Dreamer, wordsmith, mum of two - I enjoy the outdoors, good food and good company. Subscribe to my articles to follow what I've been up to, and like those articles you want to see more of so I can tailor what I write to my audience.
This exhibition is the first Tang exhibition ever to be held in Australia. The 135 artefacts on display are drawn from eleven museums and cultural institutions across the Shaanxi Province in central China, and contain an amazing variety of artefacts which demonstrate the beauty and prosperity of the Tang era. This is a must-see exhibition for anybody interested in Chinese history and art.
Pushou doorknob made of gilded bronze, circa 634 - 907, excavated from the site of the Daming Palace, Xi'an. This popular door knob design is still used in modern day China
The art from the reign of the Tang dynasty, which went from 618 - 907, is famous for its brilliance in colour and elaborate design. Because of trade along the Silk Road, there was greater interaction with foreign cultures, strong economic development, and therefore more scope to support a diverse array of art.
Soaring belvederes piercing the void. Modern calligraphy by Liang Xiao Ping - this is the largest work ever created by her, and has been done in the spirit of the Tang calligrapher's traditions of following as well as reforming the calligraphy.
Trying to encapsulate the variety and scope of the art of this period in 130 pieces is a fool's mission. Instead, the exhibition attempts to give a glimpse of some of the main highlights of Tang -era craftsmanship, with examples of mural painting, sculpture, metallurgy, ceramic and jade artefacts in the exhibition, to name a few.
Kowtowing figure, earthenware, excavated from Li Xian's tomb dated 742. At a metre in length, this is one of the largest examples of such an earthenware figure bent in this position and is quite unusual
Don't be fooled into thinking this is just a collection of ancient Chinese artefacts. It is that, but it is also a lot more. Among the pieces are a very rare earthenware kowtowing figure, carefully pieced together from a number of broken parts to reveal the whole. If you look closely, you can see the joins. The mural of females shown below also happens to be the oldest piece of art currently on display at the Art Gallery, dating back to circa 710.
Mural of females c710 - pigments on plaster- also the oldest art work currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW
While gold and silver were valued more highly than bronze and jade during the Tang dynasty, there are still some beautiful bronze pieces produced during the Tang era, like the dragon pictured below. It was found inside the Yongle quarter, which is believed to have been the site of the Tang poet and official Zhang Yue.
As a tea-lover, I think my favourite objects were in the cabinet shown below, as they contained a variety of tea-related implements. Imagining grinding my own tea in the tea-grinder, or spooning tea from a tortoise-shaped container - that would certainly lend a certain cachet to my next tea-party!
silverware - including a tea grinder, gilded basket, and tortoise-shaped container that was likely used for storing tea powder
There's a pretty cool display at the end of the exhibit which uses modern technology to enable visitors to experience a World Heritage cave in a pretty marvellous way. If it looks very Matrix/ Lawnmower Man/ Xanadu (pick the movie depending on your age), that's because it is similar. Using an I-pad, it enables you to roam around as if you were in the cave, looking through the I-pad. Better yet, it actually brings some of the images to display them in their original colours, and even animates some of them.
Immersive digital recreation of Cave 220, a Tang-era Buddhist shrine at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mogao Caves
I could continue waxing lyrical about the exhibition, but there are 135 artefacts on display and I think it is more interesting to actually see these for yourself rather than rely on photographs, which don't do it justice.
At this moment, the Biennale and Art Express are also on at the Art Gallery of NSW, so make a day of it and see all three. They are all worthwhile and quite diverse. While the Tang exhibition has an entrance fee and the other two exhibitions are free, I think the fee is worth it.