
Chinese written characters are pictographic symbols of spoken words. Calligraphy is the art of writing characters in an expressive manner employing the use of the brush.
Chinese painting is an art, which has a deep-rooted tradition and a unique style, employing a “dots and lines” structure and the writing brush, ink stick, silk and Xuan paper as the main tools.
Seals were first used in China to validate the documents of high ranking officials. These official seals were called Xi. As early as the period between the Shang and Zhou dynasties and especially during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, Xi inscribed with “script writing” were widely used. Due to changes in the social structure, a large number of private seals called Yin also emerged at this time. Xi and Yin seals became the artistic side of the fusion of “script writing” with engraving techniques which had flourished in China for over 2000 years.
China has a long and established history as well as a multi-ethnic culture. As a result of the ecological environments, their ways of living, and the differences in customs, each ethnic group has its own unique culture. The arts and crafts that are produced reflect each ethnic group’s history and identity. These works were not only made from a multitude of materials, but were also crafted using a variety of techniques. In addition to their aesthetic functions, they also served pragmatic use as well. The works produced by China’s ethnic minorities contribute an exotic flavor to the whole of Chinese art.
Ethnic groups use a variety of masks painted with exaggerated faces in rich colors to demonstrate the sacred religious world in contrast to the secular world. Tibetan masks fall into three categories – masks that would be hung, Cham dance masks, and opera masks, amongst which the ramie-lined masks are elaborsately made to portray gods, demons, and beasts.
Chinese carvings are made from a variety of locally-sourced materials, such as bamboo, wood, ivory, horn, stone, or bone. Crafting techniques include carving, chiseling, paring, grinding, and pressing. These objects mostly made from bamboo or wood, fall into two categories – household objects and decorative works. Wood carvings from the Gaoshan people convey a sense of boldness, as exemplified by the human figures and painted fishing boats that they crafted.
China, with its 8000 year history of jade carving, has long enjoyed a reputation for being the “Home of Jade“. In ancient China, jade was highly valued not only for its intrinsic beauty but also for its mystical allure. The rulers believed it to be a symbol of wealth and power, and used it as a personal adornment, a sacrificial ritual implement, as well as a funerary object capable of averting evil spirits. The natural properties of jade were thus endowed with personal and moral significance.
An ink-stone is a mortar for grinding ink-ingots. As a traditional stationary implement of Chinese characteristic it plays as irreplaceable role in the development and dissemination of Chinese culture and civilization. Its origin can be traced back to its predecessor – the grinding tool of the Neolithic Age.
Classical Chinese furniture developed from ancient times. Fine lacquered wooden furniture appeared as early as in the Han dynasty. In the Northern and Southern dynasties, the Chinese began to change the habit of kneeling or sitting cross-legged on a platform to sitting with pendant on a stool. This gave rise to furniture of level height. The technically structured and artistically decorated Ming and Qing furniture brought classical Chinese furniture into its zenith. Ming furniture is characterized by a simple and elegant structure with fluent lines and appealing proportions. Qing furniture in contrast is larger and more imposing with elaborate carving and inlaid decoration. These two types of furniture, as a great cultural heritage of China, have enjoyed a high reputation in the field of world furniture.
China has a very long history of money circulation. It went through phases of prototype currencies, unwrought weight metals, cast coins and paper notes along with the emergence and development of commodity economy.
The techniques used in manufacturing of Chinese metal coins and Chinese paper money are important components of Chinese monetary culture. Bunch-casting, stacking-casting and sand moulds casting were used one after another in ancient metal coin making, and the western coin minting techniques were commonly adopted in modern coin production. Later, in the printing of paper money, xylography, copperplate, lithography, and machine print were applied successively.
A great museum and at no entrance fee, you can’t look at this as anything other than an amazing day.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.